School arts education

Oh, the places they’ll go!

Schools in Hull are putting the arts at the heart of their curriculum ahead of 2017. That’s what our learning programme is all about, and that’s exactly what two primary schools in Hull have been doing in recent weeks.

As part of a project with theatre company Pilot Theatre and not for profit creative education organisation CapeUK, Oldfleet Primary School and Griffin Primary School have been using the arts as a way to understand their city and think about those important next steps in their lives.

Kelly Garner is the Assistant Head at Oldfleet Primary School, who explained a bit more about the project:

‘Many of our children have limited knowledge of the wider world and the opportunities available to them. We therefore wanted to make them more aware of the choices available and inform them of how they could achieve their goals.’

But how do you explore ideas as big as these, with a classroom of primary school pupils? Pilot Theatre chose to use the much-loved Dr Seuss poem Oh, the places you’ll go! to help the children think about the future in a way that’s accessible and fun, but might just move you to tears. The poem is written for children but has been enjoyed by generations of adults too, and encourages us to think about life’s journey; its ups and downs, challenges and opportunities. Inspired by the poem, the children worked with Pilot Theatre to create their own animated films that share Dr Seuss’s optimistic message.

The films make use of green screen technology and feature the pupils in starring roles throughout. The result is moving, hilarious and completely adorable. The pupils at Oldfleet Primary School and Griffin Primary School have even been kind enough to let us see their finished video, so I’m very happy to share their work with you here.

The arts are helping school pupils across Hull to understand more about their city, explore new ideas and have a load of fun whilst doing it. There’s plenty more to come in 2017 too – so watch this space.

Ira Aldridge

Othello in Hull – celebrating #Shakespeare400

Exactly 400 years ago today, William Shakespeare died quietly in Stratford. Since his death (on what some might argue was his 52nd birthday) Shakespeare has become the UK’s most enduring playwright, whose work has had a greater impact on our culture and language than anyone since. That’s why, right around the world, thousands of schools, universities and theatres are celebrating William Shakespeare today at events as part of Shakespeare400.

And although people might be quick to look to London or Stratford for a piece of Shakespearean history, here in Hull we have a fascinating link to celebrate too.

In the early 1800s Hull was a busy shipping port, with Humber Dock opening in 1809 in what is now part of the Marina. To keep the locals and visiting sailors entertained (and out of the pub) the city had several theatres, including the Theatre Royal Hull and Humber Street Theatre. Alongside the raucous variety shows and music hall acts, Shakespeare plays were incredibly popular with audiences in Hull. The city was an important stop for theatre companies touring the UK, who found audiences in Hull loved Shakespeare as much as anywhere else in the country and were always happy to see his plays on stage.

One actor who found Hull’s audiences friendlier than most was Ira Aldridge – an American born in New York who emigrated to the UK, becoming one of the most popular actors of the age. Aldridge was born to African American parents, and is remembered today as the first black actor to play Shakespeare’s Othello in 1826. A genuine pioneer, Aldridge was celebrated in the 2012 play Red Velvet, performed at the Tricycle Theatre in London and starring Adrian Lester.

Aldridge made his name performing in London, but with limited success. London was still home to the slave trade in England and so racial tensions were high, with The Times and other London papers giving racist reviews of Aldridge’s performances that relied on bigoted stereotypes, rather than actually reviewing his performances.

Hull, on the other hand, was much more welcoming to Aldridge. Thanks to William Wilberforce – Hull MP and vocal campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade in the early 1800s – the people of Hull understood the plight of slaves, and were altogether more enlightened when it came to civil rights. This extended to Aldridge too, with one Hull newspaper at the time describing his performance of Othello as one that could “be equalled by very few actors of the present day”, admiring Aldridge for his skill as an actor rather than dismissing him because of his race.

With Wilberforce campaigning in the House of Commons for the rights of slaves and Ira Aldridge (himself an outspoken abolitionist) on tour as the first black Othello in Hull, the early and mid 1800s were an important moment for civil rights in the UK. Attitudes were changing, and Hull was leading the way.

Aldridge was so confident in Hull’s open-minded audiences that he frequently returned to the city to perform. He even launched many of his new roles in Hull, seeing the city as a testing ground for his latest interpretation of a character. On a number of occasions this included white characters, with Aldridge debuting his Shylock, Macbeth, King Lear and Richard III in Hull in the 1830s, occasionally wearing white face paint and a wig. Not content with becoming the first black actor to play Othello, Aldridge was pushing the boundaries of performing race and testing audiences even further – and he chose Hull as the place to try it out.

We don’t know if William Wilberforce ever saw Aldridge perform in Hull. However, if you head to Wilberforce’s birthplace in Hull today – the Wilberforce House Museum – you’ll see a striking portrait that links these two men together. Painted by an unknown artist, The Captured Slave is a copy of a painting by John Philip Simpson that currently hangs in a gallery in Chicago. It shows a slave in chains, although for many years the man who sat for the painting was a mystery. Following years of research and speculation, it was discovered in 2008 that the sitter was in fact (who else?) Ira Aldridge himself.

Aldridge’s link to Hull shows that the stories of Shakespeare’s actors are sometimes just as interesting as those of his characters. You can find out lots more about Ira Aldridge (and other actors who’ve made their name performing Shakespeare) on the BBC’s Shakespeare Lives portal.

Thank you to Manchester Art Gallery for allowing us to use The Moor by James Northcote as the image for this article. If you’d like to read more about Ira Aldridge in Hull this BBC article is a great place to start.

Meet Jon Collins

If you’re a chocolate lover you’re bound to have come across Jon at some point and if you haven’t where’ve you been?!

Jon Collins, born and bred in Hull, was always destined for big things coming from a very creative family. With his Mum and Gran as his inspiration he was determined to discover his artistic talent, Jon tried his hand at a few skills including singing and writing but soon realised these weren’t quite his forte, however when Jon gave cooking a whirl he knew that’s where his talents lay.

With the mixing bowl as his pallet and chocolate as his canvas this modest master of culinary delights considers his profession as more of a vocation which allows him to express his artistic talents through his food. Jon works on all his own unique recipes and he’s always looking to create something new, experimenting with tastes and textures there’s no telling what Jon will whip up.

Jon began his training at the young age of 14 and built his career working at various notable restaurants and eateries in and around Hull. In one of these restaurants Jon’s bench faced the pastry chef’s work station and Jon became mesmerised by the intricate designs the former welder created. He learnt by watching the chef’s trained hand at work and soon became an expert himself.

Now what Jon knows about chocolate is nobody’s business. With initial aspirations of becoming a pastry chef Jon trained specialising in savoury dishes but soon realised his true passion lay with desserts, in particular chocolate! Jon booked himself on a course at the exclusive Slattery, the UK’s finest Patissier and Chocolatiers, building on his already founded skills and the rest is history. Jon set out to achieve his dreams…his chocolate coated, pistachio sprinkled, marzipan dreams!

Jon enjoys watching others indulge on his mouth-watering creations and to make sure his culinary inventions remain at the top he is always researching new ideas, new techniques and new flavours to make them more scrumptious than the last.

Jon has even taught himself basic French so he can make international calls, dealing with leading suppliers in France, ordering original continental produce and equipment over the phone to ensure his customers get the best experience Jon can offer. Très bien!

To the average onlooker Jon would appear as a creative, artistic, chocolate genius but what you might not guess is that Jon enjoys a bit of creative writing in his spare time to unwind and although Jon keeps his writings to himself it’s clear there is no end to Jon’s creativity.




Meet Joe Martin.

Meet Joe Martin

Joe came to Hull as a student to read American Literature at the reputable Department of English, at University of Hull. Although initially attracted to Hull for its university, Joe soon fell in love with the city (and let’s face it who wouldn’t?). Liking our uniqueness, Joe appreciated that although we’re a big city, we haven’t lost our warm character or quirkiness – as most do.

After graduating, he decided to stay in Hull and took on a job at a well-known commercial coffee shop as a barista, serving coffees and refreshments. As a passionate person Joe became interested in his work, and enjoyed brewing coffee and maximising the customer experience. So, he began brewing at home (coffee that is…) and researching further into the world of coffee.

Joe soon realised that he had a passion for coffee and that working for a commercial company prevented him from furthering his expertise and creativity to cater for customers in the exact way he wanted.

Joe knew that there was a market in the area to cater for the coffee connoisseurs in Hull, and what better place for it than Hull’s indoor market? He invested in a rather fancy coffee machine (the one that was used at the world barista championships 2009-2011 – to be precise) and set up shop.

When Joe isn’t brewing our favourite Ethiopian blends (just one of many) or serving us Americanos, macchiatos and espressos (which are his favourite – so we’d recommend you try one as he’s in the know you know), he’s researching new brewing techniques, different flavours, and visiting local suppliers to ensure he provides the best quality service.

This round the clock attitude and being completely dedicated to his craft makes Joe an expert in his field. His hard work and dedication is leading to the development of a community of coffee connoisseurs in Hull.

Joe admits he used to drink more coffee than he does now because instead of drinking a cup of instant, he indulges in smooth, aromatic brewed blends from around the world, tasting the quality and craftsmanship that was put into the cup.

Joe not only provides great coffee at reasonable prices but also provides his customers with an experience – educating them on the various types of coffee available and enabling them to explore their tastes buds.

So for those of you that prefer a skinny soy Frappuccino with extra whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, Joe can’t help! Joe only offers pure coffee with a dash of milk for those of us with more sensitive taste buds – but there aren’t any fancy pants syrups or sprinkles here.

He ensures that he regularly hosts different roasts, brewing up a variety of locally sourced beans so you receive the best quality he can offer.

So next time you visit Trinity Market and you’re sipping on your flat white, just pause and think… how much time and effort went into making you that perfect blissful cuppa.