Ferens Art Gallery

Ferens logo
Courtesy of @FerensHull twitter account

Ferens is one of my favourite places in the city – lovely gift shop, great café, lots of lovely pieces. It’s been closed for nigh on eighteen months, while they did a ~£5m upgrade/refurbishment, and it reopens to the public today, 13th Jan 2017. They have added proper climate control, more security, generally freshened it up, and made it ready for some of the big events coming up later in the year, such as the Turner Prize.

They’re running a big programme for volunteers, and I did my first training on Wednesday. There’s going to be a lot to learn, in order to be able to do it properly! We were asked what we wanted to give to the gallery, and what we wanted to get out of it. I responded that

  1. I loved the place, and I’d missed it, and it would be lovely to pass that on to visitors, and
  2. I felt I didn’t know enough about any of the pieces, and how to interpret them, and hoped that volunteering would teach me this.

They seemed quite happy with my answers, and I hope that the Ferens volunteer programme will continue after this year.

The Lion at Home by Rosa Bonheur
The Lion at Home by Rosa Bonheur

We had talks from various people, including Kirsten Simister, the curator, and a tour of the museum given by Sean … someone. This was a real privilege, as no member of the public had yet been in. I spotted my very favourite painting, The Lion at Home by Rosa Bonheur – for some inexplicable reason it has been hung opposite where it used to be, so I was a bit alarmed at first. There is however no sign of my lovely Henry Moore Torso – apparently they haven’t quite decided where to place it yet. But I did get to see the Lorenzetti, about which there is much excitement both in Hull, and in the wider art world.

In the evening, I was lucky enough to have bagged a volunteer spot for the Friends of Ferens private viewing; I was stationed next to a big metalwork piece in the central area, mainly to try to prevent people tripping over the security ropes. I saw quite a few folk I knew, and had a really nice time talking to everyone, despite having little knowledge about everything. But that learning will come.

Sunny Scunny

Scunthorpe

picture courtesy of metro.co.ukI signed up to be a City of Culture volunteer on the BBC Radio Humberside bus, which is broadcasting Phil White’s show live from Monday to Friday, every week of Hull’s City of Culture year. BBC Humberside covers a large area – East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire down to the Wash, up to Bridlington, and across over to Selby – and they decided to take this bus out to their audience during the course of this year. I underwent some training at their offices, which included a tour of the studios, both television and radio, and a meet and greet with the legend that is Peter Levy (who has been presenting Look North since before television was actually invented, as far as I can tell). I was very lucky to get onto this bit of the City of Culture programme, as there were only sixty training vacancies.

So, on Tuesday 10th January, I cycled down to the BBC for a 9.30 start, and we set off for Scunthorpe (Scunthorpe?!) at about 10:15. The bus had already left, and it can’t carry passengers anyway, so we trundled off in a BBC car driven by Kate, the producer, and with Phil White in the passenger seat, and myself and another volunteer, Kate, in the back. Conversation ensued, sometimes between all four, and sometimes just me and Kate. Phil never stopped paying attention however, as a couple of times he held a microphone to my face and interviewed me on air, having picked up a lot about me from the car 🙂

Our job really was to talk to people, and find some who were interesting enough to be interviewed, and basically to wave the flag for both the BBC and City of Culture. Which is great – I love talking to people. What I did discover is how much love people have for their local radio station; the presenters get loads of text and e-mails, and their audience really do feel that they are personal friends. I introduced a man to Phil who raises money for a hospice in Scunthorpe – they had a lovely chat on air, and afterwards the chap could have hugged me, he was so excited to have spoken to him, and thanked me profusely.

So that was my first trip to Scunthorpe, and it was huge fun; next week I’m off to Orchard Park in Hull on the bus, and will report back later

Hull City of Culture – week 1

1 January 2017: Launch of Hull 2017 - Uk City of Culture. The story of Hull beamed onto the Ferens Art Gallery this evening. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures Ltd 01482 210267/07976 433960 www.hullnews.co.uk sean@hullnews.co.uk
1 January 2017: Launch of Hull 2017 – Uk City of Culture.
The story of Hull beamed onto the Ferens Art Gallery this evening.
Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures Ltd
01482 210267/07976 433960
www.hullnews.co.uk sean@hullnews.co.uk

And we’re off. The year started with In With a Bang, a massive firework display, timed to start at 20:17 (geddit) on 1st January 2017. I’m not especially fond of fireworks, and I’m even less fond of crowds, so I didn’t bother trying for tickets, nor for volunteering opportunities. But it was a huge success, and we thank the BBC for broadcasting it live, both on the BBC News Channel and Radio Humberside.

After that, it was Made in Hull, a breathtaking set of projections onto various buildings in Hull: City Hall, Maritime Museum, Ferens Art Gallery, Scale Lane Staith, C4Di, and The Deep, along with various installations in Zebedee Square and Whitefriargate. This ran from 1.1 to 7.1, and we pottered down on the Thursday, thinking that the worst of the crowds would be over. Oh. No. The city was heaving, although we managed to get a) a coffee, and b) a meal in the Lion and Key. The highlight for me was “Arrivals and Departures”, projected onto The Deep, a building that really could have been made for this purpose (although, of course, it is a very fine aquarium as well). This was the piece that I was involved in, chorally speaking, before Christmas. Very emotional.

Apparently these two events brought 342,ooo visitors to Hull in seven days, with 103,000 on the last day – absolutely amazing.

And then … and then … The Blade.

turbine4sk
Picture courtesy of Hull Daily Mail

Rumours had abounded for a few days about something “huge” arriving for the next exhibit. Excitement abounded. The A63 was to be closed early on Sunday morning for a Very Wide Load. People thought it might be Amy Johnson’s plane, Jason – unlikely, as it is on the third floor of the Science Museum in London, and too fragile to be moved. It might, though, be a replica of Jason, although it was uncertain where such an item might be obtained. My money was on something to do with Siemens, who have poured money into an offshore wind turbine factory down on the docks, and I was right, but I didn’t realise just what was going on.

It was a wind turbine blade, a slip of a thing at 75m long. That’s 75 metres long. It left the factory at about 2:30 a.m. on a huge vehicle, and trundled at about 1 mph from the docks, down Lowgate and into the city centre – I applaud the driver, as there must have been very little room for manoeuvre through those tight corners. We popped down at lunchtime to see how they were getting on, and it’s just majestic – so looking forward to seeing it properly on Tuesday, when I’m next in town.  It is one of the first batch of blades to come off the production line, and it is absolutely and utterly in keeping with the first quarter’s theme of Made in Hull – the city’s history moving forward. They have donated it, so I hope the council will find it a permanent home, because it can’t stay in Victoria Square past March 18th.

Volunteering

Not done too much of this lately – a couple of stints on the Pod before Christmas, which were great fun, though c o l d. And then a brief stint at the Lines of Thought exhibition up at the University. This was quite uneventful, really, and I didn’t even get to see the drawings, but I shall go up there before it finishes and take a look as a civilian. I will just say that I cycled there, and indeed back – 8 mile round trip, and my speeds are getting better. Go me.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Scunthorpe on the BBC Radio Humberside bus. May the lord, etc.

a musical day

img_0124

As has been mentioned, I sing with the Hull Freedom Chorus, and enjoy it enormously. For the press launch event for Hull City of Culture we were very proud to be invited to sing a special arrangement of Caravan of Love on the stage at Hull Truck (more details here). We could never sing it again, because the performance rights were a nightmare to obtain, and very limited.

And then BBC Humberside decided they’d like to broadcast a performance on the local television news before Christmas, sorted out another set of rights, and we all got together on Monday night for a three hour (!) rehearsal and blocking out, with a 3.5 hour (!!) recording on Tuesday 13 Dec. We rehearsed, as we often do, in the Reception Room at the Guildhall, but the recording took place in the Council Chamber – very grand, although we toned that down a bit with plenty of red tinsel.

So that was a long evening, made even longer by two gigs with Bandanarama, to celebrate the launch of Back To Ours, another City of Culture event.

bus - back to oursWe pitched up initially at Hull Paragon Interchange, played a few tunes for the slightly puzzled travellers, and then posed with an assortment of councillors, volunteers, etc, beside a helpfully labelled bus. Then we polled off to the Freedom Centre to do it all again. Except this time, it was in the rain, and nobody was about, but we did at least get a free lunch.

The rest of the band then sallied off to North Point at Bransholme, but the Guildhall was calling, so I cycled home for a shower and change, then off I went. I did nine miles on my trusty bicycle yesterday, the longest I’ve done in ages, and was properly knackered by the end of it, but a fun time was had.

an oddity with my Apple watch

apple watch

I love my Apple watch – it tracks all my activities, and saves me having to drag my phone out for everything; in fact, I keep my phone on silent these days.

So when, last week, it had recorded only 190 steps for a trip of over half a mile, I thought it odd. But it seemed a one off. Then Sleep Watch stopped doing what it was supposed to, and said I hadn’t slept at all on Monday night. I dug into my Heart Rate Analyzer to find that I was apparently dead.

So clearly something was amiss, but it wasn’t hardware so far as I could tell – if I loaded the heart monitor on the watch, it worked, it just didn’t keep working.

I rebooted the watch – no difference. I rebooted the iPhone – no difference. I unpaired and repaired them – no difference. In the end, I wiped the watch, and set it up as a new one, which seems to have done the trick. I have reinstalled very few apps, and will wait until I’m confident it’s working properly before adding any more back, but it does seems OK now.

All most odd.

do not be alarmed

Last Wednesday (7 Dec) I attended an “awareness” course on The Terror Threat. This was given on behalf of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, and was held at Hull University’s Wilberforce Building. Now, this place is the other side of town from me, and involves quite a hairy route for a nervous cyclist, so I thought – no problem, I’ll catch a bus; only £3.10 for an all day ticket.

A slight hitch is that we have two bus companies in Hull: East Yorkshire Motor Services, and Stagecoach. Pete informed me that I wanted Stagecoach from town to Cottingham Road, so I boarded one of their buses here in East Hull, which conveyed me safely to Hull Paragon Interchange. Where I discovered that all the buses out towards the Uni were EMYS. I hurtled over to the station cash machine, thinking my only hope was to buy another day ticket, and on my way back to the bus bays, discovered one Stagecoach bus saying it went to the University. Sadly, it went near the University, but I legged it the ¼ mile, and was only five minutes late. And was offered a lift home by kind Brian.

The course was … odd. It’s the one they give to security guards, etc., and to be honest we are volunteers. I think we all felt that this sort of thing was rather above our pay grade, to be honest, but no matter – the whole point of this particular course was to get feedback, so hopefully they took it all on board.

Yesterday (Sun 11), I took myself off to St Charles Borromeo RC Church in Hull; someone at Holy Trinity a couple of weeks ago had said they needed some singers, so I thought “why not”. I haven’t set foot in a Catholic church in decades – a convent boarding school education will do that to you – but the sights, sounds and most distinctly smells don’t really leave you. It was a service for refugees, and quite nicely done, but a bit more Goddish than I generally feel comfortable with.

Oh, and I got my bike’s back brake cable fixed by Jobes on Saturday – a fiver! Really can’t grumble at that.

two a day!

Yesterday, Monday 5 December, I did two City of Culture training events!

East Park Hull in the frost

The first was a guided walk around East Park (what a shame it doesn’t have its own web site, but I may just do something about that myself). The park is about 12 minutes walk from where we live, so I did indeed walk over there, on a beautiful sunny morning with the thermometer at -1C. We were given a tour of the animal area, a nice talk on the various boats, and a stroll round the park, all preceded by a cup of coffee and a mince pie, made by the excellent ladies who run the very nice café.

I walk round the park often, and now I am pretty much able to lead other people round, so that’s all good.

In the evening, I cycled down to Queens Gardens, for a workshop with BBC Radio HPeter Levyumberside. They have obtained A Bus, which will be trundling around their coverage area all next year, outside broadcasting Monday to Friday between 12 and 2.30, and they need City of Culture volunteers to add as production assistants, and maybe do a bit of interviewing. It sounds enormous fun. We had a tour of the studios, both radio and TV, and we met the famous Peter Levy, who has been presenting Look North for nigh on thirty years, and gets mobbed whenever he goes out!

So, that was about 8.5 miles yesterday, on foot and by bike. You’d think I’d be getting fitter by now, really. Still, my trusty velocipede now has a new inner tube in its rear tyre, and air (such luxury), and is much, much easier to pedal.

I am out seven days in the next eight, so stay tuned for more exciting stuff.

Eternal Father, strong to save …

Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t much care for religion, but there’s something about singing in a church.

So when a call went out to local choir people to turn up to Holy Trinity Church on Saturday 4 December, to record For Those in Peril on the Sea as a soundtrack for part of the Made in Hull opening event for City of Culture.

You wouldn’t necessarily think it would take 2.5 hours to record one hymn, but we sang it loud and soft, with accompaniment on the mighty organ and without, with words and without. And then we sang some other stuff to help out one of the people recording it with one of his own projects.

And then we had coffee and cake, which was nice. The church is becoming a minster next year, and we have all been invited to sing at the investiture (or whatever it is), so that’s something to look forward to.

I wandered up to St Stephens shopping centre after that, to return a pair of shoes to Schuh; they were perfectly obliging, and gave me a refund, which “would take up to five working days to reach my account”. Funny how that doesn’t happen when you buy something, eh?The afternoon before (Friday 2 Dec), I attended a course on Customer Service as a City of Culture volunteer, at the Hull History Centre. This was given by a chap called John Lennon (!), and was most interesting and quite useful. I was, to my horror, late, as my bike had a flat tyre, and I had to hurtle for a bus. Pete manfully mended it for me during the afternoon, and so on Saturday morning I went to fetch it from the shed, to find it had a flat tyre again. More bus, and I treated it to a new inner tube on my way home.

busy busy busy

All of a sudden, I’ve gone from no life to almost too much life. I want to record it for future memories, so here’s a megapost to bring you up to date.

Freedom Chorus
I started singing again, after a break of many, many years, and I just love it. My first gigs were at the Freedom Festival – we sang a wonderful piece under Myton Bridge (like trolls!), which was bedecked with coloured neon lights; we also sang a selection of “river” songs on the new Stage at the Dock. It was Very Wet Indeed, and we were like a choir of drowned rats, and our second performance on Corporation Pier was cancelled because the floor was too slippy. But it was fabulous nonetheless.

Then, in September, the Chorus performed on stage at the press launch for Hull City of Culture 2017. We sang a glorious arrangement of the Isley Brothers’ Caravan of Love, which has a resonance for the city, given that The Housemartins had a hit with it. We also sang at Paragon station at the crack of dawn that morning, were shown on BBC TV, etc. We were all very proud.

Lots of interesting stuff for the Freedom Chorus coming up next year, but my lips are sealed for now.

I’ve also trained as a Singing Champion for the city, trying to get more people involved in the great social activity of choral singing.

City of Culture 2017
I joined up to be a volunteer for CofC, and got in on the first “wave” – how I wish I’d heard about it early enough to be a pioneer volunteer, but I missed the opportunity.

So far I have done backstage tours of Hull Truck Theatre and Hull History Centre, have worked a few sessions on the information Pod at Hull Paragon station, conducted questionnaires on behalf of Hull Truck at Endsleigh primary school, paraded around the stadium (with other volunteers, not on my own!) at a Hull KC football match, done a guided walking tour of the city, partaken in a Woman of the World thinkin, been part of a workshop with Blast Theory, and probably more. I intend to update this blog as I do more stuff, because it’s going to be a wonderful year, and I don’t want to forget it.

Last weekend, I spent a high-powered and exhausting day doing Volunteer Leadership training, which involved Child Protection, Health and Safety, Discrimination and How to Lead. I now have two new cards to add to my lanyard, and am fully DBS checked (which may come in useful).

Bandanarama
When we were volunteering at Cornucopia Festival in September, we encountered Bandanarama; they were so utterly barking that I went and asked them if they’d like a melodica player. It transpired that they would, and so I am now a member of the band, complete with motorcycle jacket (thanks, Ian and Carole!) and boots (thanks, eBay); I already had my own bandana. So far, I’ve played out with them in Beverley at the Flemingate shopping centre, and at St Stephens’ shopping mall; it’s always a hoot, and I’m so glad I’ve become part of the band.

A couple of weeks ago, we posed for a photograph in Quentin Budworth’s Hullywood Icons, and very mean and cool we looked too, though I say so myself.

The Wild One


Got lots of interesting stuff lined up for the next few months – so looking forward to it.

plant identification

sambucus nigra 'gerda'

We brought one of these from OldHouse to Newhouse last year; previously, it was in a tub in the front yard, but we dug a hole for it in the front garden here, and it has absolutely thrived.

A neighbour asked us what it was, and its tag had fallen off, so I couldn’t tell her. She very kindly went to the trouble of identifying it on our behalf, and it is apparently a Sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’, also known as Purple Elder,