CHANGING ROOMS made her a household name. And now Linda Barker is encouraging people in Hull to do up a spare bedroom for some of the 1m visitors expected for City of Culture next year.
With just 1,000 hotel-rooms in the city centre, organisers are hoping the surging popularity of room-letting website Airbnb will take up some of the slack.
Yesterday the interior design guru joined calls to embrace the “everyone back to ours” culture, showing off a Scandinavian-style room she had created after doing the rounds of the city’s charity shops and recycling centres in the city - proving you don’t have to break the bank to give a spare room a wow factor.
The bedroom was set up - quite surreally - for the cameras in Pearson Park. Humber Wood Recycling Project had created a stunning headboard out of pallets, while Linda had artfully upcycled a couple of pieces of brown furniture - a mini wardrobe from the homeless charity Emmuas for £35 - and a desk for £40 - and painted everything subtle Nordic shades.
She said: “Airbnb is the way to go, come 2017 when Hull has City of Culture status. The more people who can turn a spare room to Airbnb the better.
“I don’t want people to be scared off thinking I have to get a new wardrobe, a new set of drawers. I’ve used old recycling fabrics for throws but sheets and pillowcases buy new.
“I think it is nice to have a little table and chairs. Good lighting by the bed. Buy a house plant to show you care.”
Letting a room to a complete stranger won’t appeal to everyone. But Airbnb’s popularity shows that a significant number will.
As well as making a bit of spare cash, people in Hull are being told it’s another way of taking part in the once-in-a-lifetime experience, which is coming round the corner fast. “If they can’t volunteer, or don’t consider themselves artistic this is another great way to be part of the year and it expands the type of accomodation we are offering,” said Dan Wheeler, tourism development officer for Visit Hull and East Yorkshire, which is offering “Big Welcome” training for newbies.
Hull still has a relatively small number of airbnbs, but an enthusiastic advocate in performer Sarah Davies, who has let out her spare room on a dozen occasions. Sarah, who will soon be moving into a house in West Hull where she will have more scope for airbnbing, has been accruing a growing global family.
“I’ve had people from Vancouver, Australia and Denmark. It might be a business trip, a placement at Uni - I’ve had a pilot whose training course was in Hull.”
One guest left blue footprints after taking part in the recent mass naked art installation by Spencer Tunick, Sea of Hull.
“Knowing what’s going on culturally in the city I can point people in the right direction - the restaurant where there’s the amazing frittata. I sometimes take people - I just enjoy doing it.
“Just push yourself out of your comfort zone, pop your bubbble and open the door up,” she added.
Hull 2017 CEO Martin Green said: “Hull is a welcoming city - when I came here two years ago I had the warmest welcome you can imagine.
“This is us saying: ‘give it a go, if you ever thought about it, now is the time. ‘
“We haven’t put a figure on it: we want to tattract 1m people into the city, the more opportunities, the more diverse places to stay we can offer, the better.”