YESTERDAY was a great day for everyone living in Hull. And an especially great day for all the people in the city who worked so long and hard to prepare Hull’s successful bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2017.
I had the privilege of being the one who announced the city’s success, live on TV, yesterday morning from a rainy and wind-blown lawn outside the Palace of Westminster. The chairman of the judging panel, Phil Redmond, and I paid tribute to the really great bids from the other finalists – Dundee, Leicester and Swansea Bay – but we were clear that Hull is a worthy winner.
The independent panel were clear that Hull had put forward the best application and it was great to be able to announce their success.
And then we set off from King’s Cross to see for ourselves how the news was going down in the city itself. The skies were grey when we arrived but no-one seemed to care. The buzz around the place, the grins on people’s faces and the palpable air of delight from everyone we met was simply amazing to see.
So what will this mean for Hull when it has its year in the spotlight in four years time?
The answer to that, of course, is very much in the hands of the people who will organise the year’s events and activities. But if the experience of Derry-Londonderry, who hold the title this year, is anything to go by, it should be very good news indeed.
For that city, it’s meant economic growth, a drive for social change, inward investment and, best of all perhaps, a real resurgence in community spirit and civic pride for each and every person living there.
To put it simply, it’s been a chance for that city to put on a show that has made the rest of the country – and much further afield too – sit up and take notice.
The people leading Derry-Londonderry’s year say that the title has brought in an extra 600,000 visitors, doubling the previous year’s figure. They hosted 150 events, including the internationally-renowned Turner Prize and a visit from the Royal Ballet, not to mention BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. And 3,000 new jobs were created with more than £100m invested in the city’s infrastructure. For every pound invested, the City of Culture is estimated to have generated a further five pounds.
So the opportunity for Hull is certainly there for the taking.
During my visit to the city yesterday, I saw just a small selection of the wonderful places that helped Hull secure the title: the Philip Larkin sculpture, the Albermarle Music Centre, the Ferens Art Gallery, the famous Hull Truck Theatre and, of course, The Deep – a unique millennium attraction which attracts visitors from all over the world. And these are just the showpiece destinations for visitors – the city has a rich and varied built heritage too, blending old and new..
Hull was the clear choice of the expert panel of judges. They recognised the strength and depth of the city’s bid and as Phil Redmond said yesterday: “Hull put forward the most compelling case based on its theme as ‘a city coming out of the shadows’ – this is at the heart of their project and reminds both its people and the wider world of its cultural past and future potential.”
So let no-one question Hull’s credentials. Let no-one doubt the quality of their offer or the potential they now have to grip this moment and realise their dreams, bringing the city “out of the shadows” as their bid so successfully promised.
I think 2017 is going to be a wonderful year for city and I for one can’t wait to see the show they put on.
* Maria Miller is the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.