WITH Hull UK City of Culture 2017 just days away, the city is ready to embrace its time in the limelight and change people’s perceptions.
We’ve seen the city undergo a huge transformation this year, not only in terms of the regeneration work to our city centre, but in people’s attitudes towards Hull too. Seeing so much positivity is really heartening particularly when Hull has previously been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
As a Hull lad, born and bred, I’ve seen the city undergo a huge change in its fortunes over the decades and not always for the better. There were times that Hull was seen as a very down on its luck place, not worthy of any recognition unless it was for bad news.
But we Hull people know this has never been the case. We know that our city has so much to offer. Next year, and in the years beyond, it’s Hull’s time to stand up, be proud and show off why it deserves to be UK City of Culture 2017 and a place worthy of investment.
I’ve had many jobs over the years before I took up the role of leader of the council back in 2011, and looking back at all the experience I’ve gained has really helped with the journey we’ve been on since 2013 when we were awarded the title of UK City of Culture 2017.
This was the second time we had bid for the title, and I think winning it on the second attempt was helped not only by having a strong bid that was supported by hugely passionate people, but the fact that we also launched our 10-year City Plan in the summer of 2013. We knew back then that there was a hunger and ability to take this city to another level. What is happening now is raising aspirations and changing lives.
More than £1bn has been invested in the city since 2013 which shows that there is a renewed confidence from businesses in how Hull is growing and continually evolving. Global investors are now looking at our city as a place to invest. This is a really significant, game changing time in Hull’s history.
The belief that businesses and investors have in the city are really helping to change things on a local level. Our unemployment rates are the lowest on record. Hull also has been named as a ‘star performer’ in the Yorkshire and the Humber by the CBI in a recent productivity report, with our growth rate currently at 43 per cent. Years ago, this is something that would have seemed impossible.
This remarkable change to Hull is one that we have been long overdue for, and I hope that when people visit the city whether it’s for the first time, or it’s their first visit in a long time, they will be more than pleasantly surprised.
We’ve invested hugely to ensure we are ready to welcome people during 2017 and beyond. We’ve seen three years of public realm work almost completed in 18 months, giving the city a well-deserved and long overdue overhaul. We have tried our best to keep disruption to a minimum and our heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has been affected. The short term disruption will soon be outdone by the long term benefits.
But it’s not just about improving the streets, our residents are enormously important to us and it’s our duty to make sure that they are well looked after. They are after all the heart and soul of our city that have stood with us through the good times and the bad. So we have made improvements to our housing stock with 700 empty homes brought back into use, 1,000 homes refurbished and all the tower blocks taken down on Orchard Park with a regeneration programme underway and an extra care facility complete. We’ve managed to achieve all of this despite the continued cuts to our budgets.
2017 is going to be a fantastic year and we wouldn’t have got this far without the unwavering belief of people in the city and beyond. On behalf of Hull City Council, our warmest thanks go to each and every one of you.
With so much to look forward to, I hope that the legacy from UK City of Culture 2017 will continue long into the future, helping Hull to prosper and flourish yet again.
Everyone’s invited to the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 celebrations and I look forward to welcoming you all.
Steve Brady is the leader of Hull Council.