Matt Jukes: What City of Culture has meant to Hull as special year ends

Hull has made the most of its year in the spotlight as the UK City of Culture. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures Ltd.
Hull has made the most of its year in the spotlight as the UK City of Culture. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures Ltd.
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AS we reach the end of our year in the spotlight hosting UK City of Culture, it provides the perfect moment to pause and reflect on our incredible year and to focus on what lies ahead for Hull.

As a council, we always said we would set the stage for the City of Culture team and our community to deliver the story and we can confidently say that we did just that.

With a newly redeveloped city centre, refurbished Ferens Art Gallery and Hull New Theatre, alongside the £80m regeneration of the Fruit Market area on our riverside and a £4.2m investment in Hull’s historic Old Town, our city is transformed. We took a risk to invest in culture and the arts at a time when budgets are being squeezed and it is paying off.

This year has been a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone in the city and our many, many visitors. Most significantly of all, it has given our city a new- found energy, optimism and confidence. We now have a chance to build on this and for the city to prosper further. The journey for Hull does not end on New Year’s Eve. This is just the beginning and we will actually continue to hold the UK City of Culture title until December 31, 2020, when we hand the title over to Coventry on January 1, 2021.

The wider perceptions of our city have also changed. The positive feedback from our visitors has been overwhelmingly positive and heartening and, arguably more importantly, the year has had a positive impact on an incredible number of our residents.

Reaching every corner of the city with events, performances, exhibitions and concerts, our residents have been engaged in every neighbourhood.

We have seen nine out of 10 people in the city take part in events and every school, and the vast majority of our 55,000 children, engaged in activities throughout the year.

It is estimated that over 3.5 million people have so far attended events in 2017, many of those in the city centre but many out in our communities too. Large-scale installations have contributed to these incredible figures. Some 324,000 people attended the breath-taking Made in Hull event at the start of the year; 800,000 visited the Weeping Window poppy installation at our Maritime Museum; and 1.1 million took in the imposing Blade which saw the first wind turbine blade made by people from Hull working in the newly opened Siemens plant displayed right in the heart of our city.

Ferens Art Gallery and Hull Museums have also welcomed record-breaking visitor numbers, attracting over 1.2 million people since January 2017, hosting renowned exhibitions and the world’s most prestigious contemporary art award, the Turner Prize, which is on display until January 7.

As a result of a hugely successful year, with visitors flocking to the city, we expect to exceed our economic impact target, set within our original UK City of Culture bid, meaning visitors to the city have brought in over £60m in the last 12 months, via ticket sales, hotel bookings and city centre spending. This is really encouraging and supports our local economy, which is vital for the success of our city.

This, in turn, means the economic picture in Hull has changed significantly; over the last five years Hull has seen £3.3bn of public and private investment, demonstrating new- found confidence in the city. Businesses are showing more interest and are now knocking on our door saying: “We want to invest in Hull.” We are working hard to ensure this investment continues in 2018 and into the years to come. Not only will it enhance our local economy but it will provide increased job opportunities for our residents, which is the major ambition of our 10-year City Plan.

Our aspirations remain high and we are working with our committed business partners to ensure that our direction of travel continues. So, as we move into 2018, we will continue to improve our cultural and visitor infrastructure and our “place”.

Our other investments include £36m in creating a 3,500-capacity regional music, arts and conference venue; the ongoing development of a £50m Yorkshire Cruise Terminal, which will serve not only the increasing number of visitors to Hull but also the great destinations we have on our doorstep across Yorkshire; the reopening of our Woodford Leisure Centre after a £7.5m extension; the creation of a major new £27m attraction which will shine a light on Hull’s unique heritage as Yorkshire’s Maritime City, reconnecting the city to its historic River Hull waterfront; and the £130m redevelopment of the Albion Square and Bond Street area in our city centre, increasing the leisure and retail offer, will also get under way.

We will move forward with our reinvigorated sense of pride and confidence because our city has changed forever, and our story will continue.

Matt Jukes is chief executive of Hull City Council.