Orchard Park

On 19 Jan 2017,  I once again went out with the BBC Humberside bus, this time to Orchard Park, a huge social housing estate in North Hull. Once benighted by tower blocks, it underwent a £15m redevelopment a few years ago – the towers are gone, replaced by houses, and there’s a lovely community / medical centre.

People were happy to talk to us, but not to the microphone by and large! However, we met some lovely folk, including a lady who had lived on the estate for sixty years.

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

picture courtesy of metro.co.uk

I 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.

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.


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.

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).

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.