Hull's storybook light show

An ambitious outdoor light and sound event exploring mythology, fairy tales and Scandinavian links takes place in Hull this weekend. Alex Wood reports.

Zsolt Baloghs Made in Hull 2017 installation. (PA).
Zsolt Baloghs Made in Hull 2017 installation. (PA).

Over the next three nights a “magical” outdoor show in Hull promises to turn streets, buildings and shop windows into a giant storybook.

Thousands are expected to head into the city for Urban Legends: Northern Lights, the biggest event of the year being put on by Absolutely Cultured, the company that took on the mantle from City of Culture 2017.

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Starting last night and continuing until Sunday, from 5pm people can wander round the city centre to see newly-commissioned work by six UK and Scandinavian artists, which draws inspiration from ancient mythology, fairy tales and the connections between Hull and northern Europe and Scandinavia.

“It’s going to be atmospheric, magical, spine-tingling,” says Absolutely Cultured’s creative director Katy Fuller. “We know what resonated with people last year – events that saw the city come alive, with people sharing a story that played out on the city’s buildings and in public squares. This is our biggest and most ambitious event yet. What’s fantastic about working in Hull is that we have a huge audience who want to come and see stuff.”

Big outdoor events with oomph have become a speciality for those connected with City of Culture, from the unforgettable Place des Anges in 2016 to Made In Hull, the stunning opening event for City of Culture 2017, which resonated so deeply with so many local people.

Some of the artists who made that event so special are back – Zsolt Balogh, who designed the emotional rollercoaster of a ride centrepiece We Are Hull, returns with an installation in Queens Gardens telling stories which go back to ancient times when dry land connected the UK to northern Europe. People will be able to see stories played out in projections on the sides of a giant tepee in the park.

A stone’s throw away in the Rose Bowl the “ultimate bedtime story” will unfold across surrounding buildings – to a live chorus from a community choir and a soundtrack by Finnish composer Lau Nau. Artists imitating the dog explore what happens to the characters in the stories once the lights go out.

In Hull Minster, artists Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer, who last year created an amazing illusion of an iceberg on the side of the Deep aquarium, are putting on Skidbladnir, the shape-shifting boat of Norse mythology, which was large enough to carry all the gods, yet could be folded up small enough to fit inside a pocket.

This shape-shifter will be familiar to local audiences as it incorporates 3D survey data from the city’s historic ships, Arctic Corsair and the Spurn Lightship.

On the city’s Whitefriargate people will be able to peer into shopwindows and see “the darker, more original side” of the Hans Christian Andersen tales, stories with a sharp twist in the tale.

It has been created by multimedia artists Kristin and Davy McGuire – who recently relocated to Hull from Bristol – working with Hull photographic artist Anna Bean.

“There’s the Little Mermaid – she doesn’t get the Prince, she loses her tail and gets legs instead but it hurts her to walk,” says Fuller. “The Emperor’s New Clothes will be very funny as well – it’s a bit of a commentary on social media and vanity.”

Urban Legends: Northern Lights, Hull to December 2, 5pm- 10pm daily. Each piece lasts 10- 15 minutes. Free.