Tag Archives: culture

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.

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A Rather Laidback Review | The Calais Sessions

I was excited about ordering this CD. It combines two of the things I am very passionate about in my life: my love of music and the work I do with refugees in our local area. I’ve always enjoyed learning about other cultures and their varying traditions. So when I saw an advert asking me to purchase The Calais Sessions CD, I knew it was something that needed to be on my shelves.

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The album is a collection of songs featuring musicians who resided in the Calais Jungle. A makeshift studio was set up in the camp and an array of instruments were offered to the people. The website and album sleeve both promote this as the voices of those people behind the headlines. But it is also an expression of raw and pure emotion from those who have fled their homes because of traumas the majority of British folk can never truly understand.

My first time listening to the album was in the kitchen (a fine place to review an album), cooking up a fusion of Italian and Spanish. The first track was ideal for the job, as I needed to make a basic bread dough and knead for 5 minutes. On shuffle, the first song played was Deskovo Oro, an ideal 6 minutes and 11 seconds long. I finished kneading just in time for the song to change over.

The track was produced quickly, with all of the musicians involved being given a chance to express their skills and styles through their own adaptation of Blagoja Deskoski’s track of the same title. Lead by a Romanian violinist, there is a clear bass established through drums and other string instruments then accompany. It’s fast-paced and had me moving around the kitchen more than I would had I not been listening to the track. With no vocals, I wasn’t distracted and so focused entirely on the stunning sound.

Many of the songs are in a different language. The opening track to the album is called The Lost Singer, performed by four Syrians and dedicated – the CD sleeve has kindly translated the words – to ‘the Syrian martyrs’. La Llorana is a Spanish song, telling a truly sorrowful story. Ya Rab’oun was written by 21 Abdullah from Kuwait, where the main language is Arabic. Khandahar is sung in Farsi, though the original poem was written in English. Yesus and Hallelujah are both sung by singers of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin. The track Ismail is named after the artist, who was known as ‘the music man of the jungle’, who fled his country after being threatened by the Taliban who refused to let him perform.

University Story is a collaboration between an Iraqi rapper and two UK volunteers who have done a lot of work in the Jungle. It is a mixture of languages: I’m not sure whether the rap is done in Kurdish or Arabic – it doesn’t sound familiar to me at all, so I assume not Arabic. It’s a stunning song, with the English lyrics summarising the physical reaction to a love torn by distance.

Long Road has a traditional folk sound to it. It was produced by the team who ran The Calais Sessions, and is dedicated to all the musicians they’d discovered in the Jungle. It summarises to beautifully the natural association with all refugees “so far from home” and touches on the sentiment of those volunteers who can picture their home as the place they will return to, knowing that the people this track is aimed at cannot do the same.

It is the giggles at the end of Deskovo Oro and the cheers and whooping at the end of bonus track Every Heart That Loves which captures my heart. No matter how terrible the situation may be, music can always be a way to release emotion, share emotion and have voices heard. Even if you don’t understand the words, you cannot connect with the voice and the instruments and join with the story.

For me, the album is beauty. When listening to it is easy to forget that this beauty was created in a place symbolic of loss and devastation. It had me dancing around my kitchen and I have already grasped a couple of lyrics so that I am singing along.

All profits from the sale of this album go to Citizens UK. To get your own copy head over to http://www.thecalaissessions.com/buy-music

Hull Help for Refugees: A Night of Hull Talent

So often we read the horrific tales of refugees making their way to safety, some not surviving the journey. Hull Help for Refugees does everything it can to support those in need, not only here in Britain but further afield in such places as Calais and Greece.

On the night of January 28th, a cold evening with a scattering of stars marking the sky, the charity held a fundraiser at Kardomah94. It wasn’t an evening to wallow in misery. We can do that by watching the news. This was a night for likeminded people to get together and enjoy local music and raise some money for a fantastic cause.

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Emmie Craft opened the night with a cover of Guns and Roses ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. It was a fitting start for many reasons: it’s a popular and well-known song the audience could connect with; it highlighted elements of the images of refugee children shown on the slideshow which filled the brief intervals; it showcased Emmie’s fantastic, malleable voice. That opening song established the professionalism with which this young performer brings to an event, as well as setting the pace of the evening.

She performed a mixture of covers and own compositions, not sticking to one genre but mixing rock with modern and classic pop. What struck me the most was how much her own songs stood out against the cover tracks. One girl and her guitar, she owned the stage with her words. Singing about memories and love and the beauty of the world, she captured my full attention with an original track she has yet to name.

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One performer in, the crowd was surging, and the room was already buzzing with energy. Emmie had warmed the night, and we welcomed Warthilas to the stage. Warthilas is a man named Farid whose stage-name means Without Borders. His collection of songs were sung in English, Berber, Spanish and French, and his banter even chucked some Deutsch in there too. It took no time at all for the audience to join the stage: tapping feet, clapping along, singing the chorus of “Freedom” to one song.

The whole room became one body: a community brought together by the solidarity of passionate entertainment and a worthy cause.

Central to the evening, Little Crooked Weather took the stage; a stripped-back version of the main band, consisting of Will, John and Roy. I’ve seen the band in various guises – stripped right back to just Holly and Will, to the full six-piece ensemble – and timg_7074hey always deliver a fantastic set. Their sound is country, rock, folk. It’s catchy and soothing and possesses the soul.

Their sound has the power to engage with you one-to-one regardless of the size of the crowd. And I spend every set saying I love each song. My stand-out favourite is ‘Control Your Blues’ which I was blessed with having dedicated to me on the night. The guitar introduces the beat in which possesses your body, you’re swaying slowly to the sound, from one side to the other. Will’s deeply soothing voice enters your mind, releasing any negativity. You are liquid, floating above the floor as you are taken into the embrace of the music. And Roy’s harmonica is the final casting spell to take your mind drifting away.

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Sometime after performing this, they invited the next artist onto the stage prematurely. Cecil Jones, with his saxophone, was welcomed to join them. And his addition, which Will described as a battle between saxophone and harmonica, created such a powerful moment. The somewhat improvised instrumental with which their set finished lingered throughout the night, with people returning to it in their discussions.

And so when Cecil took to the stage on his own, we were all already enticed. His performance was a mixture of popular songs, with Cecil alternating between lead vocals and instrumental performance. Tracks such as George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ took on a new life, and brought every age bracket and nationality in the room together.

His final track was his own composition celebrating the twinship between Hull and Freetown, Sierra Leone. It celebrated the City of Culture and touched on the similarities between the two.img_7004

In a couple of the intervals, we’d had further entertainment from two young lads, Ronith and Shobal. They had performed a song together and Shobal had wowed the audience – shocking and very much impressing them – with his street dance moves and light-up shoes. As our final act, Rowland took to the stage, he was joined by Ronith. A young teenager, he’s not had many performances on a stage such as this, but his confidence was uncountable. Together they performed a couple of tracks, completely unprepared. It summarised the freedom of the night: it was one to celebrate any local talent that was willing to take to the stage. All the performers volunteered their time, and Rowland went that extra little mile to support another young and enthusiastic performer before completing his own set.

Mark Rowland’s sound has adapted over the last couple of years since I reviewed his EP. With a loop pedal, he is able to create a more layered sound, performing his own melodies and beats. His song ‘Bread and Butter’ talked to us about the need to embrace each other regardless of our background, and this ideology summed the evening up wonderfully.

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It was late by the time his set started, and as we’d had some young members of the audience, many of them had departed for the night. The handful of us who stayed until the end were able to enjoy his track ‘Tears Fall’ which was written with the current wars and violence in mind, and was first performed at his own fundraiser for War Child.

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I think Will from Crooked Weather actually summed up the night perfectly: “Eclectic, diverse and beautiful.” It was an evening of people who were enthusiastic both about music and the plight of refugees. The event didn’t pigeon-hole any aspect of the night. It was a night for everyone with the aim to support as many people as possible.

 

Thanks to all who attended the evening and donated money to the cause. Hull Help for Refugees raised over £400 with this event. To keep up to date with the work of the charity, please visit their Facebook page (link above).

 

Photos | © Melvyn Marriott

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.