Bill Drummond

Heads Up Festival Tenth Edition: what’s in store?

Kicking off on 2 Mar, the tenth Heads Up Festival returns for 16 days this spring, bringing its typically diverse mix of theatre, dance, performance, panels, workshops and more in various locations across the city. Or, as Heads Up founder Dave Windass describes it: “really innovative work held in some strange places.”

After launching in 2013, Heads Up has always attracted suitably diverse audiences to match its carefully curated, mixed-bag programme. Hull production company Ensemble 52 created the festival in collaboration with Battersea Arts Centre, billing it as ‘the home of brave and brilliant performance’ and hosting two editions of Heads Up a year, in March and October.

Over the last five years, the festival has hosted work in numerous unexpected city locations, creating intimate new venues out of the Guildhall, St Paul’s Boxing Academy and Garden Village’s Village Hall, to name a few.

Ensemble 52 and Heads Up founder Dave Windass told us: “Last year was great for us. It brought people who hadn’t previously been to our shows; now we want to keep them coming back for more so we’re keeping up that momentum, bringing more innovative performance to the city, and putting on more performances in places that people wouldn’t expect. Our venues this time include Hull Minster and a yet-to-be-revealed urban location.” Our lips are sealed!

So what can we expect from this milestone edition as the festival reaches the big 1-0?



Fri 2 – Sat 3 Mar, 7.30pm (£12-£15)
Hull Minster

Ugly Chief is the work of writer and comedian Victoria Melody, and co-stars her dad Mike Melody, who many will recognise from Antiques Roadshow. It’s a comedy, based on the true-life events that followed when Mike was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given five years to live (it gets funnier, we promise.) Victoria was put in charge of planning Mike’s funeral – complete with a New Orleans jazz procession and a congregation dressed in Blackpool FC tangerine – until it turned out he’d been misdiagnosed. Mike and Victoria decided to hold the funeral anyway. Or rather, two funerals: the one Victoria planned and the one Mike really wanted.

Featuring live musical accompaniment for the funerals, with soul classics and local brass musicians, Ugly Chief will also include Mike doing an Antiques Roadshow turn. Audience members are invited to take along their heirlooms and curiosities to be valued, and Mike has said he’ll buy anything that takes his fancy.

Plus, Mike will host a pre-festival, mini Roadshow-style free event on Thursday March 1, 1pm at Kardomah94. No ticket required; everyone and their antiques welcome!



Tue 6 Mar, 7.30pm (£5)

Having previously featured playwright John Godber and 2017 chief Martin Green discussing their favourite films, the Introducing series will move away from the big screen and take on a musical turn, shining the spotlight on local singer Lyn Acton (Pearl’s Cab Ride, Bossa Revista). Lyn will introduce her ten Desert Island Discs and discuss her life and career to date in this music-tinged chat show-style event, which is likely to be a bit of an unofficial mid-season festival shindig.



Wed 7 Mar, 6pm (£3-£10)
Secret location in Hull’s Bankside area

Continuing Heads Up’s tradition of ‘putting on shows in some very strange places’ is the What Is? Collective. This multi-disciplinary arts experience is currently shrouded in secrecy, but we have it on good authority that audiences will be taken on an exciting guided tour around a city location – exact details are TOP SECRET – to soak up innovative new work from an eclectic group of leading artists.

Can’t take the suspense? Bag a ticket and all will be revealed, 48 hours before the event on 7 Mar.


Thu 8 Mar, 8pm (£10-£12)

After performing twice in Hull during 2017, Bill Drummond (The KLF, The K Foundation) was eager to return and brings his intriguing new double bill Daffodils & Death to Heads Up Festival.



Fri 9 Mar, 7.30pm (£7.50)

Local writer Russ Litten has curated a programme of music and spoken word with artists from Merseyside – Nick Ellis, Ant Campbell and more.



Fri 9 – Sat 10 Mar, various times (£5-£10)
Hull Central Library

Younger audiences are catered for at Heads Up this time around with Sponge at Central Library. This disco-inspired extravaganza by dance company Turned On Its Head invites little ones aged four months to four years to groove on down to a ‘soft, bouncy adventure set with a funky 1970s soundtrack’.



Dark Winter, 13 – 17 Mar, Hull Truck Theatre

As well as directing the festival, Ensemble 52 continues to produce new work for Heads Up. Its latest show Dark Winter is a highly anticipated adaptation of bestselling novelist David Mark’s acclaimed debut novel, a gripping detective tale set in Hull. Dark Winter reunites E52 director Andrew Pearson with original E52 founder and playwright Richard Vergette (As We Forgive Them), who has co-adapted the book with Nick Lane. Tickets for this brilliant adaptation have sold out, and we’re sure it’s going to be a belter.


Heads Up Festival runs from Fri 2 to Sat 17 March. Discover the full festival line-up and book tickets now.

Make Noise

Make Noise: The female collective with big plans to diversify Hull’s music scene

If you’ve visited festivals like Humber Street Sesh, you’ve probably been blown away by the likes of LIFE, Bud Sugar, The Black Delta Movement and a plethora of other (brilliant) male-dominated bands. You might not have even noticed the distinct lack of females on the line-up, but if you take a closer look, it’s difficult to miss.

This is not the work of some anti-female festival organiser. The problem is, there simply aren’t that many female-fronted bands and musicians in our scene, or climbing through the ranks to nab those all-important headline slots. That’s not to say there aren’t some kickass women doing great things in the scene – sister doom duo Chambers, Lyn Acton and Sophie Hodson of Pearls Cab Ride and Claire Scott of The Evil Litter are just a few that spring to mind.

But the ratio of male to female bands in Hull is disproportionate, something that is mirrored across the UK, as shown in a 2017 study which revealed that around eight out of 10 festival headline slots were occupied by all-male acts.

So what can we do on a local level to diversify our music scene? We caught up with Rosie Collins, Yaz Watson, Megan Thundercliffe, Jazz Harbord, Yssi Wombwell and Philly McAndrew who, along with Katie Hayes, are behind Make Noise – a collective that has been set up to do exactly that.



Rosie: We decided to create Make Noise following discussions about how the visibility of women in Hull’s music scene was not good enough. We think that it’s related to a lack of encouragement and also a feeling of intimidation when entering rehearsal and recording spaces.

Alongside that, many of us shared experiences of sexual harassment at gigs, which only makes those feelings of intimidation worse. So we decided that somebody needed to do something about it, and work with venues to make them safer for women, whilst also encouraging more women into music.

We’re still in the early research stages, so that’s why we are hosting our Open Meeting on Wed 21 Feb to hear from women across the city about their experiences, which we hope will drive our work.


Make Noise at The Warren. Photo © James Mulkeen.



Megan: As somebody who has been interested in starting a band before, I’ve struggled to find that many opportunities that are directly for women, other than what is being offered at The Warren at the moment.

I felt quite self-conscious about going into that male-dominated space because when I’ve mentioned starting a band to guys, they have responded by laughing and saying, ‘why don’t you actually learn an instrument properly first?’. That doesn’t happen to guys, they get to learn as they go and nobody judges them for it.

There seems to be a fear of being loud and angry in music if you’re a woman.

Yssi: There is also less room for women to make mistakes in music. We’ve heard from women who have tried to learn drums in the studio, only to be bombarded with guys trying to tell them how it’s done. It’s meant in a nice way, but if somebody is already feeling nervous it can be too much.

Jazz: It’s difficult to find that many female role models in my style of music, because a lot of the women in the local scene seem to be more acoustically driven. There seems to be a fear of being loud and angry in music if you’re a woman.

Rosie: We’d like to make safe spaces for women to pick up an instrument for the first time, rehearse and record in, or even start a band, without feeling that intimidation. And shine a spotlight on the women already doing that in Hull.




Megan: Let’s start with mosh pits, because I love a good mosh pit after a few drinks, but often get pushed out of them and ignored by the guys in the pit because they are too afraid to hurt me. I know the risks when I go into one but it sucks when you can’t join in with everybody else because of stereotypes some people have that women shouldn’t be there.

Philly: Personally, I have seen sexual harassment – inappropriate comments and touching – happen in music venues, but it’s not viewed as seriously as fighting or underage drinking. Security staff have said things like, ‘I didn’t see it happen so I can’t do anything about it’, yet if somebody reports a fight the people involved are thrown out immediately.

Going to gigs in Hull, you become aware of individuals who are known to say and do inappropriate things and you warn each other about them. It’s insane that you have to do that.

Rosie: As a young woman going to gigs in Hull, you become aware of individuals who are known to say and do inappropriate things and you warn each other about them. It’s insane that you have to do that, and that girls have to have each other’s backs or avoid certain places when venues are not protecting them.

Yssy: At the moment, venues are not doing enough. But we want to work collaboratively and not in an accusatory way so that they can adopt zero tolerance approaches on sexual harassment and train staff on how to deal with it.



Philly: We don’t see ourselves as having the ultimate viewpoint for all women across the city, so we’re going to start by handing out a questionnaire that gives people the opportunity to tell us about their good and bad experiences of attending gigs in the city.

We also want to know what’s currently stopping women from getting involved in music, and what changes they would like to see. Then we hope to use this information to work with venues to improve safety and inform our future activity.

It’s easy to feel like you’re going crazy when you experience (these things), but it’s good when you realise you’re not alone…we just want to generally vibe off of each other. 

Rosie: We have Girls That Gig coming down, who are a group of people doing similar work in Leeds. They will talk about what they have achieved and give us some fresh ideas about what we can do in Hull. Then there’s our panel with Emily Dawson, Hannah Lutkin and Ali Hubbard, three women who have done great work in the music industry and can share their experiences of getting into it.

Megan: It’s easy to feel like you’re going crazy when you experience sexual harassment at gigs or feel intimidated in music spaces, but it’s good when you realise you’re not alone. We just want to do a lot of talking and listening, and generally vibe off of each other.



Yssi: The Open Meeting will inform a lot of that, but we’ve already talked about starting a blog where we invite women to write think-pieces, putting on workshops about playing music and promoting your band and approaching venues to find ways of working together. There’s also talk of putting gigs on further down the line.


Make Noise will host their Open Meeting at The Warren on Wed 21 Feb from 6pm to 9pm. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to find out more.

Hull's Angels vs. Les Déferlantes, France, 2016

Roller derby: empowering women one roller skate at a time

If you’ve been browsing the BBC website this weekend, you may have noticed an unusual hybrid of speed skating, rugby and roller disco being streamed from a sports hall in Manchester. That will have been the third Roller Derby World Cup Final, in which USA beat Australia, watched by people across the globe. It’s also a scene that has been bubbling away in Hull for almost a decade, thanks to Hull’s Angels Roller Derby, also known as HARD, but what is it?

Roller derby is fast and furious, a full contact sport played on quad roller skates around a flat oval track. At first glance game play is anarchic as players appear to take chunks out of each other on wheels, but the rules are actually quite simple.

Two teams of five skaters take to the track and one player from each team – the jammer – tries to score points by lapping opposing skaters. The remaining four players – the blockers – try to stop the opposing jammer by using their hips, bum and shoulders, while also helping their own jammer through the melee. It’s predominantly played by women and players claim it is the fastest growing women’s sport in the UK.

Hull's Angels vs. Les Déferlantes, France, 2016. Photo © Insane Motion Photography

“Roller derby is the only sport I have ever truly enjoyed,” says Frieda, a skater with HARD, Hull’s first roller derby team, founded in 2010.

“A mid-30s woman on roller skates, hitting other people for fun? It is my stress release after challenging days. It is my time away from being a mother and my support network.”

Modern roller derby is fairly new in the UK, but its history goes back to the 1930s, when mixed-gender couples would skate in endurance races on banked tracks in cities across the United States. The sport evolved throughout the 20th century to include contact before dying out in the 1980s. It was then revived in 2003 as an amateur sport in Austin, Texas by the Texas Rollergirls. Crucially, they transferred it to a flat track that could fit in a sports hall, making it much more accessible and roller derby has since spread across the world.

Where does the sport sit in conversations about culture, though?

The early days of the modern game were heavy on theatre: players wore homemade outfits and skated under puntastic nicknames, while music accompanied the action on track. This riot grrl feel was a hallmark of the game, but it was also more than an aesthetic.

“From the beginning roller derby was a full contact sport, played exclusively by women, who could move away from ideas of femininity that were imposed on us and grow,” says Connie ‘Wheelie’ Binns, another skater with HARD.

Players’ nicknames still exist and are more than just a fancy flourish, instead helping people to reveal their true identity, as HARD’s own ‘Wheelie Binns’ explains.

“Research into roller derby has suggested alter egos and names allow skaters to be themselves and be aggressive without repercussions,” says Connie. “It’s also a fun way that skaters can take on a new role.”

“It’s like our own superhero name,” adds Frieda, aka ‘F Bomb’. “And our super powers are our butts for blocking, or our sweet footwork for jamming.”

In that sense roller derby is as much a counter-cultural phenomenon as a minority sport. Roller derby may be less theatrical today but the feminist streak that drove its rebirth is as strong as ever, especially when it comes to body positivity and sexuality.

There is no body shaming in this sport; instead it’s a community which empowers you to love yourself because your body is your weapon.

“Our bodies are celebrated no matter what size,” says Frieda. “The bigger your behind, the better for getting in the way. Thick thighs are celebrated for strength and bony shoulders are perfect for getting you past blockers or catching a jammer.”

She continues, “One size fits all actually means one size fits all. There is no body shaming in this sport; instead it’s a community which empowers you to love yourself because your body is your weapon.”

Roller derby is also popular amongst LGBT people thanks to its welcoming and supportive sense of community.

That’s especially true for Connie: “I started playing roller derby to meet new people, but I stayed for a space that allowed me to be myself, something I had struggled to do for a while. I’ve known I was gay since I was young and I always felt like I had to be a certain way, but roller derby showed me there was no right or wrong way to be part of the LGBT community.”

Hull's Angels vs. Les Déferlantes, France, 2016. Photo © Insane Motion Photography

“We get a chance to be ourselves instead and to be out in a community that doesn’t judge,” she says. “Roller derby is a giant family that just wants to make sure everyone in it is safe, loved and supported.”

Don’t let the strong sense of community mislead you, though. On track, players won’t hesitate to heap you on your backside in what is an incredibly athletic sport. It’s also mentally challenging, with players engaging both their attacking and defensive brains simultaneously.

If roller derby sounds like your kind of thing then HARD recruit new skaters throughout the year.

“We hold new intakes every 12 weeks and we coach you from scratch,” says Frieda. “Even if you have no experience of skating it is no problem, we will teach you.”

You can find out more by following Hull’s Angels on Facebook and Twitter

Hull Film Festival

The Power Of Film: How Indie Cinema Took On A Year Of Culture

I’m talking to Damien Greco, co-founder and programmer of Hull Independent Cinema (HIC), about the city, and how through Hull’s year as UK City of Culture 2017 an underground indie programme has ramped up film culture to reach new audiences and celebrate cinema.

Damien was born and bred in Hull, has lived in the city pretty much all his life, and is passionate about keeping alive the independent spirit that runs through it. From his very first job as a projectionist to HIC, Damien has been enthusiastically sharing his love of indie, art house, world and foreign film with an audience as dedicated to discovering something different as he is.

It all started some six years ago, where Damien explains “At the time, I was running a cult movie night that had been going for a few years and was really successful; I knew there was an appetite in Hull for something more.” Damien then discovered someone else in the city running a movie night and with a desire to open an old building in the city as cinema – Paul Terry.

Together, realising that there was an existing market for alternative film, they brought in more like-minded film enthusiasts and set up HIC. “I had that experience of knowing that you could start something from fresh, and that people would come to it if you did it right. The people in Hull are very open to new cultural pursuits, particularly those with an authenticity and integrity.”

This has been proven in 2017, as HIC saw audiences quadruple compared with 2016. Damien continues, “We knew that Hull 2017 was going to be a fantastic opportunity for us to introduce even more people to specialist film and to Hull Independent Cinema – but we never imagined the response we actually received.

“Over two thousand people came to our Hull Film Festival last year. We had our biggest programme including a UK Premiere and an outdoor screening. For many it was the first time they’d ever considered independent film, and now here they were embracing us as part of the city, telling their friends, and coming to multiple screenings.”

Hull Film Festival - Friday 7 July 2017.

This success was supported by BFI through ‘Transformative Film Culture for Hull’, a strategic investment for the City of Culture film programme, delivered by Film Hub North, part of its National Lottery-funded BFI Film Audience Network. The investment is reflective of the BFI’s activities across the UK to bring film to audiences where there’s less opportunity to experience and engage in film, supporting local film networks and audience initiatives.

This presented opportunities for HIC to dramatically expand their audience and programming. “We started the year with a project in partnership with Sheffield Doc/Fest and Yorkshire Film Archive called “Hull on Film” which sold out, twice! 

“We also worked with Doc n’ Roll Film Festival and screened music documentaries from all over the world. Being part of Hull 2017, and being supported by the BFI, has taken us to a whole new level. To have the industry, as well as the city, recognise the importance of indie cinema in Hull has definitely broadened our ambitions for the future.

HIC has filled a (rather large) space in the hearts of both its founders and its audience, “I’m so pleased that Hull Independent Cinema is available to us,” Karen Riggall, now a HIC regular tells me. “We’re able to see films that we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.” Although she says she can’t quite remember how she and her husband found HIC, they are glad it’s here to stay. “You wonder why people just sit and watch rubbish on the telly when they could go and see a really good film, here in Hull,” concludes Karen.

James Rowson, another fan of HIC who works at the University of Hull, recalls, “Before the City of Culture there wasn’t a huge amount in terms of different things to do,” but with the investment, passion and cultural diversity that Hull 2017 brought, James along with thousands of others, found it much easier to hear about and attend cultural events, in this case, specialist film: “I saw a Hull Independent Cinema event for a film that wasn’t something usually released in our mainstream cinemas, and I thought I’d give it a go. It was really well put together, so I just kept going back.”

Independent film has been gaining traction amongst UK film audiences for quite some time. The British Film Institute reports that, in the first half of 2017, the market share of UK independent films was at 8%. This is reflected in Hull, where independent film saw approximately a 5% market share in 2017 – pretty impressive for a city without a full-time independent cinema.

Audiences to HIC screenings have been growing year-on-year: In 2014, 608 people attended 20 screenings; in 2017, there were over 10,000 people across 160 screenings.  The team’s first screening of 2018 (The Florida Project) was a sold-out event, proving that HIC’s dream to win the hearts and minds of Hull’s film-fans or not, is being realised.

There has always been a cultural undercurrent in Hull; it’s one of the reasons we won UK City of Culture in 2017, and it has always been at the heart of everything we do…”

It is this open-minded, progressive, friendly nature that first attracted the HIC’s coordinator, Ellie Irwin to the city. Originally from Canada (read about Ellie’s move in more detail here), Ellie ended up in Hull by way of London. “I found it really easy to integrate myself here and to become part of the community,” Ellie confides. “There was a real vibe in the city, similar to that of Vancouver, of people being proud of where they’re from.”

Ellie lived in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics and distinctly remembers feeling instantly swept-up in the pride and energy of Hull.  Despite its new-found place on the international stage, “it’s still an independent city,” Ellie continues “in that a lot of the businesses are still owned and operated by people who are from Hull, there is a sense of community, but one that is open to all, and focused on the future.”

Currently, Ellie is HIC’s only paid member of staff. The rest of the team (Damien, Paul and three others) work on a voluntary basis on weekends, evenings and whenever else they can fit the project in. Damien says: “We’re a dedicated team. We’re doing it to make sure these kinds of films are shown in our city.” For Damien and the team, HIC is not just about people going to the cinema to watch a film, it’s about “discovering new and different stories from around the world and watching films in an environment that champions the film-watching experience: big screens; great sound; an attentive audience.”

Hull Film Festival - Friday 30 June 2017.

In the future, Damien, Paul and the whole team would love to have somewhere to call ‘home.’ Somewhere with a café bar where people can come in and hang out, knowing they’re in a “warm, friendly environment of people who just want to see a good film.

But for now, the team are content with welcoming more and more people to HIC screenings and events. “There’s no let up for us after 2017!” Damien exclaims. “The City of Culture continues! In 2018 we are partnering with Back to Ours festival in which we’re taking films out into Hull, touring outside of the city centre, in the suburbs and communities that make Hull, Hull!

If 2018 is the year you decide to explore film in Hull, then the line-up is rich and varied. This season HIC have cult classics, silent films with live music, short films, and the Oscar nominated Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. “We’re looking forward to the fifth edition of Hull Film Festival, and Doc n’ Roll Film Festival will also be making another appearance,” summarises Damien.

Such is the impact of HIC, that the attitudes of the big venues (Cineworld, Vue et al) are beginning to show acceptance of the off-centre; the quirky; the unique. “I’ve started to notice that we’re getting maybe a week or two of showings that, prior to HIC, I don’t think would have come to Hull at all,” James Rowson observes. It’s interesting that the mainstream cinemas appear, in James’ opinion, to be taking a punt on things that, otherwise, they might not have.

With their film-forward attitude it seems HIC are making a big difference to the cultural landscape of Hull. Through the power of film, Hull and its people are ensuring their independent spirit lives on.

Big Picture

Big Picture: “When people come together, they create something bigger than themselves”

Hailed as one of Hull 2017’s biggest success stories, our volunteer cohort has become something of a local icon, symbolising the city’s newly restored sense of self-belief and hope. That’s why we’re celebrating their contribution with two exhibitions launching on Sat 20 Jan in Humber Street Gallery, Big Picture and Grains Of Scandalous Blue.

Big Picture showcases the individual personalities and collective spirit of the volunteers through a series of colourful images, each photographed in intriguing locations with their own story to tell.

Shot by Leo Francis – a Hull-based photographer with over 10 years of experience in portraiture and action sports (most notably with Red Bull) – and art directed by Sarah Harris, Big Picture features thousands of volunteers in scenarios that are guaranteed to make you laugh, gasp and discover a whole new side to the sea of blue jackets we’ve all become familiar with.

Big Picture: Leo Francis on set. Photo © Chris Pepper

“When people come together they can create something that is bigger than themselves, but it’s the character of these people that creates something unique,” says Leo. “We wanted to celebrate what the volunteers have achieved for the city, but also give an insight into the unique individuals that have been under the anonymity of the blue coats.”

Burton Constable Hall provided a backdrop for the first shoot of the project, where we can expect to see volunteers dancing, tucking into cake and celebrating the highlights of 2017.

“The idea was to use the opulent setting of the hall to portray the volunteers ‘gorging’ on culture,” says Leo. “Throughout this scenario there are nods to some of the key events that volunteers have actively participated in, from Duckie’s Summer Tea Party, which for many was a highlight in the year, to the Pride In Hull parade, Flood and Land Of Green Ginger.”

Big Picture: Behind the scenes at Little Switzerland

The shoots then took a mysterious turn, down by the river at Little Switzerland, where we follow the volunteers as they embark on their journey into the unknown world of volunteering.

Leo says, “None of the volunteers knew what they were signing up to when they agreed to join Hull 2017, and these photographs hope to show the journey they have taken since signing up. We have a couple of heroes leading the pack through the forest, using smoke, lanterns and lightboxes to create a mystical effect.”

Shot on a chilly day in October, the volunteers had to endure wet weather and plenty of mud, but that did nothing to dampen their spirits, says Leo. “They were just brilliant on set. It’s not as though they have modelled before, but everybody totally got into character and never complained.”

Speaking of bad weather, a major shoot at the iconic Humber Bridge was almost cancelled entirely after Storm Brian whipped its way across the east coast, battering the structure with heavy winds.

Big Picture: Behind the scenes at the Humber Bridge

Nevertheless, four weeks later several hundred volunteers braved a 4.30am start to create a series of breath-taking shots on the bridge, bathed in light from a particularly dazzling sunrise.

“When I turned up to the Humber Bridge shoot, it was so great to see everybody dancing and singing despite the freezing conditions and for me that shows the spirit that the volunteers have had throughout 2017” says Leo.

Then it was over to St Stephens, where hundreds of volunteers packed onto the shopping centre’s roof for a semaphore-themed shoot, spelling out two key words – smile and pride.

“The volunteers were asked to sum up their experiences and these are the two words that kept coming up. How great is that?” says Leo. We’re inclined to agree.

And it was smiles all round at one of the more ambitious shoots in the project, which took place in the icy waters of Princes Quay. Armed with inflatable unicorns, rubber dinghies, rowing boats and blow-up balls, the volunteers held a party like no other.

Big Picture: Behind the scenes at Princes Quay

“My years of shooting action sports definitely helped with this shoot. I was on a boat shooting people who have never been on a dinghy or lilo before, in the freezing cold and rain in the middle of November. But everyone was loving it!” says Leo.

Things became a lot more personal towards the end of the project, when volunteers were photographed surrounded by the belongings that matter to them most.

“It was amazing to see how much thought they put into what they would bring,” says Leo. “People were bringing all sorts, from scuba diving equipment to travel mementos, Hull City memorabilia and even a car! Family was a big thing – we had lots of family photos.”

160 volunteers were photographed over three days and visitors to the exhibition will be able to view the whole collection, or alternatively see individual photographs.

“This was probably one of my favourite shoots, because I got to spend more time with people discussing their belongings and hearing their stories. It will be interesting for the volunteers themselves as they will probably discover shared interests they never knew they had when they see the photographs.”

Big Picture runs alongside Grains Of Scandalous Blue in Humber Street Gallery from 20 Jan to 25 Feb.

Freedom Festival 2017

Five Questions with… Karen Durham, Arts Council Relationship Manager

Karen is currently Partnership Manager, Cultural Cities at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, but returns to her role as Combined Arts Relationship Manager at the Arts Council later this year. Here she tells us all about her experiences working with the city.

How did the Arts Council first get involved with Hull City of Culture? 

We were involved in helping the city get to the stage where it could to apply to be City of Culture. For many years, we were aware that Hull didn’t get its ‘share’ of National Lottery investment – we simply weren’t receiving many applications. At the same time, Hull City Council was also keen to grow the independent arts sector in the city. We worked with the local authority for a number of years, finding ways to build capacity against a backdrop of political change and budget cuts.

Can you give us an example of this development work?

In 2008 a major redevelopment of an area close to the marina collapsed. The unfinished spaces were made habitable and we worked with the council’s arts development team to encourage organisations to apply for Grants for the Arts funding.

Nearly 10 years later it is the successful and popular Fruit Market regeneration area and cultural quarter in Hull. It has also been the base for the annual free outdoor event Freedom Festival. We worked with the city council and other partners to develop the festival’s offer, and it is now one of our National Portfolio Organisations and one of the UK’s major outdoor arts festivals attracting thousands of visitors a year. Both the Fruit Market and Freedom Festival were central to Hull’s bid.

We hear a lot about how the city has embraced its year as City of Culture.
hy do you think that the community in Hull has got so involved?

If you spend any amount of time in Hull you realise that people are really up for a challenge. They are independent and incredibly proud of their heritage. It was important that they didn’t feel that outsiders were coming into their city to ‘do’ culture for them – the programme had to be owned by the city.

An important decision was insisting that the 2017 team all lived in Hull. I think I knew it was going to be okay when 5,000 people signed up almost immediately to get naked for the Spencer Tunic commission Sea of Hull. The opening season, Made in Hull, was unashamedly for the people of the city. It spoke about their lives, their history and I think this helped sustain the interest and imagination of the people of Hull for the rest of the year.

Another really positive thing is that the volunteering programme was given as much care, attention and prestige as any part of the artistic programme. The hundreds of volunteers have been hugely important, illustrating how the community has taken the opportunity and experience of the City of Culture to its heart.

Tell us about some of your highlights of the 2017 programme.

Blade, a 75 metre off shore wind turbine blade which was temporarily installed in the main square in the middle of the night, was a technical and artistic stroke of genius! It was quirky, surprisingly beautiful and audacious – a bit like Hull really – people loved it. It isn’t often that a new contemporary gallery space opens anywhere so the opening of Humber Street Gallery was another incredible moment.

What do you think the legacy of 2017 will be to Hull? What do we need to do to ensure
that arts and culture remains a priority in the city?

The groundwork is there. People have responded to what the City of Culture offered, getting involved in arts and culture and often with more challenging work. You can see this just in the huge increase in visits made to the Ferens Art Gallery and Hull Truck Theatre.

The challenge to the city council and the arts and cultural sector is to keep providing the same kind of work and opportunities. The decision for the Culture Company, which delivered the Hull 2017 programme, to continue as a permanent national arts company based in the city is a great start – and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Hull.

Julia Vogl

Meet Julia Vogl, artist-in-residence for our scandalous blue volunteers

In the final months of 2017 artist Julia Vogl spent time with our wonderful volunteers, finding out just what made them tick. Through workshops, interviews and a volunteer shift thrown in for good measure Julia got to know this remarkable community.

The themes in the exhibition were developed closely with the volunteers and the volunteering team, creating a body of work that explores the Hull 2017 volunteer experience and reveals why they wanted to step into the blue coat.

We spoke with Julia to find out more about her upcoming exhibition Grains of Scandalous Blue launching at Humber Street Gallery on 20 Jan.

Tell us a bit about your practice.

I describe myself as a social sculptor and I’m very interested in bridging communities through colour, installation and community, whilst getting people physically involved with the space that describes them. The work can reveal the underlying values of a community to others whilst engaging the viewer.

How have you applied this to your upcoming exhibition Grains of Scandalous Blue?

Grains of Scandalous Blue was really exciting for me because I got to use multiple approaches and try some new stuff as well. Before starting a piece of work about a community you need to know who they are, so I did some sessions with volunteers, asking what their experience was like and what they wanted the rest of the city to know about them.

We then turned that into a workshop that I delivered in November – the results of which can be seen in GRAINS (Jars of Time).

What did volunteers have to do in this workshop for GRAINS (Jars of Time)?

Everyone brought a jam jar from home – which was unique to them – and then had to answer some multiple choice questions about their relationship to Hull 2017 and volunteering. Each multiple choice answer was paired with a coloured sand and they had to fill their jar with the colour that represented their answer.

In the exhibition, there’s going to be close to 700 jars of coloured sand: a data visualisation of the volunteer experience. They got to have some fun, do some thinking and have some tea and cake, unpacking what they’d answered with other volunteers.

So, it was more of a social discussion – and now that discussion can continue at Humber Street Gallery.

Grains of Scandalous Blue - Behind the Scenes. Photo © Julia Vogl.

You’ve gathered collective and individual accounts of being a volunteer – how did you do this?

I was trying to collect hard data and soft data – the act of connecting with people over coffee and cake was great for collecting anecdotal soft data, and getting first-hand accounts of their experiences.

I also worked with the Hull 2017 volunteer team to collate 55 pieces of data about the volunteers. This covered everything from what the average shoe size is to who is fluent in another language. I’m covering the entire walls and floor in colour that represent these statistics so when you come in you’ll be flooded with colour.

If the jars are about creating a social sculpture and creating a rich experience for volunteers while they were considering their time, this section of the exhibition (Scandalous Blue who are you?) is more for the public to come in and get a sense of the physical experience of what it is to be a volunteer and to better understand who those individuals are.

They’re not just people in blue coats. These are people that speak multiple languages, have interests in lots of things and are extremely passionate, generous and warm people. I want that feeling to come across in the space.

Grains of Scandalous Blue - Behind the Scenes. Photo © Julia Vogl.

You mention that your work has a central focus on community. What have you learnt
about the volunteers on a communal scale?

On a communal scale, I’ve been really awe-struck with how many people have described this experience as life changing and that, to me, resonates with the fact that everyone has felt open and safe with each other.

They are a self-selecting group of people that have decided that they want to spend their time giving to Hull and has created a security, safety, friendship and trust amongst all of them. I think this is rare to see in a group this large, which has been really inspiring for me.

I’ve been deeply impressed with how they have impacted Hull as a city. Their collective power has made the city feel safer and proud. People go up to them and they feel safe, children have even been taught that if they get lost they can find someone with a blue jacket – that’s incredible.

Volunteer Celebration Event. Photo © Leo Francis.

And on an individual level?

On an individual level, everybody has different reasons for why they became a volunteer and how they have been impacted by this experience.

Some say they volunteered because they wanted to get away and do something different. It seemed like it started as something of a distraction, but it became the thing they couldn’t wait to do more of. People felt that it introduced them to new skills too. The masterclasses have changed the way people approach their careers and their life going forward and that’s incredible.

We had one woman who explained how her life was falling apart. She felt really unsupported and was struggling to find any meaning in life. She started volunteering and it’s completely reinvigorated her and helped her shed her past – she describes volunteering as saving her life.

What do you hope to achieve with this exhibition?

The last component of the exhibition is to get visitors to wear a scandalous blue jacket. The most popular female name was Sue, and the most popular male name was David – so we’re inviting people to come along and be a Sue, be a David. I’m hoping that people will get a sense of what is it to be a volunteer and encourage people to be more active as a citizen in Hull.

This exhibition is about showcasing diversity within a community, celebrating the individuals and properly acknowledging them as a group.

In With A Bang - Volunteer Briefing. Photo © Patrick Mateer.

And have the volunteers inspired you personally?

Definitely! I think it’s very easy to say “Oh, these people came and they did a few hours. They made events happen.” But they really made events happen. I’ve heard that from countless organisers, artists, volunteer staff and 2017 staff that this year would not have been what it is without them. To me that’s really inspiring, that people can come together and change a whole definition and attitude of a place.

That’s really affirming for me because it’s something I’ve always wanted to believe in, but thought maybe it was a naïve thing to think. The volunteers have proven that with a lot of hard work you can achieve this.

Grains of Scandalous Blue is open 20 Jan – 25 Feb. Also on show is Leo Francis’ exhibition Big Picture, in collaboration with Chris Fenton, a distinct photography series of the volunteers.

Jason Wilsher-Mills

Meet the artist: Jason Wilsher-Mills

Jason Wilsher-Mills is Square Peg’s artist-in-residence for 2017.

Square Peg, the user-led diversity and disability arts programme from Artlink has teamed up with Jason to bring the stories of diverse communities in Hull to everyone’s attention.

New technologies have helped Jason give life to his ideas on disability, childhood memory and popular culture, creating new narratives. We met to discuss this and his upcoming exhibition Unexpected Engagement at Artlink.

Floe: A celebration of The Deep and the beauty of the sea

Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer are two UK-based artists who have worked in collaboration since 1991.  

Their artworks range from photographic and light installations to large-scale projection events and public art interventions. 

For Floe, the artists have created a concept based around the architecture of The Deep, which also celebrates the rich aquatic life within its walls. 

But how did they tackle the mammoth task of piecing it all together? We spoke to the artists to find out more ahead of the projection this evening at The Deep. 


How did you both meet, and when did you decide to start working together? 

We first met at art college in Cardiff and started working together in the early 90s whilst living and working in Newcastle upon Tyne.   

Our first collaboration was an exhibition we put together in our studio – a dark, cavernous space underneath The Cluny in Byker.  The exhibition was aptly named IThe Absence OLight because the space was without natural light. We used lighting as an integral part of each work we made and showed.

You developed some of the ideas for Floe by referring to Terry Farrell’s architectural vision of The Deep – what was the most interesting part about this research for you? 

At the start of the project we were given a copy of the architect’s sketch book and it was fascinating to see how geological and biological forms and processes fed in to the architect’s vision for The Deep and how these are physically expressed in the building.   

During the last ice age, the ice sheet terminated in this area and one of the images which apparently influenced the architect in the beginning was Caspar David Freidrich’s painting The Sea of Ice. 

The building is talked about as a geological metaphor, rising out of the ground like a crystalline formation and its surfaces are also described as having metaphorical associations with wave or glacier like forms.   

When you visit The Deep it’s interesting to see how these ideas extend into the interior spaces and the way in which the dramatic lighting gives you a sense of immersion in an ocean environment. 




The piece also explores Hull’s relationship with the sea – how have you achieved this? 

The Deep is built on Sammy’s Point, an area renowned for its shipbuilding heritage and previously where the 17th century citadel stood that formed part of the city defences. In our research, we looked at Hull’s maritime history and came across a number of paintings in the Hull Maritime Museum depicting whaling vessels such as the Diana and Chase caught up in Arctic ice floes.  

These images, along with Friedrich’s painting The Sea of Ice evoke a somewhat romanticised image of an inhospitable environment. We were interested in how this stylised version contrasted with the real materials of ice and rock, and we have alluded to this artistic interpretation as part of Floe.    


There are different stages the building will be taken through during the projection. Can you briefly talk about these stages and the meaning behind this? 

We have thought of this work as a cyclical piece and the different stages have provided us with a framework to work with.  Each stage alludes to the different processes that shape the earth such as the movement of water, weather and biological life.    

We have taken the idea of a rock coming out of the ground like a crystalline formation as our starting point – defining the geological forms and the processes that shape the transformations.  

The next stage defines the aquaria which we have thought of as crystalline forms with aquatic life emerging from them.  This is the most colourful part of the sequence and reflects the diversity of aquatic life before moving back again to a geological state.   


You’ve previously worked on a 1996 installation in Hull called ‘Float’ using three projected elements. Which work was the most challenging to create – Float or Floe? 

They have been challenging in different ways.  With Float the technology available then was different to the technology being used today, but the principle is basically the same.   

For Float we generated the imagery by building scale architectural models made to visually fit with the building which we photographed using a large format plate camera.  

With Floe we have physically built some of the models and used a combination of 4K film, time lapse photography film and post production editing to create the content to fit with a UV map of the building (UV being a co-ordinate system, the map being a 3D model constructed from a 3D laser scan of the site).  

Factors such as ambient light and weather also have an influence on how a projection will look so we are keeping all fingers crossed for reasonably clear weather!  


A soundscape has been created in response to the imagery used in Floe. How was this recorded? 

We have used a number of different sources for the soundscape – some we have recorded ourselves using a hand held recorder and others we have created and manipulated using audio software.  The soundscape is designed to be the sound of the building going through this process of change rather than a piece of music. 


Is there anything you’ve discovered about the marine life at The Deep you weren’t previously aware of?   

Each time we visit, we discover something new.  Last time we were there filming the jellyfish – a species that has lived in the oceans for over 500 million years. We learnt that there is currently an increase in jellyfish blooms – a sign that sea temperatures are rising.  The rise in sea temperature is also having an effect on the ice sheets in Antarctica and the melting of these is contributing to changes in salinity which in turn has an effect on sea life.  


How long will the projection be running for each evening? 

The projections will be looped to run continuously throughout the night with each cycle lasting approximately 10 minutes, so people can catch it during any time between the hours of 6pm and 10pm.     

Floe by Heinrich and Palmer is free to view and will run from 8-10 December at The Deep from 6pm-10pm. 

Spray Creative

Say hello to Spray Creative

If you’ve visited Hull during 2017, you might have spotted the striking work of Spray Creative dotted around Hull’s restaurants, bars, shops and even the public realm.

Launched in 2016 by seasoned graffiti artists Ollie Marshall, Kain Marshall and Josh Ashton, it hasn’t taken long for Spray Creative to make its mark on the city, and we were lucky enough to work with the team recently to give Hull 2017 volunteer Paul Benson the experience of a lifetime in his first ever graffiti workshop.

We’re always keen to share the success stories of Hull’s creative start-ups, so we chatted with Ollie of Spray Creative to find out more.


Honestly, the three of us fell into Spray Creative. We have each been painting individually for around 10 years in Hull, then about six years ago we started painting together every weekend – getting out of town and making trips to meet graffiti artists in different cities.

At the beginning of 2016, we had this idea of linking up and putting ourselves out there to hire. Between us, we have different graffiti styles and skills in sign making, illustration and graphic design, so instead of being ‘Ollie Marshall, the graffiti writer’, why not create a brand identity and do it properly?


Because of the different skill sets we each bring to the table, we’re lucky to be able to offer pretty much every style in the work that we do. It can be anything, from large format stencilling to freehand graffiti artwork, murals, perspective pieces, original concepts and digital artwork. I think a lot of people are choosing to work with us because we can merge different styles in one piece.

We do all have our own specialisations. I do a lot of the graffiti lettering and pattern work, Josh is a brilliant illustrator and Kain is amazing at painting freehand faces – he can pretty much paint somebody like-for-like. Kain also has design experience and comes up with a lot of the visuals on Photoshop and Illustrator.

Spray Creative branding in Fruit Market. Photo: © Tom Arran

Our work on the guerrilla advertising for the Fruit Market is probably how we are most well-known. We knew about the plans for the area quite early on which allowed us to create something that gave it an identity. We also painted the Venn diagrams on Drypool Bridge and have done a fair few workshops with local community groups and businesses.


We were approached by the Freedom Festival team about going over to Freetown in Sierra Leone to teach the locals how to produce large artwork and murals using aerosols. I think Freedom Festival had seen what we had done with some of the empty space in Hull, and thought we could help people in Freetown to approach their empty spaces in new ways.

We were dropped at a British Council building in Freetown and spent time with a group of local artists, delivering multiple workshops. It was the first time this kind of aerosol had been used in Freetown, so it was an eye opener for the guys there, who usually work with oil-based paint. They couldn’t work out how a huge mural could be created in such a small space of time.

Through these basic workshops, we were enabling artists in Freetown to experiment with new techniques. Whether it was an artist who had been working in Sierra Leone all of their life or a younger person just starting out, it was amazing to see everybody taking our advice on board and enjoying themselves.

Spray Creative in Sierra Leone with Freedom Festival.

A few of the artists came over to Freedom Festival this year to help paint a mural, what is really cool is that they have just hosted their own festival called the King Dus Art Festival and from what we have seen, the artists are still using the techniques that we taught them.


Hull’s graffiti scene was probably one of the earlier scenes to be respected by artists in the UK and some of the most legendary graffiti artists are from Hull. I’m not even going to try to name them all, but people like Vrok, Pinky, Paris, Xenz, Ziml…

I think Hull is just a place that makes creatives – it’s at the end of the line, there’s nobody to influence us too much. And we have had a lot of derelict, open space, especially around Bankside, which became quite a famous graffiti area in the 80s and 90s.

Spray Creative.

The scene was so big at the time that people were travelling from all over the UK and even places like Amsterdam to paint here. From what I have heard it was a perfect storm.

These Hull artists have huge reputations within the graffiti world, but nobody else really knows about it. There’s even a style of graffiti that the older guys will tell you was bred in Hull. A lot of them have moved out of the city now so it’s great for us to give back to the scene that inspired us to do what we do.


Anybody can give graffiti art a go which is what makes it so great. There are no rules, no expectations, no judgements – it’s completely personal to you. You can paint anything and there are so many styles to try out and different spaces to paint.

For me, graffiti art is something to enjoy and to help you switch off. And at the end you have something to be proud of. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

Spray Creative.


Firstly, we’d like to say a massive thank you to all the businesses and organisations who have supported us since 2016. As for the future, we don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll be seeing us all around the city over the next few months and we’ll also be flying the flag for Hull outside of the city. Keep your eyes peeled!


Header image © Photography by Jamie King.


Substance Future Forum: Listen, learn and debate.

Substance Future Forum will invite creative industries, businesses, organisations, artists, digital pioneers, social commentators, policy makers and change makers tomorrow to discuss the culture, creativity and future of the north, just a few tickets remain.

Through panel discussions, keynote speeches, installations and debate, the forum invites you to have your say about important topics including how arts can save the NHS, how digital integration can build new and global audiences, why musicians may be better away from the capital, ask what is the point of a City of Culture?

Hosting the day will be Niki Bedi and John Harris. They will both be explaining the locations for the day, so make sure you get yourselves there early! The introduction will take place at 10am with registration starting at 9.30pm. 

Here’s just a selection of the panels on offer as part of the forum. 



 If you’ve had the opportunity to get involved with any City of Culture event this year and are wondering why they all happen in the first place, for this panel, we ask; what is the point of a City of Culture? What are the measures of a success for a City of Culture? How does this manifest and what is the promise in relation to the reality?  

The panel will also question disproportionate levels of arts funding with a panel comprised of representatives from previous Cities of Culture including Chris Baldwin, Creative Director of Galway 2020: European Capital of Culture, Paula Murray, Creative Director Croydon Council bidding for Borough of Culture, Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Martin Green, CEO and Director at Hull UK City of Culture 2017. 

“Cities of Culture are vital catalyst for a long-term social, economic and cultural regeneration” says Shona McCarthy. “Even at their least, with a strong, year-long cultural programme and an engaged community, they can still be a wonderful year of magical happenings that give fresh perspective for people and place and give citizens an opportunity to come out, look up, share joy, reconnect and celebrate their place and identities.” 

SHOW ME THE MONEY – C4DI THEATRE. 2.45pm – 3.30pm 

What are the benefits of investment in culture? Does it improve the quality of life of communities?

Hull 2017 has raised more corporate money for its year as city of culture than the London Olympics did for the Cultural Olympiad. Come and hear this discussion on the crucial nature of this investment. 

Chaired by Susannah Simons, Director of Arts and Outreach for Canvas, supported by the Arts Council England funded project. The panellists include Dominic Gibbons, Managing Director at Wykeland Group, Fran Hegyi Executive Director at Hull UK City of Culture 2017, Pat Connor, Head of BBC Development & Events, UK & Director, BBC South West and Dr Kevin Moore, Chief Executive at Humber Bridge.  

This informative discussion will highlight the benefits to place, people and the local economy when business and culture find the correct synergy together.


How are digital changes impacting the decisions of the UK’s leading broadcasters and arts organisations? How are they adapting to the constant change in technology? Here, Sky Arts, BBC Arts and Channel 4’s Random Acts will talk through different ways in which to be commissioned for broadcast. 

Panellist Jeremy Routledge, from Bristol-based production company Calling The Shots will be joined by Lamia Dabboussy, Editor for BBC Arts, Peter Groom, who directed the short film Herd as part of Random Acts and Rocio Cano, a TV producer who has worked mainly on arts and entertainment series for Sky Arts.


Why did Hull vote so overwhelmingly to leave? What happened? How will leaving the EU impact the generations who will grow up in this new territory?

It’s A Little Bit Leave It will see representatives from The Warren Youth Project discussing the concerns of younger people across the north. They will also address the findings of the Next Generation UK report commissioned by The British Council and carried out by Demos which surveyed young people across the country on their views about their future in the world.  

For this panel representatives from The Warren will also be performing poetry in response to these issues, followed by the panel discussion. Emma Hardy MP and Emily Morrison from British Council will join them as well as their host, spoken word artist Joe Hakim. 

It’s a Little Bit Leave It will be attempting to challenge assumptions, and find out how young people really feel about the world they stand to inherit” says Joe. “As well as discussing the impact of Brexit and how it affects the disaffected, we will also be looking to find out what it will take to get young people engaging in politics again. We will be looking how art – particularly music and spoken word – can be used a platform for protest, and how modern technology such as social media informs their worldview when it comes to contentious issues like the EU and our place within it.”



To view the full line-up of panels for the day, visit the Future Forum page. Tickets are available at £20 – £25 for the full day.

Hannah Peel on Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia

Hannah Peel is a highly talented multi-instrumentalist from up North.  

Her music combines the tremendously deep, rich power of traditional brass with the uplifting arpeggiated patterns and unearthly sound textures of analogue synthesizers.  

For her latest album Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia, the artist has turned cosmic Queen, becoming the alter-ego Mary Casio.

Hannah is also no stranger to Hull. Earlier in the year, Hannah performed with her band The Magnetic North as part of Substance at The Polar Bear in Hull and an incredible performance of Journey to Cassiopeia in July 2017 as part of PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial.

This December, Hannah will be heading back to Hull to perform at Hull City Hall with full brass band for Substance Live: The Future of the North, an event which will see some of the most innovative and exciting women making music in the UK today, take centre stage. 

We chat to Hannah ahead of the performance and to find out what inspired the record.

How did the concept of Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia develop? 

Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia is an exploration to the mind of someone living with dementia. My Grandma who passed away had dementia and I became really interested in the scientific part of the brain. I saw the process of brain neurons growing inside a dish and when I looked down at it, it was like looking at the stars.  

The Mary Casio character developed as I was producing it on a Casio keyboard and the journey is a journey through the mind.

The album is very space-themed, what kind of research did you undertake to gather this inspiration? 

I read a book called The Seven Lessons In Physics by Carlo Rovelli. He talks about how the world works. He mentions in the book that there are as many neurons in the brain as there are in the galaxy, which I found so fascinating. 

From this, I started messing around on the Casio writing electronic pieces. When the band approached me to put this together with them, I was really excited and over the moon. I thought it would be amazing to have the opportunity to move it in to this space. 

Also, when I was younger living in Ireland, I used to lie for hours just looking at the stars, I loved it. Delia Derbyshire is a massive role model of mine who I really look up to also.

If you could venture to your own planet, what would this look like? 

Well actually, the last track that I wrote on the album called The Planet of Passed Souls was me stepping foot on an Earth-like planet, but you can’t see it because of the earth and all of the clouds that surround it. 

It’s about the magic of the planet. As things start to seep from the mind, there’s the voice of my Grandad from 1927 singing through the clouds too.

How has the support from the PRS Foundation helped you to achieve this? 

The piece was already written, although they have supported me literally from the word go. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of the Momentum Fund and I’m very appreciative of this.  

I’ve always had a good team around me, which is really great.

Why do you feel events such as Substance Live are so important given the gender imbalance in the music industry? 

Growing up, I didn’t really have many female role models, so I feel the festival is really important for our younger generation to see female performers. It’s important not just in terms of female performers, but it’s also important for females to be seen as engineers rather than just singers.

Do you have anything exciting planned for 2018?

In Hull, I’m planning on performing with the Freedom Chorus through the project Songs Of Flight which is part of the PRSF New Music Biennial Composer Residency. I will be performing a synthesizer choir piece with all of them. There’s around 300 of them altogether! That’s being performed in April so looking forward to that. 

I’m also currently writing music for the theatre production of Brighton Rock, that goes right up until May. 

Hannah with perform Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia at Substance Live: The Future Of The North on 9 December at Hull City Hall alongside Jane Weaver, Nadine Shah, PINS, CHAMBERS, Lone Taxidermist and The Dyr Sister. 

Tickets are available here.


Jason Bruges

Q&A: Where Do We Go From Here? artist Jason Bruges

If you’ve wandered around Hull’s Old Town recently, you may have caught a glimpse of Hull 2017’s final major art commission of the year. Inhabiting spaces at Beverley Gate, Trinity Square, Museum Gardens and Wilberforce House, Where Do We Go From Here? will take us on a new journey through some of the city’s public spaces, whilst encouraging us all to take part in a timely conversation about art, culture and society.

Created by the award-winning Jason Bruges Studio, Where Do We Go From Here? will open to the public from 5pm on Fri 1 Dec. But if you’re still wondering what it’s all about, we spoke to the man behind the mystery to find out more…



A: I grew up in a house where art and technology had equal billing, with my mother working as an artist and my father as a computer programmer, so I guess that has a lot to do with where I am now!

After training and working as an architect, I went on to work for Foster + Partners in London and Hong Kong, before realising that I wanted to delve into an area in between architecture, art and technology.

I had explored work that wasn’t conventionally architectural in my post-graduate studies, looking at how machines and humans interact and exploring lumino kinetic art, which is essentially light and movement. Then I started to think about audience interaction, and how we can create conversations with people in different spaces.

I see it as a kind of Venn diagram, and the intersecting space is where the Studio’s work comes together. What really makes us different is that we work quite site-specifically, in cities and spaces. A lot of our work is permanent – in fact it’s more unusual for us to work on a temporary piece like Where Do We Go From Here?, so that’s going to be great to see.


A: Last year, we worked with Illuminating York to illuminate the nave of York Minster. Using moving light, we animated the space to highlight different features that may have previously gone unnoticed. Whilst that project was on a much smaller scale, some of the techniques we are using here in Hull were tested in York.

One of our biggest projects was working with The Shard in London and this really allowed us to use the city as our canvas, creating work that was seen from between 30 to 60 miles away.

All of our projects have helped us to develop this idea of creating temporary urban spaces. In Hull, the focus has been on these epic robots that we have put into place, but when they come to life they are like little performers in a much bigger experience. Right now, everybody is focusing on the theatre of it all, but the play is yet to start.



A: Technology allows us to create some pretty big interventions without changing the space too much. The structures we have placed into the Old Town are quite big, but they are a lot smaller than what you would conventionally use to get a similar effect. There’s also that extra layer of animation – our work can be programmed to behave different at different times of the day, or on different days of the week.

There are many challenges in the work we do. Jason Bruges Studio has a core team of 25 people, from artists to coders, developers, engineers and architects, all working together to visualise software, creative narratives, develop operating systems and make sure everything is safe.

There’s a lot of research and development that goes into this work, and we have to keep our core team working together across multiple projects to allow it to continue. Otherwise, it would have been almost impossible to create something like Where Do We Go From Here? within the 12 month time-scale we had.

Our aim was to create something on an urban scale that is powerful, thought-provoking and a catalyst for the future. Hopefully the piece is as interesting to a thousand people as it is to a single person passing by.


A: At the start of the project, we were given a site with a perimeter that went around the Old Town, following the medieval walls. We began to interrogate the space and found that there were areas that were great for gatherings, like Trinity Square. There are also protected spaces which have their own nice qualities, like the Museums Quarter and Wilberforce House.

We realised that a lot of people would be approaching the Old Town from Beverley Gate, so to not do something in that space seemed wrong. Because of its history, we decided that Beverley Gate would act as a gateway into the rest of the installation, encouraging people to have a look.



A: Very early on in the project, we spent quite a bit of time in Hull History Centre learning about things like the Civil War and Hull’s maritime history, the establishment of the docks and the technologies that came with that.

Navigation was a big thing, which has become pivotal to the project. Things like lighthouses, telegraphy and lamp signalling should be evident, in some abstract way, in the language that the robots are using. So when they flash light at you, or some sound moves past you unexpectedly, it may remind you of ships coming and going and life on the edges of a port city.



A: I think it’s important to look at the city and embrace what it already has, then introduce some fresh ideas and bring them together as a juxtaposition of old and new. Hull has invested heavily in technology and this will continue, so I hope Where Do We Go From Here? can provoke a conversation about the different forms of technology and how it can help us to develop new ideas that can benefit everyone.

Where Do We Go From Here? runs in Hull’s Old Town from 1 Dec 2017 to 7 Jan 2017 excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day.


INTERVIEW: Lee Karen Stow on Torn

War tears people apart. It tears families apart. The women I meet are torn from their homes, their lands and, even if they find relative safety, they are often torn by the guilt of leaving loved ones behind, torn in many different ways. The sexual violence that is a tool of war physically tears women – and very young girls – apart. I’ve heard women repeat the word ‘torn’ again and again, so many times. No matter which war, which country, which moment in time.”

Documentary photographer and journalist Lee Karen Stow has spent 10 years uncovering women’s stories that have been largely forgotten, silenced, or ignored, from the First World War to the present day.

Former commander of UN peacekeeping forces Patrick Cammaert stated in 2008: It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.

In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that: “Throughout history, women and girls have often been targeted in wartime for violence, especially sexual violence. They have also been excluded from conflict prevention and resolution efforts.”

And yet according to UN Women violence against women in conflict remains “one of history’s great silences”.

During Sierra Leone’s civil war, 94% of displaced households had experienced sexual assaults, torture or sexual slavery. Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

It’s a pattern repeated in war zones the world over and actual figures are acknowledged to be much higher than the statistics reported. Now, in 2017, the Rohingya people – especially women and children – fleeing Myanmar are facing brutal and ongoing atrocities. Although awareness is improving, these are, Lee says, the forgotten women of war.

Her latest exhibition, Torn, breaks the silence.

Through haunting photography of iconic poppy petals, soundscapes that Lee recorded on former battlegrounds, and textiles created by members of Hull Women’s Refugee Group, she gives war-torn women a voice.

The stories are always the same, it’s just the geographical location that’s different. But what is more compelling, is how these women have coped, have managed to rebuild lives.

The poppy petals in Torn represent the women who have survived war zones, genocide and conflict, whose bodies have become the battlefield, and those who have picked up the pieces during and after conflict. They are survivors from the killing fields of Cambodia, the bombed streets of Aleppo, from Hiroshima and women who survived the Holocaust.

All the way through,” Lee says, “from researching women’s eyewitness accounts, to learning more about the conflicts of today… it hit me. The stories are always the same, it’s just the geographical location that’s different. But what is more compelling, is how these women have coped, have managed to rebuild lives.

It is so deeply important to hear how people cope, how they get on with it. So Torn, I hope, pays tribute to the inner strength and resourcefulness demonstrated by so many women I have had the privilege to meet.”

And wherever she was in the world, whatever trauma the women she met were recovering from, Lee found a recurring line kept coming up in her conversations: “You just get on with it, don’t you?”

For Lee, who grew up on east Hull’s Greatfield Estate, it all began in Hull’s twin city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 2007. Curious about how women in war-torn countries survived, she set off to deliver a fortnight of photography workshops to women in the aftermath of civil war.

Women were queuing up outside the door,” she says. “I couldn’t understand it – when I held workshops in Hull at that time, I’d hardly get anyone, but there, people wanted to learn a skill and wanted to become part of a digital world while rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of a civil war. Anything they felt would help lift them out of poverty.”

Francess Ngaboh-Smart [pictured] was one of Lee’s graduates from that first Sierra Leone workshop. Her story also unwittingly helped inspire the poppy motif that runs through the Torn exhibition.

Francess Ngaboh-Smart from Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo © Lee Karen Stow (2012).

One day, Francess was visiting me and she started telling me her experience of being a 15-year-old girl in her village,” says Lee. “She saw her neighbour decapitated. She saw awful things, very graphic and while she’s telling me this story, she’s holding a poppy.”

Apart from its significance as a flower of remembrance – instigated, incidentally, by two more forgotten women – Lee explains why the poppy felt particularly significant to this project: The poppy grows where everything else has been destroyed. When it’s been exposed to trauma, and it’s exposed to light, it grows tall.

This resilience reminded me of the women of war and conflict I have met, interviewed and photographed over the last decade. So I put all of this together, using the poppy flower as a metaphor for the experiences of largely forgotten women of war.

With Lee’s help, Francess got a work placement with National Geographic, and she now lives in the Hague, where she works for the UN Special Courts.

Inspired by such strength in adversity, Lee first began to make the connection between cornfield poppies to the women of Sierra Leone, who she was photographing for another project, then to women in other countries.

The poppy grows where everything else has been destroyed. When it’s been exposed to trauma, and it’s exposed to light, it grows tall.

With the sale of her first work in the Torn series – to Cambridge University – Lee bought a ticket to Japan so she could meet women survivors of Hiroshima. In Cambodia, she met survivors of the Khmer Rouge; in Vietnam, everyday women who became soldiers in order to defend their homes, but fought every day, in battlefields that were all around them.

On the West Bank of Palestine, she photographed two women, one Israeli, one Palestinian, who had each lost a son. She researched the women of the First World War so she could tell their stories, and met Holocaust survivors now living in the United States.

Lee says: “What really brought it home to me was talking to women who survived the genocide of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. They had to rebuild their lives. Many of the men had been killed, so women had to pick up the pieces, find an income and look after families.

The women there told me that the first thing they had to do after surviving the killing fields, was to find a cooking pot and a spoon so they could feed their families.

And I think that’s why we don’t hear so much about women’s stories in relation to war. I think women are too busy ‘getting on with it’ to tell anyone their story. 

Even today, on the site of the killing fields, heavy rains still bring the rags of clothes people were wearing when they died to the surface and you will see people collecting the rags. One of the photographs in Torn is called Rags to reflect this.”

There are also plenty of stories closer to home.

Even mam started telling me about her Second World War experience for the first time,” says Lee. “She wasn’t evacuated like many children in Hull, so her experience was of hiding under tables, getting covered in dust from explosions. And when I asked her why she’d never mentioned it to me before, she said: ‘Well, you just get on with it, don’t you?’”

Lee volunteers with Hull Women’s Refugee Group and women from the group have played a part in Torn by making textiles for the exhibition that represent their journey.

Some such as Huda from Aleppo, Syria, was in Hull visiting her son – and while she was here, the airfield fell. Back home in Aleppo, she was a very successful businesswoman, who ran her own pharmacy and owned a large property. But while she was away, people took her car, then her house.

Huda is part of Torn because, despite losing almost everything she has managed to build a new life in Hull,” says Lee. “There are a million Hudas out there.

There’s Arafa from Darfur in Sudan, who is also taking part in Torn – Arafa is a survivor of refugee camps, who fled and managed to keep her family together and start again. There’s Ayak, who fled South Sudan for a new life in America when her life was in danger. She escaped to safety but she had to leave her mother behind.

Lee says she originally thought that Torn would represent the end of a decade of interviews and portraits with 70 women, having read hundreds of testimonials and first-hand accounts, and visited locations of war, conflict and genocide. To show how women everyday are being affected by war, conflict and genocide and how they are coping with the trauma and the aftermath. “I’m realising now,” she says, “that this piece of work merely scratches the surface of what’s really going on out there.” She pauses: “You just get on with it, don’t you?”


TORN is at Humber Street Gallery from 6 Nov to 31 Dec 2017. It is a collaboration with sound artist Hayley Youell, textile artist Liz Knight and members of the Hull Women’s Refugee Group, and the culmination of Lee Karen Stow’s documentary project and exhibition Poppies: Women, War, Peace that was part of 2014’s First World War Centenary.

Read more about the UN’s work to amplify the voices of women in conflict.

Olivia Arthur

Film: Photographer Olivia Arthur on Hull, Portrait Of A City

Capturing everything from a young Elvis impersonator to adolescent relationships, bodybuilders and pet snakes, Olivia Arthur’s stunning black and white photographs offer a refreshing take on Hull’s young people.

Exhibited as part of Hull, Portrait Of A City, alongside the work of celebrated documentary photographer Martin Parr, the images provide an honest portrayal of the individuality, identity and aspirations of Hull’s next generation of adults.

We caught up with Olivia to find out how she went about creating her work.

Hull, Portrait Of A City is on show at Humber Street Gallery until 31 Dec.

Martin Parr

Martin Parr: capturing Hull through its diverse food scene

Hull, Portrait of a City provides an insight into life in Hull during 2017, offering fresh perspectives from Magnum Photos photographers Martin Parr and Olivia Arthur. Where Olivia Arthur explores Hull’s creative youth, Martin Parr captures the city’s rich culinary scene in characteristic colour and comedy.

Walking the length and breadth of Hull’s streets, Martin Parr directed his lens towards a diverse mix of food shops, cafés and restaurants, laying bare the city’s attitudes, traditions and international links for all to see.

Entering the exhibition, you can’t miss Hull institution Bob Carver’s, with Hull’s speciality pattie taking pride of place beside it. The huge photo makes its presence felt, its size setting a precedent – this is Hull.

Hull, Portrait Of A City - Martin Parr. Photo © James Mulkeen.

Martin has worked hard to document the city’s well-known dishes and establishments, focusing on the local and avoiding the high street brands that have dominated our high streets in recent years.

Businesses like Glenton’s fishmongers, for Martin, are the ones we should value.

It’s these sort of characterful shops, still run by individuals that you cherish most. And in fact, I would say are most threatened, not only in Hull, but all around the country.

“The supermarkets, which I haven’t particularly included (apart from Stack It High Sell It Cheap) have really taken some of the steam out of the high street as we all know.

From Crisp ‘n’ Fry to Thieving Harry’s, Martin’s work champions independent outlets and those who still have the guts to run them, capturing the character, social life and culture of the city through its unsung heroes.

“It’s not just about food,” says Martin, “It’s as much about the characters and personalities in the portraits that I’ve done.”

He hopes that by featuring subjects from all walks of life, the exhibition will encourage people who might not necessarily go to a gallery, to do just that.

Photography is a very accessible and democratic art form,” he said. We were overwhelmed by all of the people who wanted to contribute to this project. I think the exhibition is a good demonstration of how photography can have a community role.”

Hull, Portrait Of A City - Martin Parr. Photo © James Mulkeen.

Martin’s work offers up a vision of Hull that is honest and triumphant, celebrating homegrown achievement and talent. He praises the shopkeepers, the café and restaurant owners, saying, “it’s really given the people in Hull a chance to see, through its food outlets, the incredible diversity that exists here.

The exhibition itself is part of Substance, a festival exploring the culture, creativity and future of the North. Hull, Portrait of a City looks to own the discussion on how we might define Hull, considering the impact culture has had on the city.

Martin reflects, “I was in Hull 20 years ago. The gentrification of areas like Humber Street make a big difference, and of course the attention Hull has gathered through being City of Culture has transformed the city.


Hull, Portrait of a City is on until 31 December at Humber Street Gallery.