Celebrate culture, creativity and the future of the North at Substance

Substance is a brand new festival in Hull, featuring music, art, stunning installations and provocations, running from 29 November – 10 December 2017. 

Over 12 days, Substance will celebrate Hull’s year as UK City of Culture and explore the culture, creativity and future of the North – and tickets are on sale now. 

Substance includes new art commissions and immersive experiences that will pop up in Hull’s city streets, including Where Do We Go From Here? from internationally-renowned Jason Bruges Studio and A Colossal Wave from Marshmallow Laserfeast, while Henrich and Palmer will present The Deep, a large-scale projection onto the side of Hull’s iconic aquarium. 

Artist and cultural agitator Bill Drummond will present a new play alongside Hull’s Pub Corner Poets, while Aesthetica Magazine will bring their specially-curated Shorts of Substance film festival. Writer, actor and comedian Reece Shearsmith will head to Middleton Hall for a (sold out) evening of comedy and conversation.

A key event, Substance Future Forum, will take place on Thursday 7 December. This forum will be a lively, creative inquiry into how arts and culture are redefining the image of the North and their critical importance in the success of the region. Substance Future Forum is bringing together artists, creative industry figures, policymakers, business leaders, digital pioneers, commentators and future change-makers to debate the role that culture and creativity will play in the continuing transformation of the North, and how they are uniquely placed to respond to a range of issues from Brexit, to social cohesion, to health and well-being.  

Designed to be provocative and stimulate the exchange of ideas, Substance Future Forum partners include Arts Council England, BBC Academy, British Council, CANVAS, The Guardian, Hack and Host, Northern Fiction Alliance, The Quietus, The Space and collaborating with the University of Hull, which will play a key role in shaping the day. Hull speaker details will be announced shortly. 

Author and curator Luke Bainbridge, who also produces the award-winning Festival No.6, is curating Substance, working alongside Hull 2017 and other partners. Luke said: “Arts and culture has played a leading role in redefining the North over the past few decades, and Substance will explore the pivotal role it can play in the future of the North.  

We’re delighted to have so many great artists, from Bill Drummond to Jane Weaver and Reece Shearsmith joining us in Hull for Substance, as Hull 2017 is the perfect example of how arts and culture can redefine the image of a city and region.” 

Martin Green, Director of Hull 2017, said: “Hull has always been a city of culture and in 2017 we have seen art bringing people together, experimenting, trying new experiences, getting creative themselves, which we hope will continue as the bedrock of a sustainable cultural legacy for the city. Substance builds on the eclecticism of the Hull 2017 programme, with great music, performance, art, film and the opportunity to reflect, not just on the year, but on Hull’s central role in a resurgent North that puts culture and creativity at the heart of its future.” 



On Friday 1 December Where Do We Go From Here? by award-winning art collective Jason Bruges Studio will officially launch, a major new installation that will see dormant robots awaken, creating the specially choreographed interplay of light, shadow and sound. As they respond to the city’s architecture, they will interact with one another and with Hull’s residents and visitors, creating new experiences driven by light. 

The installation runs into 2018, casting new shadows and throwing light onto buildings and unnoticed corners in the darkened streets of Hull’s Old Town. In doing so, it will take the viewer on a journey that reflects on a momentous year for Hull, but also signposts the future, asking arguably the most important question of the year: Where do we go from here? 

Another installation that embraces technology will see Marshmallow Laser Feast present A Colossal Wave from Friday 1 to Sunday 10 December, when virtual reality will be used as part of a shared immersive experience. Co-commissioned by Hull 2017 Major Partner the British Council, Hull 2017 and Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles from Montréal, A Colossal Wave will see an explosion of colour after a real ball is thrown from a great height, creating a huge virtual wave. 

From Friday 8 to Sunday 10 December, artists Heinrich and Palmer are creating a new installation commissioned by Hull 2017 in partnership with The Deep, the landmark building that houses one of the UK’s most spectacular aquariums. More details about the installation, which is the final work in the Look Up programme of public art commissions, will be revealed in the next few weeks. 

Hull, Portrait of a City continues at Humber Street Gallery in a collaboration with international photography collective Magnum Photos. Photographers Martin Parr and Olivia Arthur were commissioned to explore the culture and creativity of Hull. Hull, Portrait of a City owns the discussion about where, what and how. How might we define Hull? How has culture changed our landscape and regenerated our city? What impact has it had on everything from economy to civic pride? How do we record it? As stories merge and new ones begin, we start looking to the future and exploring what’s next.


Substance Live: The Future of the North is an unmissable live event taking place at Hull City Hall on Saturday 9 December, with performances from some of the most boundary-pushing and genre-defying women making music in the UK, musicians renowned for their experimentalism and pushing the boundaries of music to challenge as well as entertain audiences.  

Hosted by BBC 6 Music and Radio 3 presenter Elizabeth Alker, the unmissable line-up includes Nadine Shah‘s politically charged post-punk; the psychedelic dream pop of Jane WeaverHannah Peelperforming her acclaimed Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia, which melds electronica and brass band, both important musical forms of the North; the cosmic performance art punk of Lone Taxidermist; two-piece sister-doom band CHAMBERS; and Manchester five-piece rock band PINS and the contemporary folk of Hull-based The Dyr Sister. 

Following Substance Live, there will be the final opportunity of the year to experience Steve Cobby presents City of Vultures, which takes place at Früit. To celebrate nearly 30 years as a highly respected producer and DJ, Steve Cobby dug into his address book and invited a variety of collaborators that he’s befriended down the years to join him celebrating Hull’s historic year as UK City of Culture. This particular night on Saturday 9 December features Richard Dorfmeister (Kruder & Dorfmeister, Tosca), plus Bobby Beige and Porky & Steve Cobby. 



Artist Bill Drummond returns to Hull with his new play Your Darkest Thought, performed at the legendary New Adelphi Club on Sunday 10 December. The play is set on Hull’s Beverley Road, not far from the venue. It was written by Bill’s alter ego and arch nemesis Tenzing Scott Brown and inspired by his mission to shine people’s shoes “in exchange for your darkest thoughts” for Where Are We Now?, the festival that took place earlier this year as part of Hull 2017. Your Darkest Thought is the story of what happened, performed by actor and activist Tam Dean Burn as Bill Drummond and featuring the writer himself. 

Making up the double-bill, Hull’s critically acclaimed Pub Corner Poets also present their new work Artis & Sol, an absurdist play where two blokes sit in a boat and hate each other for an hour. The debut play by Emma Phimister explores comedy, misery and the bits in between and asks why we do this to ourselves?


Shorts of Substance, curated by BAFTA-recognised Aesthetica Short Film Festival with support from Hull Independent Cinema, looks at the North through a new lens as the globalised world changes definitions of location.  

Inspired by the northern landscape from Manchester to Teesside, from rural to urban, there are four programmes running from Friday 1 to Tuesday 5 December at Vue Cinema Princes Quay. From narratives based in inner-city neighbourhoods, to stories that draw parallels with other countries, these unique screenings offer personal perspectives and consider the notion that land is more than a geographical location, as a hive of activity, a platform of creativity and a state of mind. It asks the question: what does it mean to be Northern in a globalised world? 

Substance Film features BAFTA-winners, an Oscar winner and Mercury-Prize nominated bands. There are films narrated by Jarvis Cocker and starring Charles Dance, Jenny Agutter, plus multiple film stars of the future. 


Middleton Hall at the University of Hull is hosting an already sold out evening with Hull born writer and performer Reece Shearsmith on Wednesday 29 November. The event will see him in conversation with University of Hull lecturer Dr Kevin Corstorphine, exploring Reece’s creative influences with a particular focus on elements of the gothic and grotesque, probing the relationship between horror and comedy. 
Substancea new festival celebrating the culture, creativity and future of the North will take place from 29 Nov to 10 December. Tickets are on sale now.