The cultural supremo ‘pushing on Hull’s open gate’

Embrace performing at the Tour de France Team Presentation Opening Ceremony in Leeds
Embrace performing at the Tour de France Team Presentation Opening Ceremony in Leeds
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ENTHUSIASM for Hull City of Culture 2017 is like “pushing an open gate” after the huge success of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics Games, according to the city’s new culture supremo.

Martin Green, who starts in October as the £130,000-a-year chief executive of the company responsible for the year-long programme of artistic events, won’t say whether he will be recruiting the likes of Danny Boyle.

Martin Green

Martin Green

But Mr Green, who was head of ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games, said positivity about the City of Culture was “through the roof” – and the challenge will be to maintain it for the next three years.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “This is the gift of the Olympic Games – it took away the cynicism, the Tour de France Grand Depart, the Commonwealth Games – now we are next so it’s like pushing an open door. We have proved that the UK is really good at these events and can deliver them on budget and delight and amaze people. Right up to the Torch relays they said it was going to be a disaster, it’s going to be late, it’s going to be over budget.”

The “stars are aligning”, he added, with the economy coming out of the recession. “People are realising it is not all about London. Obviously with the BBC, Tony Hall saying they are going to be more arts-focussed, I think we are in a really good place and time to deliver something strong,” he said.

The appointment of Mr Green, who acted as the executive producer of last month’s Tour de France’s opening ceremony in Leeds and Rosie Millard, the former BBC Arts correspondent, as chair of the culture company, could be read as London-centric. Mr Green said he understood that, but there had to be a balance: “The UK is about mixing talents – you have to find a balance between drawing what’s already there and mixing it with different aspects from outside.

“I hope people will see my skill set and my experience as an enabling role. I wasn’t artistic director (at the Olympics) I drew a team of people together, recruited and got them to do something brilliant – that is exactly what I want to do here.”

Formerly head of events for London under Ken Livingstone, Mr Green managed the handover ceremony for Beijing’s Olympics, which he accepts was “not universally liked”. Citing it as an example of the things he has learned from, he added: “When you are doing stuff like that the first thing happens in front of 1bn people – four years later we put on a show that was universally acclaimed and broke all TV records.”

Derry-Londonderry hosted the first City of Culture and its chair Martin Bradley has since admitted they struggled with sponsorship and ticket sales. Hull has had fervent support so far from the business community and Mr Green said with a much longer lead in time than Derry he was confident of meeting the £18m budget, which includes a target of £3m from sponsorship. As for ticketing, he pledged there would “always be something you can go to which is either free or (doesn’t cost) very much.”

Mr Green, whose parents live in Lincolnshire, is looking to rent in the city centre and will walk to work at the former police authority headquarters in High Street, bought by the council earlier this year for £386,000.

Spending on arrangements for City of Culture this financial year alone comes in at nearly £900,000, including £400,000 to cover the company’s preliminary recruitment, staffing and development costs.

“The first thing we need to do is turn ourselves from a bidding city into a delivery city, with a whole load of not sexy but important stuff; setting up the company, recruiting a world-class team – because it is not an individual effort,” he said.