Is Hull Dull? Essay, Research Paper
Preconceptions of Kingston-Upon-Hull (more widely known as Hull), commonly amount to a post-industrial northern city with declining employment and a lack of tourism opportunities, an attitude of ‘it’s grim up north.’ To the more knowledgeable, it is seen as a once important port with whaling and ship-building connections, having suffered years of neglect, but still not prospering with its tourist industry. However, with the aid of its City and County Councils and private investors, Hull has been improving its landscape in an attempt to enhance its new and prospering tourist industry. After a visit to Hull, attitudes change and the impressions of the visitor are of a busy centre for commerce, industry and pleasure, a major seaport and an important focus for learning and research, built on a friendly, human scale. The city is extremely clean and free of pollution and is not overpowered by office blocks. It displays a terrific menagerie of old and new, and to quote Maureen Lipman (ref.i), “It seems to have flourished, bloomed, been given a new lease of life.” The attempt to improve the image of the city has been on the main agenda for decades. In the late 1970’s, when vacant and derelict sites and disused docklands, old-fashioned industrial premises, lack of suitable properties for potential businesses and growing levels of unemployment were increasingly common, it was the aim of the Inner Area Programme (in the 1990’s it became the Urban Programme) to transform the inner areas to attract investors, tourists and most importantly for its residents. In effect, it has been selling itself to investment. The funding for the IAP is split between central government (75%) and the local authority (25%). In its programme, it has focused on the economy (43%), social problems (32%), housing (13%), the environment (10%) and administration (2%). Since 1979, Hull’s IAP has spent £40 million on more than 600 major projects and other smaller schemes within these spheres. It appears obvious that, as an integral part of redeveloping the inner areas, Hull’s planners have been targeting its 800 years of history, from its Civil War connections to its maritime history to the fact that William Wilberforce, the slave abolitionist was born here. They have been using these associations with the past to their benefit to promote and attract people, for example, with the William Wilberforce Museum and the ‘Alphabet of Fish Around the City Trail’ (see collage). Promoters of the city also mention and use the ‘Hull Hall of Fame’, in dropping names such as, Maureen Lipman, celebrated actress/ comedienne (see collage), Tom Courtney, actor, Roland Gift, Rock artist from the Fine Young Cannibals, Paul Heaton from the Beautiful South, Karen Briggs, Judo World Champion and of course Philip Larkin, the famous poet and jazz critic. The fundamental way in which Hull is improving its image and appearance is by the creation or redevelopment of major tourist attractions. Its main developments have been the construction of the Prince’s Quay Shopping Centre, the Marina and the regeneration of the Old Town (see collage). As a major role in rediscovering its waterfront, Hull has witnessed the building of the Prince’s Quay Shopping Centre. Completed in 1991, this elegant £65 million Regional Shopping Centre development by Teesland/ Balfour Beatty/ Land Securities plc. stands on the site of the former Prince’s Dock. It was built on three levels on stilts above the water and contains shop units, food courts, leisure space and parking. It is very stylish and glittering and has been described as an amalgam between a space craft, a fitted kitchen and the interior of an international hotel (based on J. Markham & M. Kirby, 1991 – ref.2). This has created a new landmark in the city which was much needed and has contributed to the city’s resurgence and will continue to do so. Another outstanding component in the transformation of the city’s waterfront has been the redevelopment of the Marina. Over the centuries, the port enjoyed considerable commercial success as a leading whaling centre and the nation’s deep-sea fish capital. However, with the demise of sea-faring tradition, Hull City Council purchased the docks concerned and former port offices and regenerated the area into the modern, shining symbol of the waterfront restoration. This £30 million investment in yacht harbour, hotel, housing etc., opened in 1983 and has acted as a catalyst in attracting property development on a huge scale around the city centre and Old Town. The Marina has become a focal point in this dramatic move to revitalise a huge segment of the city and in the process of giving this area a face-lift, the number of tourists has greatly increased. Hull’s Old Town suffered a decline from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, so in the late 1970’s, long overdue, the City Council embarked on a major rejuvenation scheme of this area. The priorities of this scheme were to regenerate industrial and commercial activity in this area, improve its physical environment and enhance its social facilities. Public and private investment has been pumped into the refurbishment of old and neglected buildings; environmental improvements, such as pedestrianisation and repairing and cleaning of buildings; and the reintroduction of housing into the Old Town. This crucial development of Hull’s Old Town has been possible due to a number of grants, including Urban Development Grants, Urban Regeneration Grants and Derelict Land Grants, for example. The overall building refurbishment, complemented by environmental improvements has created a quaint landscape set in an historic Old Town that is well worth a visit with its picturesque narrow, cobbled lanes and quays. Other ways in which Hull is promoting itself, in an attempt to attract the tourists and investors it needs to put itself on the map, as such, are its assortment of museums, with free entrance, the re-opening and hence growing importance of the Docks and its Fish Trail, around the city, which is one of a kind. In these ways, the city is using its past history to boost its contemporary status in modern Britain. Hull is also a host to a number of entertainments from the International Sea Shanty Festival to the Powerboat Racing Championships. All of these events will draw people to the city and captivate them with its recent and alluring developments, together with its friendly ambience, and optimistically, visitors will return. Changing peoples attitudes towards the city is an integral part of Hull’s attempt at improving its image. People have misconstrued perceptions before visiting and a lot is down to the people of Hull, (in addition to the appearance and opportunities of the city) to portray the right friendliness and ‘welcomeness’, so that visitors will return. It has been proved that “Hull Folk are Friendly” (Hull Daily Mail, ref.iii), they are kind-hearted and invariably have a smile on their face and are always ready to help the ‘lost tourist’! A familiar story to all major urban centres is the influence of the weather. A city can appear grey and bleak it the weather is dull and on the other hand, when the sun is shining, a city can appear the warmest and friendliest place. When we visited Hull, the sun shone most of the time and the city seemed a very bright, warm and overall very welcoming place. However, congruous to all other cities in Britain, there is the problem of the temperamental British weather. Hull has adapted very well to this by providing alternative indoor activities, such as the Princes Quay Shopping Centre and the many museums to visit. To briefly mention Hull as a post-modern city does not do justice to either Hull or post-modernism. Hull, as an up and coming British city is redeveloping itself during the supposed post-modern era we are in. There are many mixed opinions as to what a post-modern city should look like, and there is no specific model defining what this phenomena is or means and there probably won’t be for years. My interpretation of Hull as a post-modern city is that yes it has features that I believe to represent the era of post-modernity, such as the grand display of old and new, with its neatly paved, spacious piazzas for promenading complemented by its narrow cobbled streets in the Old Town (like something out of a Dickens novel) and with its modern, all glass spacecraft-like shopping centre and a hundred yards away stands the thirteenth century Trinity Church overlooking the Old Market Place. In this respect, I can see Hull developing as a post-modern city as it displays a melange of old and new, however some authors say a post-modern city is a fragmented society but Hull appears very socially and economically united. The whole topic of post-modernism is a very risky and undefined area, so it would be very unsafe to say whether Hull was a post-modern city as it conforms to some aspects but not to others. The major weakness for Hull and its tourist industry is its image in that people do have preconceived ideas of a dull, northern city, so it is the objective to get people there in the first place. It is a question of combatting this image problem through the media, for example, travel programmes, newspapers etc. Another problem is that tourism is all relatively new to the people themselves. Many locals realize just what this new industry does and will do for the economy, but it is still necessary to win over the rest of the locals, especially taxi-drivers! Hull planners are selling their city to potential visitors all over, but I think they realize that Hull will never be a major destination for the long-stay tourist, so they are targeting weekend break tourists; overnight stayers; people with special interests, ie.maritime or museums, for example; people on business trips; and people visiting friends and relations at the Universities for example. They are also selling their city as a base to stay for visiting the whole area, perhaps Beverley, York and the Dales. I realize that this account of Hull has been a factual portrayal of a new, up and coming city. My visit to Hull was academic; on arrival I was loaded down with biased information and the ‘tourist garb’. I admit my preconceived ideas of Hull were, similar to other peoples, in that I thought Hull was dull and offered nothing much to anyone. However, after five days in the city, ‘doing the tourist thing’, talking to people and generally keeping an open mind, my impressions of Hull have completely changed. I can now see that Hull has a lot to offer the visitor, (though perhaps not the long-stay tourist), the city will continue to prosper, its tourism industry will continue to expand and it will receive the praise and reviews it deserves. In short, ‘ull isn’t dull. REFERENCES i)Maureen Lipman – cited from Hull Travel Trade Manual, p13 ii)Markham,J. & Kirby,M.(1991)-Hull; Impressions of a City, p64 iii)Hull Daily Mail – cited from Hull Travel Trade Manual, p12 BIBLIOGRAPHY Burgess, J.A. (1978) – Image and Identity; A Study of Urban and Regional Perception, with particular reference to Kingston- Upon-Hull, University of Hull Markham, J. & Kirby, M. (1991) – Hull; Impressions of a City, Highgate Publications Ltd, Beverley Turner, G (1967) – The North Country, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London NEWSPAPER ARTICLES Hull Daily Mail 3/4/85 Hull Daily Mail 12/8/85 Sunday Times 10/9/89 Various Tourist Information Booklets and Pamphlets on the Old Town, the Marina, the Princes Quay Shopping Centre, City Trail and Travel Trade Manual.