Meet David Porter – the man behind Hull Jazz Festival

What’s your name, and what do you do?

 I’m David Porter and I’m the director of J-Night, the music promoters who’ve been producing the Hull Jazz Festival for the past 24 years, amongst many other varied and wonderful things.

What is Hull Jazz Festival?

Hull Jazz Festival’s evolved and developed over the years since we started in 1993. In the early days we provided one of the few opportunities to see great Jazz and World artists in Hull in large scale, free, outdoors settings.

The Festival made a huge impact with a series of events in 2007, commemorating the abolition of slavery and William Wiberforce, culminating in the massive reggae celebration Sankofa Sunsplash in Queens Gardens, curated by Audrey Fosu.

2012 saw the birth of the Hull Jazz Festival’s iconic Yellow Bus stage, situated in the heart of Freedom Quarter, which immediately caught the public’s imagination. Providing a unique blend of Jazz influenced, high energy non-stop performances, Yellow Bus aims to bring the best international, regional and local artists to Hull to celebrate Freedom. Our artists celebrate the spirit of Freedom and audiences respond to their passion. There’s a really varied range of styles, from Akala’s hip hop to the coolest of bebop jazz sounds of Empirical – both MOBO award winners. And from the rocksteady Jamaican sounds of Last Train to Skaville via the Cuban classical violin of Omar Puente to the New Orleans street sounds of New York Brass Band – just to name a few. I guess that sums up our approach.

We programme three festivals a year now. We’ve got the summer jazz festival in July at Hull Truck, the Freedom main stage outdoors in September and the jazz festival’s winter edition in November, where we work with young people from Hull Music Hub and the University, who perform on the same bill as leading international artists.

The Jazz Festival Winter Edition is bringing artists from around the world to Hull. Who can we look forward to seeing?

Headliners Robert Glasper Experiment are definitely worth checking out when they play at Hull Truck on 18 November – this show’s a coup for the festival. Robert Glasper’s an incredible jazz pianist and one of the most in-demand hip-hop producers and collaborators in the US just now. Over the past few years he’s worked with Bilal, Common, Mos Def, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu, to name just a few. And he’s at the forefront of a wave of artists, including Kamasi Washington and Kendrick Lamar, who are redefining jazz for a new audience. This is really exciting.

Robert Glasper’s an incredible jazz pianist and one of the most in-demand hip-hop producers and collaborators in the US just now.

Another American artist, Stacey Kent, brings her band to Hull Truck on 15 November, performing exquisite versions of classic American jazz standards like The Very Thought of You. It’s great to be part of a world tour that also takes in legendary jazz venues like Ronnie Scotts and New York’s Birdland! Tickets for both these headline shows are flying out of the door.

We try to make the Festival full of contrast.  I’m particularly looking forward to the intriguing combination of ex-Communards singer Sarah Jane Morris (she provided the lush, deep voice on Don’t Leave Me This Way) and Italian acoustic guitarist Antonio Forcione, who’ll be with us on 17th November.

There’s a really diverse mix of artists in the programme, from big band jazz to Cuban fusion to hip hop. How do you define jazz at the festival?

We’re aware that audiences have a wide range of tastes, influences and styles and it’s our aim to provide a diverse range of music styles in different venues across the city. For us, jazz is a contemporary art form, very much alive, and we’re really fortunate that there are so many highly talented artists, from the UK and further afield, who’ll come to Hull. Audiences here respond to musicians who mix up traditional genres to make fresh sounds for the 21st century and we’ll continue to push this. We have a broad definition of jazz – reggae, blues, fado, soul, urban, hip hop – are all massively influenced by the jazz tradition.

If I’d never been to Hull Jazz Festival before, who should I come and see?

If hip-hop and R&B are your thing, you should definitely book your ticket for Robert Glasper Experiment.  If you like salsa, Omar Puente’s Cuban Sextet are the real deal. Cleveland Watkiss is one of the best male vocalists in Britain and he’ll be performing with Tom Harrison Quintet, celebrating the music of the late, great Duke Ellington.

And if you love the Big Band sound of folk like Buddy Rich then you should check out our Big Band Spectacular with City of Hull Youth Jazz Orchestra, East Riding Youth Jazz Orchestra and the jazz festival debut of Hull Big Band.

How would you sum up the festival in three words?

Thrilling, different, surprising (in a good way!)

 2017 is just around the corner. What have you got planned for our year as UK City of Culture?

We’re working with Serious, Europe’s largest jazz producers (who run the London Jazz Festival) and we’ll be bringing some big international names to Hull. 2017 also marks Hull Jazz Festival’s 25th anniversary!

In February we’ll celebrate the influence that composer, drummer and Hull resident Basil Kirchin had on the music industry with an immersive and far-reaching weekend of music, talks, film screenings and more centred on City Hall. Highlights announced so far include the BBC Concert Orchestra with Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, DJ sets in unusual spaces from Jerry Dammers. Watch this space for more artist announcements very soon…

Kirchin’s intriguing history represents a collision of popular and experimental musical cultures that predate and define so much of the music we hear today.

In July we’ll present a new piece of music from the Mercury Prize-nominated Manchester jazz trio GoGo Penguin, renowned for their minimalist piano themes, deeply propulsive bass lines and electronica-inspired drums. They’re creating a piece inspired by Basil Kirchin and the Northern industrial landscape that they’ll premiere in July at the PRSF New Music Biennial in Hull at Fruit and at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

The July Jazz Festival will be headlined by a new band led by Courtney Pine with the extraordinary Omar (There’s Nothing Like This) on vocals.

We’ll be announcing more of our 2017 programme soon, with exciting artists throughout the year. Keep an eye on our website www.jnight.org and sign up there for latest news.

We’re celebrating Basil Kirchin in February 2017 at Mind on the Run. What influence do you think this forgotten musical pioneer has had on the jazz scene today?

Basil Kirchin is without a doubt the forgotten genius of post-war British music. He covered so many styles and influenced so many movements – a pioneer of musique concrete, his remarkable life stretched from the days when British dance hall music mutated into rock’n’roll, through a succession of film scores and pop song-writing, before retreating to Hull, where he created sonic landscapes that still challenge convention to this day.  Described by Brian Eno as “a founding father of ambient music”, Kirchin’s intriguing history represents a collision of popular and experimental musical cultures that predate and define so much of the music we hear today.

Basil Kirchin connects the first British rock’n’roll discs of 1950s Britain, Vincent Price and The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the nagra tape recorder and the industrial sounds of the north.  His riches-to-rags journey embraces Hull, its urban and natural landscape, and the city’s uncanny ability to harbour artists and visionaries who’ve reflected and influenced the much wider world around them.

He sadly died in obscurity in Hull in 2005. We hope that this celebration of his work for Hull UK City of Culture 2017 will re-spark an interest in his extraordinary music.

Find out more about Jnight and Hull Jazz Festival at jnight.org.

Meet the artist: Adele Howitt

Established in 2009 by artists Rob Moore and Adele Howitt, Studio Eleven workshop and gallery offers specialist space for printmakers and ceramicists in the heart of Hull’s Fruit Market.

A quiet retreat from the diggers and orange barriers that are transforming Humber Street, the gallery has a rolling programme of exhibitions, artist talks and workshops. Their current exhibition – Shirley Goodsell’s A Family’s Journey Through Hull’s Old Town – runs until 13 November.

The studio is open to the public free of charge from Friday to Sunday, 11am-4pm.

We headed down to Studio Eleven on a rainy day earlier this year to meet ceramic artist Adele Howitt and find out how living and working in Hull has influenced her work.

First Story National Writing Competition

First Story’s mission is to change lives through writing. They bring professional writers into secondary schools to help students find their voices through intensive, fun programmes. All students and teachers at secondary schools across the UK are invited to enter up to 850 words of poetry or prose on the theme of “Footprints” for the First Story National Writing Competition . The subject can be explored in any way your creative flow takes you.

A final shortlist will be judged by multi-award-winning authors Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime), Juno Dawson (All of the Above) and Salena Godden (Springfield Road, The Good Immigrant).

Prizes include: an Arvon creative writing course; money for your school; £100 for teachers who submit more than 50 entries; the chance to attend an awards ceremony in London; and publication of you work in a professional anthology. To be in with a chance of winning, submit your entry to First Story before midnight on Wednesday 23 November 2016.

We asked Dave Windass, First Story programme officer for Hull, about the importance of getting young people involved with the project…

You’ve been involved in Hull’s arts scene for more than two decades, what do you think it is about Hull that makes it so cultured and inspirational?

Philip Larkin’s quote about us “having an end-of-the-line sense of freedom” in Hull is often trotted out as the reason we’re different in terms of a place in which to flourish creatively, but I think that our freedom comes from the fact that we’re forward thinking and progressive.

As a port, we look across to Europe, and the possibilities of travel and escape beyond the Humber fuel our ideas and state of mind. We’re as free as birds, or fish, and looking at the wide expanse of water that flows alongside the city is liberating and an incredible source of material.

In a lot of ways, Hull and its creative landscape is uncharted territory. It is possible to be pioneering, here, and to be wholly original and different. We’re unlike anywhere else and we know it. We know that we’re special and now we’re ready to shout about it – brace yourselves for a whole raft of unique and very special work!

First Story offers many opportunities for young people, teachers and writers in Hull, what do you think that means for the city?

The First Story programme brings so many positives to school life and for all involved and it is wonderful that the programme is running in Hull, a city that has an abundance of creative talent of all ages. The focus of the programme allows the nurturing and development of young people’s creative writing.

Our talented writers working in the city are all successful and acclaimed and all have Hull connections – it’s inspiring to look at them and realise that anyone from this city can work as a writer if they have the necessary burning desire and it’s what they want to do. It’s great to think that new voices will develop and be heard thanks to the First Story programme and that those voices and the work produced could potentially be heard and read beyond the city.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with the First Story programme?

I know what a difference the First Story programme will make to the city.  I have attended First Story anthology launches elsewhere in the country and recently went to the Young Writers’ Festival in Oxford, all of which were amazingly life-affirming.

I am already in awe of the young people who participate in sessions and how creative they can be and I simply cannot wait until students from Hull secondary schools start to get their work out there and for people to take notice of them and how fantastically talented they are.

What would it mean for a student from Hull to succeed in the National Writing Competition?

Their work will be published in an anthology, a proper bound book, professionally produced. That will be an amazing achievement and we will be shouting about them loudly come next year.

As well as an increase in creativity, the young people on the programme will grow in confidence during the course of the year. There will be a lot of pride on display and that will grow with each new piece of work that is written.

Do you have any advice for the budding young writers of Hull?

Just do it. Writing can be hard work and requires a certain amount of discipline. But it’s also a lot of fun and the positive benefits are incredible. A good piece of writing can change lives and the world. Go and create that.

Finally, do you have a favourite short story or poem? If so, what?

I love Edward Lear’s Nonsense Works and I’m pretty sure the first book I owned was A Book of Nonsense. Somewhere there’s a recording of me as a five-year-old reading Lear’s limericks, I especially love The Owl and The Pussycat. Later, when I discovered it, Charles Bukowski’s So You Want to be a Writer? became a particular favourite. In contrast to Lear, it’s a pretty no-nonsense piece of work!

 

Still need some inspiration?

Read last year’s winning entry, a moving piece on the subject of Echoes, from Maria Clark (Hemel Hempstead School KS4) here.

For more information and to submit your entry go to firststory.org.uk/footprints.

Woody Woodmansey

The rise and rise of the spider from Hull

Woody Woodmansey has unfinished business in Hull.

Drummer Woody, along with guitarist Mick Ronson and bassist Trevor Bolder, formed David Bowie’s legendary backing band, the Spiders From Mars. Together, they changed the world’s music scene, made some of the most influential albums in history and became Hull’s greatest musical export while they were at it.

“When you’re out on the road, out with Bowie, you don’t think that what you’re doing is going to still be played on radio shows worldwide 40 years on. I think we did a good job there,” says Woody, who is, as it turns out, a master of the understatement.

The Spiders played with Bowie on the albums that many consider to be his best: The Man Who Sold The World; Hunky Dory; The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars; and Aladdin Sane. But for almost five decades, and countless world tours, there’s one venue that has remained firmly on the bucket list.

The Spiders from Mars – photo © Woody Woodmansey

“I used to walk down Whitefriargate on a Saturday, past Hull City Hall, and think ‘I’d love to play there’,” says Woody, the last surviving member of the band. “Then when we were touring the world, the three of us from Hull always used to say, ‘we’ll be playing Hull City Hall this time’, but there was always something on, or it didn’t fit with our schedules.”

That’s about to be put right for City of Culture.

On two highly anticipated nights in March 2017, Woody’s Bowie supergroup Holy Holy – which includes long-time Bowie collaborator and producer Tony Visconti on bass, and Heaven 17 frontman Glenn Gregory on vocals – will perform the classic 1972 album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust  And The Spiders From Mars. In its entirety. At Hull City Hall.

Tickets to both gigs sold like hotcakes and Woody couldn’t be happier with his Hull 2017 homecoming.

“We’re going for a residency now,” he jokes. “It’s exciting for me to be playing the full Ziggy album for the first time, and it’s always nice to be selling out gigs. But at this particular time, it’s such a brilliant start to the whole year of City of Culture.”

Growing up to the north of Hull, in the town of Driffield, the young Woody was part of a thriving late-Sixties music scene in the city. He and Mick Ronson were in The Rats before they became Spiders and there were other Hull bands he rated as “good bands, that’d still be good bands now”, like Nothing Ever Happens and Roger Bloom’s Hammer.

That creative pulse, that creative urge is in everyone but it’s really important to get it out.

He says: “Hull always was a creative area. I always thought it was overlooked, but next year, we’ll let people know that Hull’s creativity never went away. It’s good to see investment coming in now. And it’ll be a healthier area for kids, with more art things and more music, so kids growing up can think, ‘what do I fancy trying? I’ll give that a go.”

And that’s one of the things that City of Culture can really do for Hull, says Woody. It can give people the space and the confidence to be creative, to stick their heads above the parapet and to have a go.

“That creative pulse, that creative urge is in everyone but it’s really important to get it out,” he says. “It isn’t about whether you’re successful or not. Whether you’re playing to 30 people or 30,000, it’s the same thing. Even if you’re only playing down the local pub, or selling a few artworks, it’s a really important part of life. It’s that urge within, the joy of doing the thing that you’re passionate about.

“It might take a bit of courage to make that first step, to have the courage to try something out. But that’s all the ones that make it ever do, they think, ‘I’d like to do this’. And it’s all right to fail. It doesn’t kill you.”

Woody Woodmansey on stage with Tony Visconti – photo © Woody Woodmansey

There are plenty of exciting projects on the go. Alongside Holy Holy’s Bowie homage, there’s a project with his son Danny and a collaboration with Rita Ora

With drumming, he says, the beat is the thing: “I love that rhythmical pulse in music and film that keeps me attached to things. You can put the radio on and if there’s a good beat, you notice it, even if you don’t know the song. The rhythm gets you first. To be able to work out a groove or a beat that gets you – that’s what it’s all about.

“Plus,” he adds, laughing, “I like to be noisy and I’m a show-off.”

Even so, for Woody, Mick and Trevor, the transition from Hull’s music scene to David Bowie’s backing band was a little bit of a culture shock.

You didn’t just turn up and play in the Spiders From Mars, says Woody. You moved into Bowie’s bohemian home, where you might find yourself hanging out with Marc Bolan, Andy Warhol or Iggy Pop.

It was like walking into a rock’n’roll show, just living at the place.

The whole, heady experience was something of an eye-opener for a 19-year-old lad who was more used to playing gigs and watching bands with his mate Mick at Hull’s Skyline Club, or the Gondola coffee bar.

“It was an education,” says Woody. “I went down on the train from Hull Paragon Station with Mick. All I knew about Bowie was he’s got this big house, and it’s like a big artist community. It was like walking into a post-hippy type thing, but it wasn’t hippy-looking, it was what was happening in London at that time.

“I had my eyes wide open. I was wearing jeans with patches, moccasins and a denim shirt, with my hair halfway down my back – and Mick was dressed pretty similar to me. When I met Bowie for the first time, he was wearing red corduroy trousers, slip-on shoes that he’d sprayed red and stuck stars on to, and he was covered in bangles. It was like walking into a rock’n’roll show, just living at the place.”

Bowie also insisted on taking the Spiders out to shows, plays and even the ballet.

“I don’t think I’d ever been to a play before,” says Woody. “Either Mick or I would say, ‘what’s the play called?’, and Bowie would say, ‘I don’t know, I want you to see the lighting director and how the scene changes with lights’. He was educating us for lighting on stage.”

They had to learn quickly. The bright lights of global superstardom were already upon them, but the Hull Spiders kept each other grounded.

“What you miss when you leave Hull is that Hull sense of humour,” says Woody. “Luckily, there were three of us in the band, all with that sense of humour. I mean, Bowie went through that whole Andy Warhol / Iggy Pop phase – we were mixing with those sorts of people all of a sudden.

“We did Carnegie Hall, which was the biggest gig we’d ever played with David, so all four of us were a bit, ‘this is a big gig’. I said, ‘don’t worry about it, if we go out and squint, and pretend it’s Beverley Regal, we’ll be okay’. We took the music seriously, but we always had that Hull sense of humour.

“It goes all the way through Hull, that does. People tell you what they think and you have to get used to that.”

Well, you do when you’re brave enough to have a go. Woody Woodmansey, we salute you.

Woody Woodmansey’s memoir, My Life With Bowie, Spider From Mars, is out on Thursday 3 November, 2016, and is available for pre-order here.

SOLD OUT: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Hull City Hall. Saturday 25 March 2017 and Sunday 26 March 2017.

David Sinclair

Meet the curator: David Sinclair

We ask the man in charge of Hull’s newest home of contemporary art, Humber Street Gallery, about some of the highlights ahead.

Curator David Sinclair has exclusive exhibitions such as COUM Transmissions to open a programme that’s up there with the best in the world.

“It’s a contemporary take on what’s happened in Hull over the past few decades,” says David. “Hopefully, you’ll fall in love with the space like we have.”

Opening Event: Made in Hull

Staged as a trail of discovery across Hull city centre over seven days, Made In Hull will be a light and sound spectacular.

It’s the first major installation work of 2017, and it celebrates 70 years of the city as seen through the eyes of Bafta-nominated documentary film-maker and top Hull bloke Sean McAllister.

Sean is best-known for his Bafta-nominated film A Syrian Love Story, a moving fly-on-the-wall documentary that follows a family from war-torn Syria to Europe over the course of five years. Released in 2015, the film continues to collect awards all over the world.

But as creative director of Made In Hull, Sean returns to his roots, to the city where he grew up and where he learnt his craft.

“When you think about art, as a working-class person from Hull, you often feel it isn’t for you. I’ve tried to make each of the pieces in Made In Hull adventurous – exciting and full of wow – but also full of content.”

– Sean McAllister, creative director, Made in Hull

He’s working in partnership with Hull writer Rupert Creed – “he crystallises my ideas” – local and international light and sound artists, and a creative team that’s in great demand when it comes to producing some of the biggest shows on the planet. The team includes Olympics event veterans Hull lighting designer Durham Marenghi, producer Niccy Hallifax and production designer Ala Lloyd, as well as sound designer and composer Dan Jones.

The carnivalesque show invites everyone in the city to follow a trail of jaw-dropping outdoor projections on to some of Hull’s most iconic buildings and spaces.

It begins in Queen Victoria Square, goes down Whitefriargate where there will be pieces in shop windows, into areas of the Old Town and more. The idea is that people of all ages can drop in for a hour, or spend a whole evening, from 4pm – 9pm, seeing Hull in a completely new light.

Sean is commissioning artists to cover some of the highs and lows of the city’s recent past.

“Made In Hull is first and foremost an amazing show and a great night out,” he says. “It’s also about me as a documentary film-maker playing on my documentary instincts.

“It’s about Hull, post Second World War – it was the second most-bombed city in the country, but was never acknowledged as such; the heyday of the city’s fishing industry when you had your three-day millionaires and Hull was a beacon of the north; and it’s about the following 20 years of recession.

“Hull, though, has a fantastic way of rebuilding itself. The city, and its people, seem to have an ingrained spirit of defiance that rises to challenge adversity. There’s an installation about the city’s club scene, about its sports and about the future. There’s a moment of hope now, with investors such as Siemens coming into the city.

“I want people to come and be wowed by some of the shows, then maybe go home and think about some of them, to feel proud and hopeful for 2017 that stuff’s happening in Hull and that it’s going to impact on everybody, in a real positive way.”

Everyone back to mine

Actress, director and all-round creative type Sarah Louise Davies has been welcoming guests into her west Hull home for more than a year. She’s an established Airbnb host and a keen independent traveller, so who better to ask for a bit of insider Homestay knowledge?

 Q: What made you decide to become a host?

A: I couldn’t ever imagine a having a home where the doors weren’t open. It feels natural. I get joy from it.  We’re born and made for community and I love having people coming and going.  Airbnb has brought me short-term guests to occupy a spare room. It has confirmed my love of connecting people with brilliant things and giving people an extraordinary, restful experience while they’re here.  I always want my home to be a place where people can rest, share, work, be curious, play and create if they want. I can imagine I’ll be hosting a few creatives, performers and theatre people throughout 2017, too.

 Q: How do you become a host?

A: Decide if it’s going to suit your lifestyle and your tribe first.  Own a home, hoover your spare room, take some photos of your house on a sunny day and jump online. The [Airbnb] website is easy to navigate. Make your space visible and have a conversation – you only offer what you want and what suits you, so guests know what to expect. Honesty’s a good game to play.

Q: Is it an easy process?

A: As easy as you want to make it. Just ensure the person can get in the house. Homestay is a way to be paid for the privilege of being a human and meeting other humans and worlds. The website is on your side. It just takes a little bit of time, good communication and preparation, you can choose the how, the when and the who. I find it easy and it suits my life at different times, but it’s not for everyone.

Q: Is it safe?

A: Yes. It comes with a simplicity that massively overrides any imagined or real risk. Reviews, ID checks and conversation are there to give you confidence in your visitors. If you don’t want someone, you can say no. I’ve had experiences where it’s not worked out. But overall, it’s been brilliant and curious and easy and lovely.

Q: Is there a social aspect to hosting?

 A: My guests have all been good people. They’ve sewn up holes in my gloves, cooked for me, taken bins out and left me gifts. So it’s working so far. I’m still in touch with several of the people who have stayed at mine and have made great friends. We have exchanged and shared stories, food, work, practical help, music and culture. I even gave someone a job through it, met new collaborators and have been offered places to stay and work abroad. Or, sometimes, I don’t even see them.

Q: Who comes to stay?

A: My guests over the past year have included: A Sea of Hull participant on a last-minute whim to strip and paint herself blue; a pilot from new Zealand on training; a famous children’s author on tour; a postgraduate from the European Capital of Culture 2017, Aarhus, Denmark, who was finishing a thesis at the University of Hull; a few actors; a musician; a photographer; and a journalist who was purely curious about the fish and chips here.

Q: Do you also visit other people’s homes?

A: Yes. My last one was Nottingham and my next is looking like Berlin. I love staying in real places with real people when I travel.

Q: What’s the best thing about welcoming people into your home?

A: The new people. It’s an exchange. I find it fascinating and energising.  There are no ties, you make your own rules and choose when you need the rooms. It’s great to occasionally come home to different, interesting, adventurous, positive and real people. I know Hull inside out. So it’s a pleasure to help people experience something new and extraordinary here. That might be as simple as recommendations for things to do and places to go, or local knowledge about where to get secret scrambled eggs or catch a rooftop gig.

Q: And the worst?

 A: I’ve really not had any bad experiences. I was once woken up super early. But I got over it. I once locked someone out by leaving my keys in the door. They got over it, too.  People might be anxious about strangers or simply the imagined impractical peril of popping a weekend’s comfort bubble. But the benefits really do blow those frets out of the Humber.

Q: Do you think there’s a benefit to the wider community?

A: On so many levels. Living in more expansive, open, cooperative ways, including sharing space with new people at home, benefits everyone. I’d recommend everyone to try it at some stage in life. It’s a really humbling and life-enriching thing to do. It’s a thing that grants people freedom and independence while doing it in a community. Those things should be encouraged, supported and nurtured well. Not sharing our stuff, lives and space is expensive, unhealthy, damaging, boring and settling for less.  All visitors take their experiences and new knowledge and stories home with them. They might even come back! They might tell the world. The potential to embrace that opportunity for Hull is huge.

Q: And finally … any top tips for others thinking of welcoming guests into their homes in 2017?

A: Be practical.

Always have good proper coffee in.

Your fridge can never be too big.

Stock up on coathangers and blankets

Consider what you like and need when you arrive in a new place. What would you like to walk into?

Throw a party.

Tell your neighbours.

Invest in a good cooking pot.

If you rent, you need to check and ask permission from your agent or landlord.

Remember that anyone’s experience in your home is unique to you and them – you make it what it is.

Find out more about our Homestay campaign here.

The Complete Deaths by Spymonkey

Death becomes them 

With stabbings, suicides, severed heads, poisonings, mobbings and a smothering, The Complete Deaths is not your average night at the theatre – but it does promise to be a surprisingly good laugh.

The Hull Truck show arrives courtesy of four-piece physical comedy clown outfit Spymonkey, who rattle off all 74 of William Shakespeare’s onstage deaths throughout one extremely bloody, gutsy performance. Although of course the real death count is 75, if you count the dead fly that Bard buffs may recognise from Titus Andronicus.

“You sometimes have the feeling that you’re watching a very strange Olympic sport,” says Toby Park, one of the UK’s top clowns, University of Hull alumni and founder member of Spymonkey. “We have an LED display that says the name of character and the name of the play, and we get a lady of senior age to sit by the stage knitting and calmly counting off the deaths on a click counter.”

The Complete Deaths sees Spymonkey teaming up with director Tim Crouch to mark this year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The show is for everybody. You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare at all.

They’ve been described, Toby says, as a theatre company for people who don’t like theatre, an accolade he is very happy to hold.

“The show is for everybody,” he says. “You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare at all. We’ve been touring the show since May, and newcomers and Shakespeare scholars have enjoyed it equally.”

Set up in 1998, the Brighton-based Spymonkey gang have toured worldwide – including stints at Sydney Opera House, the West End, Montreal, and a two-year diversion from their own work as “porno clowns” (in Toby’s words) as part of Cirque De Soleil’s Las Vegas Zumanity show.

An alumnus of the University of Hull, Toby regularly runs workshops in the city to share the Spymonkey ethos with theatre practitioners ranging from Northern Lights to Middle Child Theatre.

“Sometimes, people who like theatre only talk to other people who like theatre,” he explains. “We don’t agree with that. The Complete Deaths has flavours of Little Britain, alternative comedy and sketch comedy – people are very comfy with that sort of humour and taste. We muck about with the conventions of theatre, we poke fun at them and we are unashamedly entertaining and accessible.”

The Complete Deaths runs at Hull Truck Theatre from Tuesday 6 September to Saturday 10 September at 7.30pm, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday 10 September. Recommended for ages 14+.

In Conversation With… Mikey Martins

Mikey Martins is the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Freedom Festival. The annual festival is an explosion of creativity in Hull city centre, celebrating our city’s independent spirit and historic contribution to the cause of freedom through artistic and cultural expression.

We speak to the Cornishman to find out about his love of the sea, his cultural icons, and how the festival explores the idea of freedom.

Find out all about Freedom Festival 2016 and book tickets for events at www.freedomfestival.co.uk.

NHS Choir

Sing when you’re winning – we meet Hull’s NHS choir

If you ever needed proof that singing brings people together, just take a look at HEY Let’s Sing, the Hull and East Yorkshire NHS choir.

Formed out of the All for One group of choirs, HEY Let’s Sing is a workplace choir created for NHS staff in Hull and the wider region. Anyone working for the HEY NHS Trust can join, and with no auditions and no previous experience necessary it’s truly open to all. Doctors, nurses, cardiologists – as long as you’re saving lives in Hull, you can join.

We joined them for a rehearsal in Hull to meet co-founders Lucy and Bonnie, as well as Musical Director and founder of All for One Helen Garnett (head of Britain’s Got Talent’s Garnett Family) to find out why the choir makes such a difference to the lives of its members.

Da Vinci Engineered

Discovering da Vinci in Hull

If my school days were anything to go by, art and science haven’t always gone hand-in-hand. Like a particularly depressing school disco, conventional wisdom means creative types sit over on one side, science-y types on the other.

That view is changing in Hull, with the Amy Johnson Festival STEAM-ing ahead to explore the beautiful and fascinating connection between art, design, science and engineering.

Along these lines, one of this year’s Amy Johnson Festival highlights is ‘Da Vinci Engineered’, an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s flight and wind machines presented alongside the work of 12 contemporary artists in Zebedee’s Yard, Hull.

‘The exhibition demonstrates the links between art and engineering,’ explains Rick Welton, Festival Director at the Amy Johnson Festival, ‘reminding people that the creativity of the artist and the practical ingenuity of the engineer are two sides of the same coin.’

The 12 faithful reproductions of da Vinci’s inventions are on loan from Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence. ‘It’s the first time that these particular models have been seen in the UK’ says Rick, giving visitors in Hull a unique chance to see the Renaissance master’s genius up close.

Da Vinci’s machines sit side by side with contemporary artworks, ranging from interactive sculptures to paper feathers, each exploring different aspects of the relationship between creativity, engineering and flight. ‘Sabine Bieli’s delicate work, ‘Hatched’, made from fine threads and mohair, is a stand-out piece that creates wings that seem to float on the air’ explains Rick.

‘I do especially like the interactivity of Savinder Bual’s propellers too’ says Rick, ‘and so do the many young people have been to the exhibition.’

The festival’s organisers are hopeful that the exhibition can inspire children and young people to think about careers in design and engineering, challenging the conventional wisdom that drives a wedge between art and science. ‘It’s been interesting watching school groups sketching the da Vinci works’ Rick says, ‘and then tackling the practical matter of building their own wing from sticks made out of rolled up newspapers’.

The Amy Johnson Festival continues this month with plenty more events and exhibitions that explore the parallels between art and engineering. The festival celebrates the life of Hull’s aviatrix Amy Johnson, with ‘Amy Johnson – A Life in Pictures’ taking an intimate look at Amy’s incredible life through a series of exhibitions and a hardback book filled with photos.

Look out for Maker Fest too (‘a day of crazy inventions and craft works’ says Rick), plus a brand new statue of Amy to be unveiled in September, and the premiere of a new dance commission for the festival at the Stage@theDock on Sunday 28 August.

Find out more about what’s coming up at the Amy Johnson Festival 2016 at amyjohnsonfestival.co.uk

Why I volunteer: Val Cook

The thing that motivated me to apply to become a 2017 volunteer was the fact that it’s such a huge thing to be happening in our city! It all sounded so exciting.

I’m an ICT Tutor and I’ve never volunteered before, I signed up after creating resources about Hull 2017 for my students. I thought, why teach it when I can do it?

I suppose I was in a rut – work then sleep, work then sleep – so I wanted new experiences in my life.

As a Pioneer Volunteer, so far I’ve helped out on the community road shows and at the selection centres. The part I enjoyed the most was talking with individuals and groups who were interested in applying for the community grants programme, I really felt confident in motivating people to take the step to apply. It was so interesting in hearing about all of the incredible things people were doing in our communities.

Interviewing the potential volunteers was great too. I was able to reflect on how I’d felt a few months ago, being interviewed myself by the City of Culture team. I have experience interviewing people through my current role as a Tutor, so I felt a nice balance between the familiar and the new experience of selection centres.

My best moment by far was volunteering on the amazing show, Place Des Anges. My role was to start up one of the huge blowers which were placed on the show site and add the feathers, creating the great spectacle at the end of the show. It was so much fun!

The reality of being a 2017 volunteer has far surpassed my expectations. I feel very much involved in the whole process – it feels more like a family than a group of volunteers. I have a much wider knowledge of the city as a whole too.

I love wearing the uniform, when I’m on route to a session people often stop and talk to me about 2017, and I feel proud to represent the city. I tell everyone who’ll listen what an amazing experience it is to be a 2017 volunteer and that they should sign up!

Before our initial training, I was a little unsure of what to expect. I came away being so fired up, and that feeling has never stopped. After the year’s celebrations have come to an end, I’d like to continue to volunteer; I wish I’d done it a long time ago.  

Find out more about volunteering for Hull 2017 here – and apply now!

Kin Barely Methodical Troupe

Behind the scenes with Louis Gift from Barely Methodical Troupe

Gravity-defying stunts are all in a day’s work for Louis Gift – co-founder of Barely Methodical Troupe.

The group burst onto the scene in 2014 with Bromance, exploring the complexity of male relationships using movement, acrobatics and tricks. After meeting at the National Centre for Circus Arts, BMT’s three founder members have forged a style that merges circus skills with dance, acrobatics and breakdancing, creating high-energy, high-impact shows.

Two years on from Bromance, and their energy is just as relentless. The three founders are back on the road (next stop: Hull) with a brand new show for 2016 – Kin. Having added a few more performers to their ranks, their latest show investigates the nature of group dynamics, with Louis jostling for attention with a whole host of new performers.

Kin is heading to Hull Truck Theatre from the 26-28 May, which is something of a homecoming for Louis. Born in Hull (and son of Fine Young Cannibals frontman Roland Gift), Louis now spends much of his time out on the road performing. We grabbed a few minutes with him to chat about Kin before he heads back up to Hull.

Who are Barely Methodical Troupe, and what do you do?

Barely Methodical Troupe is an experimental acrobatic company. We fuse circus acrobatics, dance and theatre to make shows that not only have the classic death defying stunts, but also have a narrative which allows us to connect with the audience on an emotional level.

Your first show Bromance was a huge success. What can we expect from your new show Kin?

Bromance was only three of us (Charlie, Beren, and myself), and in Kin we’ve expanded our cast to six. This means we’re not only able to do a lot more tricks, but much bigger, scarier, and more spectacular ones; lots of big throws and catches, lots of somersaults, lots of human towers! You can expect much more of an “edge of your seat” vibe from this show.

When you’re devising new work like Kin, where do you start?

We usually start with a small idea or theme, nothing too definite, to base our moves around. Tricks are a big thing for us. We like to keep pushing our skills as acrobats so a lot of the tricks you’ll see in Kin have been developed especially for this show. One of the hardest things to do is to contextualise the tricks within the narrative, otherwise it just becomes an exhibition of skill. This means that a lot of time is spent on working out how we can get into a trick without it looking too set up, or breaking the narrative.

You can expect much more of an “edge of your seat” vibe from this show.

Who are your biggest influences?

One of our biggest influences in terms of style are a French group called La Meute (The Wolf Pack). They are a group of six guys with crazy skills who manage to intertwine tricks and narrative very successfully. Traces by 7 Fingers was a big influence for us too as it was one of the first contemporary circus shows we saw, and was also the first time we saw a lot of the disciplines we’re very familiar with now.

Your shows mix traditional circus skills and acrobatics with relatively new techniques, like the Cyr wheel. What’s your favourite skill to perform?

My favourite thing to perform is hand-to-hand acrobatics. This is the discipline that Beren and I specialised in while we were on the degree program at the National Centre for Circus Arts. I really enjoy working with someone else and not just by myself. It’s so satisfying, and makes you feel like you are in a two man team while doing it!

It feels like circus is having a resurgence in the UK at the moment. Why do you think that is?

Circus is definitely having a resurgence. I think it’s partly down to the popularity of new extreme sports such as free running and breakdancing, and also things like the daredevil show Nitro Circus. People are really up for high energy performance these days. The cabaret scene has risen hugely in the last few years too, which generally involves a fair bit of circus. These are all really good ways for circus to reach much wider audiences, and show that it’s evolved from the days when going to the circus meant big tops and elephants.

You have a strong family link to Hull. What does it mean to you to bring your work here, in the run-up to 2017?

My dad and his family grew up here, two of my aunties still live here, and I was actually born here! It means a lot to be able to perform at Hull Truck Theatre because my dad used to go there when he was younger. He played Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet, which he fondly reminisces about on many occasions, so it’s really nice for me to be able to go and perform our show in Hull too.

Find out more about Kin and how to get tickets on the Hull Truck Theatre website. Performances are at 7.30pm, Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 May.

Tom Bellerby

A day in the life of a… youth theatre director

I get to the office at around 11am or 12pm most days as I work until quite late into the evening. It suits me though – I’ve always been a bit of a night owl. I live in Hull’s Old Town and if the weather is decent I am fond of a bit of a wander around the marina and river front area before work to get my brain in gear and think about what needs to happen that day.

I spend the first part of my day in meetings, planning future projects and keeping on top of Youth Theatre admin. We have nearly 150 young people in the Youth Theatre ranging from ages 8 – 10. We’ve been getting a lot of enquiries from new members recently so the admin can get quite busy, particularly at the start of a term. I also programme all the Youth Theatre’s productions (about seven a year) so I spend a fair amount of time reading plays. And of course there’s next year to plan for. 2017 is going to be big for the Youth Theatre and will see us create some really exciting work.

I also work on Grow, Hull Truck Theatre’s artist development programme. During the day I often have meetings with our Supported Artists to explore how Hull Truck Theatre can support their development needs as individuals and companies. I’ve only been here a year and one of the things that has really struck me about Hull is how much exciting work is coming from the theatre companies of this city.

Tom Bellerby

The busiest part of my day is at 5pm when our Youth Theatre members arrive. What we’re doing will depend on the time of year. All our groups perform once a year in our Studio, supported by the Hull Truck Theatre production team – rehearsals take up about half of the Youth Theatre year (it’s hard rehearsing shows in hour and a half chunks!) The other half of the year will be spent in skills sessions – looking at different areas of theatre. These skills sessions are really diverse and often lead by what the group wants to focus on. I’m currently looking at performing Shakespeare with our 16+ groups and have explored other areas such as physical theatre, improvisation and text work with other groups this year.

My top priority at the moment is our production of Edward Bond’s The Children that I’m directing with our 14 – 16 group, which opens next week. It’s a double bill with another of our Youth Theatre group’s production of The Mobile Phone Show by Jim Cartwright, directed by Lizi Perry. The Children is a dark thriller about a group of young people who decide to run away from home after a terrible incident and then discover everyone else has disappeared over night. The cast are doing brilliantly and we are all really looking forward to getting it in front of an audience next week!

I tend to finish at around 8.45pm or 9.00pm in the evening. I head home (or into one of Old Town’s many great pubs for a post work beer), indulge in a bit of Netflix (currently working my way through Breaking Bad – I know I’m one of the only people not to have watched it yet) and then get to bed ready for it to all start again. 

The Children and The Mobile Phone Show, a double bill by Hull Truck Youth Theatre, is showing at Hull Truck Theatre between Thursday 21 and Saturday 23 April, 7pm

For tickets call the Box Office 01482323638

Harriet City of Culture

Q+A: Harriet, Volunteer Engagement Manager

What’s your name?

Harriet Johnson

What’s your role at Hull UK City of Culture 2017?

I’m the Volunteer Engagement Manager. This means I’m responsible for getting people involved in the volunteer programme.

I’ve been working with communities across the city to talk about how everyone can get involved, and I’m really excited at the thought of people teaming up to support each other and have fun volunteering.

Why should people become a Hull 2017 volunteer?

There are so many reasons why someone should become a Hull 2017 volunteer! Volunteering is a great experience for a variety of reasons; it’s an opportunity to learn new skills, meet people and to challenge yourself.

I think volunteering for Hull 2017 is an amazing chance to celebrate our city and get involved with what will be a magical year of events. There are going to be so many different opportunities from front of house, meet and greet to backstage / technical that there will really be something for everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing all the wonderful stories that will unfold from the volunteers’ experiences.

How can people find out more about getting involved with Hull’s year as UK City of Culture?

We have community roadshows across the city and beyond in April and May. It’s a chance to meet our super pioneer volunteers who can talk to you about their experience so far and even help you make a start on your volunteer application form.

If you’d like to know a bit more and start your application, you can do that through our website.

What do you love most about Hull?

Over the years I have worked in Hull I’ve had the pleasure with working in lots of different settings. There are so many community groups doing fantastic work in the city and they are all powered by a love of the city they work and volunteer in. This energy is infectious. The people of Hull are what make this such a special city. Where else do you get a wave and a thank you if you stop your car at a zebra crossing?!

Hull is a magical city, I am incredibly passionate about people learning about its unique and wonderful places and there are so many hidden gems. Every year for Freedom Festival I invite friends from around the UK to visit and take part in the weekend – they are always blown away the amazing artists, performances and welcoming vibe.

I love the green spaces (and not just the ones that immediately spring to mind). You can walk to Beverley along the riverbank, pick wild plums at Loglands and watch wildlife at Noddle Hill.

What do you get up to when you’re not looking after our volunteer programme?

I am in Apple Crumble and Stitch Hull WI. We are based at Artlink on the third Thursday of every month. We have a fun and varied programme varying from coffee tasting to letter writing as well as more traditional crafts.

I love the outdoors and gardening. My favourite outdoor space locally is Loglands nature area and Spurn Point further afield, they have just renovated the lighthouse and I can’t wait to visit it.

If I have time I like to go to gigs too – my husband’s in a band although they’re very loud so I have a trusty pair of earplugs!


Harriet is out and about during April and May at our community roadshows – why not drop in and say hello? She’ll even be taking over our
Instagram account and sharing updates from the roadshow this Saturday 10 April, at Costello Playing Fields.

Our roadshows are visiting 22 different locations across Hull and Beverley in April and May, spreading the word about Hull 2017 and talking about how you can get involved. Find out where we’re heading next.