Roots, Routes and Freedom – The launch of Hull’s new seasons

Event Report by Jane Bennett-Powell (Journalist & London Alumni Group Leader)

On 28 February 2017, 200 people gathered for the launch of the next two phases of Hull 2017 City of Culture. Speaking at the St Paul’s Terrace of the Royal Festival Hall overlooking the south bank of the Thames, Rosie Millard said she had been thrilled by the response to the programme so far, both among locals and people who were discovering Hull for the first time.

The Hull alumna, who chairs the Board of Trustees of Hull 2017, announced that the city’s appreciation of the concept of freedom would be celebrated during the summer “as never before, with epic concerts, incredible exhibitions and jaw-dropping pieces of theatre.” Hull, of course, was the home of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and now hosts WISE, the University’s Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation.

Stephen Brady, the council leader, (below left with Rosie Millard) made an entertaining and — lacking his specs — off-the-cuff address. He told the audience – a mixture of graduates and friends of the city – that the numbers expected to visit the city during the year had been exceeded in the first two months. The buzz was exhilarating and the council’s huge financial investment would have a lasting legacy.

Tony Hall, (below right) the BBC director-general, announced new local reporter posts and 100 hours of broadcasting originating in Hull, including a Radio 1 Big Weekend. The city, as you’ve probably noticed, is named on every weather map shown on BBC television during the year.

Martin Green, the City of Culture CEO, said events had been highly inclusive. “People have told me they’ve been speaking to their neighbours for the first time!” as they take part in events across  Hull. The city’s benefiting from new investment and experiencing renewed pride.

Among the next few months’ highlights:

A sound journey on the Humber Bridge, a Real Ale and Cider Festival, International Jazz, Richard III directed by Barry Rutter, Turandot, Bill Bailey, Omid Djalili, Hull’s fishing community, the Royal Ballet, the Turner Prize, film, exhibitions, history, poetry, food and drink, the Fruit Market and Trinity Square cultural quarters, events at the new Middleton Hall and Larkin’s letters at the renovated Brynmor Jones library on campus.

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