IT was with great fanfare - and ambitious hopes - that then-Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced that Hull had won the title of the UK City of Culture for 2017.
And a year to day from that announcement, it seems the city is already reaping rewards.
Hotel bookings are up 15 per cent, visits to the city’s museums have increased by 54 per cent during holiday periods, and the city has received £16m worth of positive media coverage.
Today, Hull’s new Culture Company, set up to organise the City of Culture programme, is holding a series of events to set out how the city is getting ready to deliver on the ambitious plans it laid out in the bid. It wants to make Hull a world-class visitor destination, creating thousands of jobs, a strengthened cultural sector and a sustainable visitor economy.
Culture Company chief executive, Martin Green said: “The Culture Company has a huge responsibility to the city and local people to deliver a truly transformative year of events in 2017 and we are now putting together a world-class team to help them achieve that. Detailed planning and preparation will be the key to success and we will need everyone in the city to get involved.
“Local people, business, the Council and other public bodies are totally galvanised around the benefits that being the UK City of Culture could bring to Hull. Now it’s time for us to work together to make it happen.
“As curators and custodians of the city’s bid, we are passionate about raising the profile of the city, boosting public participation in the arts and using culture to support the rebirth of a great Northern city.”
Hull faced strong competition from Dundee, Leicester and Swansea Bay to unanimously take the judges vote for UK City of Culture. The bid was inspired by Philip Larkin’s poem Days, and focused on the city’s unique character and ‘Hullness’. Over 365 days, a diverse programme of events will focus on four distinctive themes, Roots and Routes, Made in Hull, Freedom and Quirky.
Tourism is now worth £260m to the local economy, and visitor spend is expected to grow by £184m between 2015-20. New jobs are expected in construction, creative industries and tourism, and since the bid announcement, there have been 14 new business start ups in the city centre.
Visitor numbers are already rising - up six per cent in 2013 compared to 2012, and a record breaking 115,000 people attended this year’s Freedom Festival in September - with over a third coming from outside of the city,
At The Deep, one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, visitor numbers are up by a third since this time last year.
Chief executive Colin Brown said: “A year ago I was speaking at a big conference in London and began by saying ‘greetings from the City of Culture 2017’ - somewhat against my expectations everyone clapped and cheered.
“It was clear then that there is so much goodwill out there for Hull, and we are already seeing that translate into more visitors.
“The Deep is up 35 per cent on last year, and whilst a new penguin display doesn’t hurt, the first signs of rising visitor numbers can be traced back before their arrival to the City of Culture announcement.”
Council leaders hope the legacy of the City of Culture will last well beyond 2017. As part of Hull’s 10-year plan, the Council is hoping to change the face of the city centre with multi-million pound investment, with new public art, a bridge connecting the city to its waterfront and the regeneration of Hull’s historic Fruit Market.
Coun Steven Bayes, the council’s portfolio holder for City of Culture and vice-chair of the Culture Company, said winning the title has already had a “huge impact”.
He added: “Our cultural sector, local business and the public played a huge part in bringing the title to Hull and their enthusiasm is truly infectious. As we mark a year since winning the title, it’s now time to look forward to the opportunities they will have to work with the team at the Culture Company as we prepare to deliver the year.”
Events today include a breakfast meeting for cultural organisations and artists, a meeting of 160 young people hosted by Hull Youth Enterprise Partnership, and an event tonight at Ferens Art Gallery where Mr Green and Coun Steven Bayes who will set out their vision for 2017.
Visit 2017-hull.co.uk for more information.