Tag Archives: City of Culture

Freedom Festival 2017

Freedom Festival: the three-day weekend where chaos reigns in Hull’s city centre.

I didn’t attend for full days like I have done in previous years, but in the eight or so hours, stretched over two days, that I did attend, I was captivated by so much that it is difficult to say which one aspect stood out me. I watched acrobatics like no other, sipped soup with a stranger, was attacked by prehistoric creatures and witnessed a bodiless lady drink wine through a straw.

 

I’ll start with the music, because when I plan any festival weekend this tends to be key features on the list. And I actually only saw one band for any length of time. Having missed Mighty and the Moon at Humber Street Sesh, I made sure to attend their set in the Speak Out Stage, as part of the Three Minute Heroes campaign run through The Warren Youth Project.

I was running late to everything that I planned, so found myself at the rear of a very busy Speak Out tent. Rushing down Queen Street I could hear Emma Fee’s sweet tones and it drew me into the tent, and I was so excited that I didn’t mind that I couldn’t see the stage. However, for the first few songs I was agitated by those small crowds of people who loitered at the opening chatting and just simply not focusing on the music, which should have been why they were there.

As difficult as it was to focus entirely on the music, I was still blown away with how fab the band are. I’ve always enjoyed Emma Fee’s sets at gigs and festivals, whether doing her solo work or performing with her band Happy Endings. When I heard that she was joining Mighty and the Moon I was so excited (I’ve said that already) because I could picture the beautiful harmony of her voice alongside Martin Clappison’s. In fact, I’d built such an aural image in my mind, that my biggest fear was that it wouldn’t sound as good in reality as in my head. But it was everything I had hoped, adding both to the Mighty and the Moon’s emotional tracks and their more uplifting, dance along sounds. Musically and lyrically, they’re just a beautiful band and you should definitely go and see them – I should go and see them more often.

I had planned to see other musicians but got caught up in a chat with a wonderful woman named Elaine. This wasn’t quite random, although for those who didn’t know that While Having Soup was happening it may have felt that way. Along Princes Dock Street, a stone’s throw from Ask, chairs sat in pairs and people chatted while eating soup. The soup was lentil soup made at Kardomah94 and was very yummy, but the menu had bites of conversation rather than food orders. The idea behind it was simple: to get people talking. You start by giving your name and being paired off with a stranger. My stranger conversationalist was a woman named Elaine who was wonderfully positive and easy to talk to. The menu is tailored to the city and we were asked to discuss whether or not a new narrative was needed when discussing Hull. We were given 15 minutes to discuss the topic, and I’m sure we went over that, never pausing, never feeling uncomfortable discussing personal opinions based on personal experiences.

FreedomFestival - While Having Soup picture with Elaine
Our morsel of wisdom

For dessert, we were asked to leave a morsel of our discussion which would then be written up onto a photograph taken of us both. These photographs of strange pairings with their offerings of wisdom were then displayed on a screen in the centre of the al fresco café.

 

What I loved about this the most was that as someone who often attends things on their own, I was made incredibly comfortable in volunteering myself. Elaine’s daughter joined in as well, but they were separated so that each had a different perspective. And both pairings continued conversation afterwards, introducing the others and bringing people together who wouldn’t necessarily ever speak to each other. In an age when you can sit on your phone while having a coffee alone in a café, people don’t spark random conversations, but they were forced to in this environment. And it was incredibly positive: the waitresses told us how inspiring and interesting the two days’ worth of conversations had been.

Elaine and I didn’t swap numbers or anything like that, but maybe our morsel of wisdom will help people see Hull in a different way, discuss Hull in a more positive manner.

The front page of the guide for Freedom Festival showed The Bullzini Family, famous highwire-walkers who have performed at a variety of festivals. They told a simple story of man meets woman, man and woman fall in love. But metres in the sky, far above the onlookers below, and a rope being their only means of reaching each other.

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The Bullzini Family 

The acrobatics were amazing. The entire performance was terrifyingly fascinating. Not only were they walking along the tightrope, but they hung from it, twirled on it and cycled across it. There were fireworks and confetti and an overall good time was had by every person watching. The crowd was a mixture of suspense-filled intakes of breath and loud clapping in support of their amazing skills.

It’s difficult to describe in words because it was watching something which on paper sounds somewhat basic but in reality is incredible. Everyone who asked, I suggested they catch this performance simply because explaining it wasn’t enough – you had to see it.

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Sky-high cycling 

And, looking up at even the grey sky, I caught a bit of sun during the whole thing.

I caught a few performances, mostly dance performances. And I enjoyed them all.

I was quite excited by the blurb in the programme for Compagnie Dyptik performing D-Construction. Again, I was little late so four deep into the crowd, which made this difficult to see much of what was performed at ground-level. However, the performance involved them scaling a fence, which I could watch and was incorporated brilliantly into the dance. The blurb described the setting as a playground but that playground could have been anywhere in your imagination: with Arab hues in the music it could have reflected Syria, Afghanistan, or Palestine. With audience participation, it brought all of that to Hull. Even the choreography left your imagination to fill in the story: aggressive movements which could have been intended as playful or violent. The performance ended with the dancers on the opposite of the fence, seated amongst the Hull crowd and looking back at where they’d started, either longing for home or free from what was home or both.

The story of D-Construction inspired me, but the performance which amazed me was Joli Vyann and L’Eolienne performing Lance Moi En L’Air. Translated this means Thrown Into The Air. And that’s basically what happened. The entire dance told a violent love story and both male and female dancer pushed and threw the other around. It was a series of lifts and throws and every time they finished one terrifying lift, you assumed they’d done everything that they could, only to watch on as they performed more.

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One of the many lifts 

There’s only one negative that I can consider with regards to the weekend’s events. The moaners. Every time I found myself moaning, it was about the moaners and the people who just weren’t embracing or giving their full energy to the festival and the acts that work hard to perform as wonderfully as they did. Struggling to listen to an amazing band is annoying; I understand it happens, but the conversations were unnecessarily loud and could have moved elsewhere. And those who joined the back of a crowd only to complain that they couldn’t see because of the crowd, really should have moved on. Last year I joined the back of a crowd, realised that I was missing something wonderful and made sure that I came back in time to see the entire performance when repeated. Because the majority of performances are repeated at Freedom, so that the majority of people can see and experience them. There are no excuses for moaning about not being able to see a repeated performance. And if it is a one-off performance and you’re not interested, make way for those who are.

The weekend was exceptionally chaotic and it was wonderful. The positives massively outweigh any negative. And reliving it by writing a review or looking over the photographs, you feel like you’re experiencing the joy and excitement all over again.

This has been a long one, but there is so much I’ve  not told you about. My advice? Get yourself to Freedom Festival 2018, experience it for yourself. And if you can’t do that, invite a stranger for a cup of soup and a chat.

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Humber Street Sesh – The Unorganised Chaos Formula

So, tomorrow is the first day of August and I’ve realised two things. One, I haven’t been successful at keeping the blog busy this year. City of Culture, I have struggled to balance you with work. And two, Humber Street Sesh is this weekend!

As with every year, my best friend is moving herself North for the weekend of Sesh. We literally only plan that one day. But so busy have we both been that this year we haven’t really found the time for even that. So, instead of my usual organised band-by-band what you should see preview, here’s my plan on ‘winging it’.

I’m usually one of those people who can write up a plan months before an event, especially something like HSS which I look forward to for most of the year (I bought my tickets on October). But when you overly plan things, it is more likely that something won’t happen. Last year, what happened was standing in front of the main stage waiting for one of my favourite bands, only for them not to go on. I could see the lead singer, I watched the lead singer waiting, waiting, waiting…

Streaming Lights - Steve & Ryan
Festival Faves, Streaming Lights

The band subsequently announced that they were no longer a band the following month.

The moral: winging it means no heartbreak. I don’t plan to see much, so I can’t be upset if I don’t see certain elements. I can simply blame the Unorganised Chaos Formula.

So, this is how it works. We turn up on the day with three acts on the Must See List. THREE. One headliner and two other acts.

Disclaimer: I will miss out on amazing acts that I would love to see. I will feel disappointed at this. I will bump into a bandmember I am friendly with and feel devastated that we missed their act. But I will simply say, “We’re winging it this year” and all will be fine.

To decide on my Must See List of three, I have to consider the bands which a) we both love and adore, and b) will ensure we are not disappointed.

So, start with the headliner. This is a lot harder than it sounds, because this year there are four headliners that I love and adore. They are The Quicksilver Kings (Speak Easy stage), Fire (The Unstoppable Force) (Strummerville Stage – many brackets), LIFE (Main Stage – and totally deserving, because they’ve had an epic year), and finally, Counting Coins (Fruit 2 stage). Thankfully, my lovely bestie helps with this decision. If I ask her which Hull band she wishes to see, especially at 10pm when we’ve spent twelve hours watching bands, she will say two words: Counting Coins.

Counting Coins
Counting Coins from a previous HSS (when I didn’t have a great camera)

We will be at the Fruit 2 stage at about 9:45pm and we will dance our tired feet off, doing a little salsa when necessary, and singing to our broken throats content. Because that is what the lady wants, and it’s actually been a whole year since either of us have seen them live.

That leave two Must See acts for my list.

First on the list, performing at 3pm on the Fringe Stage, I’ve selected Loudhailer Electric Company. I’ve seen them perform a few times at Kardomah94 but never on an outdoor stage, so it’d be fantastic to see them in that different setting. They’re loud, they’re funky, they’re amazing performers and songwriters. And the bestie hasn’t seen this band perform, so it’ll be good to introduce her to something new.

Loudhailer Electric Company Paul Newbon
Loudhailer performing at K94 (photo credit to Paul Newbon)

The last of my Must See is a little tricky. I had two bands in mind for the last slot. The Mighty and Moon are fantastic and now perform with the addition of the amazing Emma Fee. I haven’t seen them perform with this line-up of musicians, and I’ve just built up this beautiful image in my mind of how they’ll sound. But there’s one band that’s always on my Must See List, and they’re playing at the same time. Mighty and the Moon are on the Main Stage at 1:55pm, and Streaming Lights are on the Fruit 2 stage at 2pm. It’s no argument: Streaming Lights are my festival favourite, they’ve not played for ages due to various reasons, and I just know that it’ll be a set which either meets my expectations of wonderfully blows them out of the water.

So, my Must See List is 2pm Streaming Lights, 3pm Loudhailer Electric Company, and my headliner is Counting Coins.

Aside from that, we’re planning to wander relatively aimlessly around the 14 stages.

hss app

And to help with the Unorganised Chaos Formula, there’s the addition of a Humber Street Sesh app this year! It’s got an hour-by-hour guide to the line-up across all stages. There’s a map so you can see where everything is (including the Caffe Gelato stand!). And it’s going to be the most up-to-date way of finding out what’s on.

You can download the app onto the usual platforms – just search for Humber Street Sesh in whichever app store you use.

In fact, with the app in my pocket, all I really need to plan is my festival outfit.

 

If you haven’t been organised enough to sort out tickets yet then you can pick them up at a range of stores across Hull. Go to the festival’s website for a full list: http://www.humberstreetsesh.co.uk/tickets/

Culture on the Cheap | Hull 2017

It’s been 2017 for over three months now and I’d started to beat myself up for not getting totally immersed in the cultural events which are happening in the city.

There were two arguments telling me to shut up. One: you’re often involved in cultural events, so all these additional events are no ‘biggy’. (That didn’t convince me much.) Two: You’re a busy working woman and the winter months don’t offer much motivation. (That angered me a little, but did seem justifiable.)

So, when my friend visited from London for the warmest weekend of the year so far, we decided to pack as much culture in as possible. On a budget, because, well…

Saturday started off as early as possible with a bus ride to The Deep. For me, this trip was free as I still had a couple of weeks on my year-long ticket from 2016. I never resent paying for The Deep and I think it’s absolutely amazing that they offer the year-long opportunity.

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There’s a couple of new attractions at The Deep which we were excited to see. The first being the new arrival of two Loggerhead Sea Turtles, named Mabouche and Sansbecco. It was explained to the crowd gathered around the viewing point that these turtles couldn’t be released back into the wild as they are missing their lower jaws – a result of being caught on a long line in the Mediterranean – and so wouldn’t survive. I was shocked by how large they were, and I think it was the smaller of the two that we actually got to see up close.

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The second attraction was an art installation entitled Washed Up Car-Go, part of the year-long Look Up programme. Coastline collected by artist Chris Dobrowski has been placed within three cars located in The Deep’s car park. The idea behind it was to represent the high-tide mark, where the debris collected by the ocean washes up on-shore, reflecting the idea of “our decadent disposable culture of mass consumption.” I liked the idea, and it linked in with previous artwork which has been exhibited at The Deep produced from the items washed up onto beaches. However, I found this particular installation was less impressive and nowhere near as striking. I liked the idea, but I wasn’t blown away by the actual pieces. We saw two of the three cars and they were rather similar, so we didn’t bother seeking out the third. For me, artwork is about creating a conversation and this didn’t work for us. We understood the concept and, after taking a couple of photographs, we were able walk away from it.

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We headed down Humber Street and stopped off at Humber Street Gallery to see the Raft of the Medusa which is displayed in the gallery space behind the bar. This piece reflected the dangerous journey of the crew of the Medusa, aboard the raft they salvaged together, as well as acting as a reminder of similarly treacherous journeys taken by slaves and migrants past, present and future. This got us talking a little bit more. The clothes strewn around the room, flowing from suitcases, could have represented anyone from almost any time. The raft itself told a vivid story and was a conversational focal piece. And the artwork around it was interesting. What I did miss was the “pungent smell” that was advertised, making this less multi-sensory. But we were talking about this artwork and we were linking it to stories from the news and our own experiences at sea.

We chose not to have a drink at the Gallery, instead opting to sit outside Butler Whites where we could take in the entire view of the Marina. We saw people standing at the podium for The City Speaks, another part of the Look Up programme. The idea is that you speak into a steel lectern where the microphone picks up your spoken words and translates them into a scrolling dot-matrix text on the tidal barrier at the top of Humber Street. We saw a few people standing up on the lectern but no dot-matrix, and with no Hull2017 volunteer around to guide us, we were unsure as to whether this was something we could participate in one the day.

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Saturday finished off with a trip to the Hull Maritime Museum, stopping before the door in order to take several photographs of the Weeping Window installation, significant to the pair of us as the thousands of poppies had made a similar journey to my friend, from London (the HM Tower of London, where they were originally exhibited) to Hull. It’s been massively photographed and a huge talking point in the city.

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The Maritime Museum was fascinating, specifically because I work with students who are studying Maritime Studies. There’s a huge whale skeleton and the exhibits take you on a journey of the former Town Dock offices which tell a story of the whaling community and the fishing heritage as well as including art installations. One installation which is there until the 28th August is the Offshore: Artists Explore The Sea.

This installation is shared between the Maritime Museum and Feren’s Art Gallery, which we visited on the Sunday. We enjoyed the aspects of this art collection in Feren’s; in particular, the outfit which represented coral. The outfit is on display and a video is shown of it being worn. It’s difficult to explain without sounded a little odd, because initially I found it a little odd. Reading the information and watching the video made it more and more interesting. The other video installation we noticed was of a squid currently residing in a formaldehyde tank the length of the space between two screens in which this artwork is presented.

I’m not one who has ever really shown interest in art galleries. I enjoy music and theatre and spoken word, artwork I can comfortably engage with. So I always get nervous when expressing my opinions about art and art galleries. There were several pieces in Feren’s which I was happy to simply walk past. One I stopped at specifically was the Rembrandt. Here until the end of August, The Ship Builder and his Wife is one of five loans from the Royal Collection Trust which will be displayed at Feren’s between 2017 and 2021. We discussed the story and of the painting and the details we could spot, within the expressions and the paperwork of the ship builder. It’s also just a little exciting to see something with the word ‘Royal’ attached.

Of the two days, we paid for one ticket to go into The Deep (between us both), and that ticket will last another 12 months. We purchased food and drinks, naturally, and had the option of donating to the museums and galleries. To visit an aquarium, a museum and two galleries for the total cost of £12.50 is pretty amazing.

We were blessed with the most stunning weather, which meant that we were happy to wander around and stumble on the new eateries that are popping up around the city as well as taking our time to snap photographs whenever and wherever we saw something which captured our interest.

If you live a bus ride, a train ride away from Hull, then you’d be silly not to pop by. You can make a day out of what we did over the weekend, and for very little money. With a bit of planning via the Hull2017 website, you can ensure that you fit as much in as possible. And if you can plan a couple of weeks ahead I certainly advise that you check out the ‘What’s On’ section of the website and check if there are any ticketed events happening which you don’t want to miss out on.

A day of culture and, with a Day Plus Pass from The Deep, a logical reason to return.

Finding the Right Words | Hull Language Cafe

Hull, like most cities, is home to a mixture of people. And every other Wednesday evening there’s an event which invites many of these people to share in the delights of their varied personalities.

A year and a half ago, Hannah Shaw decided to start a Language Café in this city where so many cultures live side by side. She got the idea while travelling in Europe, an opportunity undertaken through ERASMUS.  Living abroad, these events seemed common, and offered a chance for someone new to the area, and not always confident in the native lingo, to meet new people and immerse themselves in both the language and lifestyle.

Upon her return, she realised that Hull didn’t have anything available to the general public in the way that they were so readily available in mainland Europe. So, she set one up.

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 “The cake helps!”

Originally held at Wagons on Princes Avenue, it then moved to the intimate Lydia’s Cakeaway on Newland.

The venue is quaint and simple, and what makes it truly splendid is that it is open solely for the purpose of the Language Café on these nights. From 7pm to 9pm, people from all over Hull come to drink tea, eat cake and discuss whatever they feel capable of in whichever language they choose. Whether you’re studying a language, reengaging with a lost language or are holidaying soon and want to learn some useful phrases, you are made welcome at this fortnightly gathering – which has been known to get very busy, as Hannah described nights where there had been standing room only and she was filled with guilt as people turned away.

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“Friendships have been made here.”

When you first enter, the room is flowing with conversation. Some you can pick up; other segments are lost in a language you may not know. You’re given a sticker on which is written the languages you wish to practise: some have one language, while others have two or three. There’s tea, coffee and delicious tempting cakes.

The crowd is one which quickly feels friendly. On my first Language Café night, I was quickly invited to join the main group. It was a quiet night – the university students on a break – and I was nervous about testing out my shaky language skills on strangers. But after a few minutes of chatting in English, we launched into a conversation in German, learning about each other in a language in which I was once fluent. I wasn’t anxious for long, and, although my German is very unstable, I found I was laughing at the jovial stories and enjoying the broken flow of words. We stumbled over vocabulary, we jumbled the grammar somewhat, but we successfully managed a conversation almost entirely in German.

And two Wednesdays later, I was filled with anticipation as I took those steps along Newland Avenue. The lure of using my language skills again stronger even than the desire for a cupcake of some ingenious design.

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“This is migration to Hull.”

There are people of all ages and nationalities who attend. When asked how many languages she’d encountered over the eighteen or so months, Hannah stumbled. She rattled them off: French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Persian, Thai… languages spoken by people from Europe, South America, Asia… A true mixture and a reflection of the diversity in this small city.

Most advertising is done word of mouth. There’s a Facebook page and events are set up in time for each event. There’s the board in Lydia’s with the necessary details. But from that point it is people like myself who have attended for a few nights and then shared their experience with friends and family.

We all share language. Not everyone has the desire to learn several, but what can be enjoyed on the night is this one thing which joins us all together. The crowd not only share their knowledge but also their experiences and their differing cultures. People gather with the confidence that they will not be judged, that we are all there to enjoy this same thing and learn with enthusiasm.

The next meeting is Wednesday 8th June.

 

Originally written for Browse Magazine, culture section.

Festival Fever – New to Hull 2015

On Saturday 11th July, you will be able to enjoy live music and family fun in two locations. In one corner, there is West Park Party. And in the other, The Big Gig, held at the University Union. Naturally, there are pros and cons with both, but which one best suits you?

West Park Party poster

Let’s start with the first one to be announced, back in November. Organised by Auxilium Events Ltd, West Park Party declares itself as “a music festival for all the family”. There is going to be one main stage, with a range of acts considered Heritage, Current and Local. Current Acts which have so far been announced are Labrinth, Union J (who were at the Launch Party in Princes Quay in February) and Ella Eyre: a rather diverse collection on offer. Heritage Acts currently announced include Sinitta (who is also helping organise the festival), Toploader (who headlined at Trinity Festival 2014), and Aswad. Local artists Emma King, Chiedu Oraka, Emmie Craft and Nineties Boy are also on the bill. A true mixture of genres. However, there are still acts to be announced.

Front page of flyer

The Big Gig, the first festival from local events organiser Hull Red, have given a line-up of eleven local acts, including headliner Endoflevelbaddie and the ever-popular Young Jack. The aim of this stage is to get your feet dancing, but there will also be an acoustic stage with a range of folk acts, well known and new to the scene, offering a full variety of genres.

Also pegged as “family friendly”, The Big Gig has a focus on those with learning disabilities. Red have been putting on disability friendly events for some time, on a smaller scale, and are now confident that they can produce a festival designed with these specific needs in mind. The aim is to get people together; making the area both accessible and comfortable for people with learning disabilities, while providing a fun day out for families and fans of the local music industry.

Big Gig - line up

West Park Party is also considering those who often find festivals inaccessible. They have “a whole area” specifically designed to ensure access for disabled people. They are also linked with several local charities, including Cash4Kids and Dove House Hospice, who are working with the organisers.

Families can enjoy themselves at both festivals.

At West Park Party there is a Familyzone, defined as “an area where kids can play and adults can relax” in earshot of the bands, so as not to miss anything. In this zone there will be the usual festival fun, including a marine life zone, shows from local drama groups and an arts and crafts area. The young ones will have no reason to say they are bored.

So, too, at The Big Gig, who will also have children’s entertainers and arts and crafts, alongside story tellers, dance workshops, graffiti art and bubble shows. Something for everyone and every taste.

It’s difficult for me not to be biased about this one. The family friendly activities are not at the forefront of my mind when selecting a festival, though I do attend quite a few with friends and their little ones. And, as much as I want to see international selling artists and those ‘big’ acts from around the world coming to Hull, I love the local scene. Having attended the launch party for West Park Party, I can see why people are talking about it on a grander scale than they are about The Big Gig. But, with most of this talk still seemingly hanging on Union J, I just can’t get as excited.

Give me a dose of Streaming Lights any day.

Besides, I haven’t told you about the main deciding factor for most families considering attending. Let us stereotype the two adults, two children which is often used in ticket sales. For The Big Gig, this will cost you a maximum of £20: that’s £6 per adult, and £4 per child over the age of 10 years. A family ticket for West Park Party is £70. Adults are priced at £30, with children over 5 years at £20, and “new age pensioners” at £22.50. But remember, what you are getting for that cost.

Bottom line: both festivals aim to involve everyone, offering a range of opportunities and experiences for the community. What sways your decision should be which acts you want to see. You may have seen Counting Coins and The Hubbards perform numerous times, whereas you’ve never seen Ella Eyre, who has also been announced as part of the West Park Party line-up. You may want the comfort of knowing that you will enjoy the day if you see the bands you see regularly – for many with learning disabilities, familiarity is essential, and so this is ideal. You may decide to kick off the festival season with something different.

Your reasons for attending one over the other are individual. This is a snapshot of the pros and cons of each. All I can advise is that you are there at one of them. Start the festival season as you wish.

Tickets for West Park Party are available online or over the ticket hotline on 0800 689 3016

Tickets for The Big Gig are available through Hull Box Office.