IT APPEARED so unlikely, it generated rumours on social media that it had been faked with computer-generated images.
As people woke up to the latest City of Culture event in Hull, they could have been forgiven for thinking they were dreaming. Because slowly inching its way into Hull city centre was a 250ft turbine blade on the back of a machine operated remotely by two men working away on boxes as they walked alongside.
The stuff of Hollywood indeed.
As it approached from the Myton Bridge to turn into Lowgate and past the King Billy statue at a fast walking space, contractors were still digging out a road sign and cutting down a lamp-post.
The imposing blade, placed on bespoke supports, cuts across Queen Victoria Square from Savile Street to Carr Lane – rising at a 30 degree angle to 5m, allowing double-decker buses to go underneath. Suddenly Queen Victoria looked quite diminutive on her plinth.
Photographer Sean Spencer watched as the 28-tonne blade rolled into the Old Town as the city slept, and said: “It was incredible to see. It was like some kind of ghost ship looming through the city centre in the gloom.”
The unadorned blade – made out of fibreglass, balsa wood and resin – was handcrafted at the new Siemens factory on Alexandra Dock. Some 200 shift workers were bussed into the city centre to clap and cheer as it continued its slow progress into the square before going back to start their day’s work.
Huge blocks of ballast were added to the base of the support nearest Carr Lane as a man above the Punch pub opposite opened his bedroom window to find not only a surreal sight, but that he had caught the attention of a host of photographers on City Hall’s balcony opposite.
Siemens Hull project director Finbarr Dowling said it had taken just a phone call to convince executives over a year ago to agree to the project.
He said: “It’s a great chance for our people to celebrate what they have made in the city with their own fair hands, and it’s a chance to put Hull in front of renewable energy and wind power. More than anything we are celebrating City of Culture, which is off to an amazing start.”
Blade was the brainchild of artist Nayan Kulkarni and the curators of Look Up, a year-long programme of works commissioned to make people living and visiting the city experience it in a different way.
Mr Kulkarni said: “Last week was all about a visual spectacle. It is continuing that logic. We are stopping it (the blade) from being a tool for energy production. It is becoming a source of another kind of energy.”
Arup project director Richard Bickers said it had been a significant engineering feat, adding: “A major challenge was manoeuvring the 75-metre long structure through Hull’s narrow city centre streets. Over 50 items of street furniture, including traffic lights and lamp posts, had to be temporarily removed so it could be securely and elegantly set in place”.
There were a few naysayers on social media, who questioned the “art” in a blade, but people who came to watch were enjoying the unique sight. Among them were Julie and David Fitzsimmons who saw “Made in Hull” for the second time on Saturday night at the end of its seven-day run.
Mrs Fitzsimmons said: “We thought how were they going to beat this – then we woke up and saw this. It’s brilliant. We are just waiting for the next thing and hope they keep the momentum going.”
Ryan Senior had come to Hull from Scunthorpe with his wife and daughter and said they planned to come over as much as possible during the year, adding: “It is fantastic, exciting. It’s something a bit different – it gets people talking.”
Blade will remain in Queen Victoria Square until March 18.
• The first week of City of Culture generated over 340,000 visits – a third of the 1m expected throughout the year.
Made in Hull, the centrepiece of which was a spectacular 15-minute film sequence projected onto three landmark buildings in Queen Victoria Square, drew 342,000 people over seven evenings up to January 7.
Creative director Sean McAllister claimed residents of Hull should be “incredibly proud”.
He said: “As someone from the city, I wanted to bring to life some of the stories that make Hull such an interesting and extraordinary place. The reaction has been incredible.”