Why it's never dull in Hull

A kid with an instrument, the Deep submarium, the Humber Bridge and Hull's white phone boxes Currently celebrating its 2017 status, Hull is known for The Deep aquarium, Humber Bridge and white phone boxes

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Last week's announcement that Hull will be UK City of Culture in 2017 raised some eyebrows but BBC Look North reporter Caroline Bilton says the Yorkshire city has upped its game in recent years.

They say it's never dull in 'ull - well it certainly wasn't on Wednesday last week, when my home town was named as UK City of Culture 2017.

I was covering the announcement live from the Hull Truck Theatre where more than a hundred people were expected to gather.

I didn't sleep a wink the night before - could Hull really do it? It had a strong bid but it was also up against some tough competition.

I had travelled to the three other cities - Dundee, Leicester and Swansea Bay - in the previous weeks to see what they had to offer and I was under no illusion about the task in hand.

'Gateway to Europe'

I am a Hull girl born-and-bred and I love my city but I also recognise its downfalls.

Start Quote

2017 may be some way off but the effects of the win are already being felt”

End Quote Caroline Bilton Look North reporter

It's a city that has spent many years at the bottom of league tables. There has been high unemployment and deprivation, and it was once voted the worst place to live in the UK.

It may be regarded as a "Gateway to Europe" thanks to its ferry terminals, but few travellers docking here put Hull on their list of places to stay. They pop in to see the fish at the world's only submarium The Deep (soon to have penguins!) and then jump on the next bus to York.

However, Hull seems to have upped its game in the last five years or so. It has started to focus on its strengths rather than its weaknesses, and bidding to become city of culture was proof of that.

People now seem to be proud of where they live and they are happy to shout about it. The social media campaign around Hull's bid was supported by over 16,000 people, and a film capturing the aspirations of the city was watched by over 70,000 in one week.

Morning conga

So there I was standing in Hull Truck Theatre waiting to hear if the city would win an accolade that could turn its fortunes around.

As the Culture Secretary Maria Miller took to the microphone, the entire theatre fell silent. And then she said the words that some here are still struggling to take in - "I am delighted to announce that the UK City of Culture 2017 is Hull!"

Caroline Bilton Caroline Bilton reporting from the Hull celebrations

I'd be lying if I said I retained my composure. My eyes filled with tears. The noise was incredible.

People were jumping up and down and hugging one another. Those passing by in their cars were sounding their horns. Hull had done it!

I had less than a minute to gather my thoughts before BBC Breakfast crossed to me. I could not hear a thing. By this time the musicians had started up and people were dancing around the room. It may have only been 8am but it's never too early for a conga in Hull.

I have no idea what I said - all I know is how proud I felt to be the person delivering that news to the UK.

Not a magic wand

The words "game-changer", "turning point" and "catalyst" were used a lot that day. Some may think they're an exaggeration but people here genuinely believe this is a real opportunity for Hull to change perceptions as well as fortunes.

Hull's claims to fame

  • The English Civil War arguably began in Hull, when its military governor refused to let the Royalists and Charles I into the city
  • The abolition of the slave trade also has its roots in Hull, as the leader of the movement was the city's MP, William Wilberforce
  • Although not from Hull, Philip Larkin found fame as a poet while working at the university library
  • John Venn, the inventor of Venn diagrams, was born in the city
  • Hull's famous sons and daughters also include actors Sir Tom Courtenay and Maureen Lipman, and The Housemartins band

Clearly the new status is not a magic wand and it won't mend all of Hull's problems. But as one man said to me: "Only good can come from this."

The real work starts now to find the £15m needed to fund Hull's ambitious programme for 2017.

A spectacular opening ceremony is proposed along with 25 festivals, 1500 special events, 12 artist residencies and 15 national and international commissions.

The bid promised to make a difference to life in the city for each day in 2017. The challenge is to live up to those promises because there are many who, no doubt, expect Hull to fail.

2017 may be some way off but the effects of the win are already being felt. Everyone is talking about it.

It seems to have brought the city together and given it a warm glow. The people of Hull now have something to smile about.

Long may that continue.

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