Capturing the spirit of the City of Culture volunteers

THEIR turquoise jackets and smiling faces have made them one of the most memorable features of Hull UK City of Culture 2017.

One of a series of photographic portraits featuring Hull 2017's Volunteers, The Big Picture, by Hull-based photographer Leo Francis at the  Humber Street gallery from  January 20
One of a series of photographic portraits featuring Hull 2017's Volunteers, The Big Picture, by Hull-based photographer Leo Francis at the Humber Street gallery from January 20

Whether greeting visitors, helping out at events or taking on roles as extras - the volunteers have done it with energy, enthusiasm and pride.

The 2,500-strong force is estimated to have put in 300,000 hours - the equivalent of 33 years. And now they will become a piece of art themselves in a new exhibition, The Big Picture, at Humber Street Gallery.

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A stunning series of photographs which captures their can-do spirit and joie de vivre, were taken by Hull-based photographer Leo Francis, who had hundreds of them on the roof of St Stephen’s shopping centre for a dawn shoot, taking a mad-cap dip with inflatables in Princes Quay and lurking with lanterns in the woods of Little Switzerland, in the Humber Bridge Country Park.

Mr Francis said: “The volunteers are just such positive people and I wanted that to come across.

“Some of the situations were fairly challenging. Princes Quay was really overcast and raining, but they were loving it and partying. We got up on the roof at St Stephen’s at 5am and again the volunteers were singing and dancing and I was like ‘you guys are crazy, I am just waking up.’”

For another shoot volunteers were asked to bring something which told their story. Leo Puckering (pictured) went the whole hog, bringing a series of maps, his walking gear and survival bag.

The 160 portraits are being put on an ipad and projected against a wall and people will be able to zoom in and look at each individual.

The photographs on display at the Humber Street gallery from January 20 capture the volunteers' fun-loving vibe

Also at the gallery from January 20, is Grains of Scandalous Blue by artist in residence Julia Vogl. She has created two large colourful installations based on her residency and drawing on the huge amount of data collected from the volunteers, which goes down to the most popular name and even shoe size.

Director of public engagement and legacy Phil Batty said it’d be “an incredible exhibition which shows their power as a whole community, as well as their individual identities.” He added: “We see them in the city as one big group but every volunteer’s story is different. Some are amazing. The journey every volunteer has gone on is so individual.” Hull doesn’t hand over to Coventry until 2021 and the volunteers and their jackets - which were deliberately undated - will continue to be a key feature of legacy plans. “Moving forward there’s so may incredible organisations and events which could benefit from additional volunteer resource,” he said. “Supporting the cultural offer is a huge part of the future vision. The volunteers have loved being at the Ferens, the Maritime Museum, the University and Central Library and the organisations have loved having them.”

The photographs on display at the Humber Street gallery from January 20 capture the volunteers' fun-loving vibe