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How culture and regeneration go hand in hand in Hull


The work of planners has made a vital contribution to changing perceptions of Hull during its tenure as UK City of Culture, says Martin Green

Planning in any city is about more than committees granting applications and applying regulations; it’s about having a vision. The best planners know that to succeed, the vision needs to be shared by the people who will use the space.

Hull City Council’s £25 million investment in public realm improvements during the city’s term as the UK’s City of Culture 2017 shows how culture and regeneration can go together. The work, framed around stages to deliver events and spaces where people can come together, is throwing a spotlight on the best of Hull’s built heritage – quite literally at times. For example, Made in Hull threw large-scale projections onto buildings and recreated Hollywood movie scenes at Hull landmarks. Other works have included the play Flood at Victoria Dock and Look Up, which commissioned artists to create temporary artworks to challenge people’s perceptions of Hull’s physical fabric and offered different ways to enjoy the city.

Remoulding of Queen Victoria Square in the city centre has seen the creation of a large piazza in place of what was previously a busy thoroughfare. This has provided a focal point for visitors and a performance space: one Saturday this year, for example, the Duckie Summer Tea Party saw dancers and drag queens interacting with Hull’s population.

“People are taking ownership of their city spaces”

Trinity Square has been given a new lease of life. Opened up and with reflecting pools installed in front of Hull Minster, it has become a calming space flanked by bars and restaurants.

It’s also soon to become home to a new temporary installation, A Hall for Hull – 16 columns erected in the square to challenge the way we think about architecture and the use of public space.

Filling redeveloped spaces with culture has breathed fresh life into the city and created a new vibrancy. 

People are taking ownership of their city spaces and developing an appetite for exploration, which is leading them to discover new favourite places. Communities and groups realise that the spaces around them are theirs to make use of, with new events, festivals and shows popping up with greater regularity.

The success of such events has been indivisible from the public realm works. The work has provided us with amazing spaces to deliver cultural events and our programme has inspired people to see their city in a new light. 

From shipbuilding to Larkin and beyond, Hull is a city of culture. The work being carried out now and the momentum generated by our cultural programme should have a lasting impact on a city rediscovering its heritage and potential.

Martin Green is director of Hull UK City of Culture 2017

Photo | Shutterstock


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