Paris? Rome? Venice? Where better to celebrate an important anniversary?
How about Hull?
To mark 20 years of friendship, I went with my bestie Hele for a long weekend in Hull. From the stunning civic architecture to the crumbling industrial buildings, from the sight of a proper northern night out to having a decent pint for less than a fiver, Hull delivered big time. There's more than enough here for a couple of days of sightseeing – even if, like us, you don't make it to the Deep.
We chose Hull because it's somewhere different (unless you live there). It feels like an end of the line place, miles from anywhere. Its sense of otherness is marked by its white phone boxes, which despite the best efforts of the mobile phone industry, are still to be found throughout the city. In the Ferens there is a great municipal art gallery full of unexpected treasures. At the old Fruitmarket – currently being given major reconstructive surgery – there are even signs of a nascent hipster district with venues such as Thieving Harry's.
Much of the city centre was flattened by bombs during the Second World War. What replaced the rubble is a mix of Southampton-style polite post-war reconstruction, bad buildings from the post-Thatcher era, and some great examples of post-war modernism. BHS (formerly the Co-op) boasts a tremendous mosaic of three ships by Alan Boyson, the Hull equivalent of Barbara Hepworth's Winged Figure (we were unaware that Boyson's amazing fish mosaic was rediscovered inside the store in 2011). Along the River Hull are some amazing moveable bridges as well as the dramatic tidal barrier.
(If you want a full analysis of Hull's unique cityscape read Jones the Planner's excellent and detailed report on the city.)
Despite all this goodness, and for a city that has been named a City of Culture for 2017, there still feels a long way to go. The gross St Stephen's Shopping Centre, located on the edge of the city centre next to the station, is like a Tesco-sponsered vampire sucking the lifeblood out of the streets. Along the river are plenty of empty and derelict sites, and one of the most iconic post-war buildings – the Rank Hovis Flour Mill - is being torn down. There is much investment planned for 2017 to improve city centre streetscapes, as well as initiatives including investment in galleries and a new footbridge across the busy A63. I'm looking forward to returning to see the results.
You can see my portfolio of images from the trip here.