Made in Hull – Making the Archive

Hull-based media production company Nova Studios Ltd worked closely with all of the artists involved in Made In Hull, researching archives to find footage, headlines, sounds and images that helped tell the story of our city and its people. Nova producer Harriet Jones talks about the joy of a process that strengthened her own pride in the city she loves.

Developing an archive resource that charted Hull’s modern history was a monumental task. Newspaper articles, photographs, books, charts, maps and films all needed to be rigorously researched and sourced for the Made in Hull event to succeed.

It was a journey that would take me into around a dozen archives and knocking on the doors of contacts and friends that know Hull in ways other people could not.

DJs, historians, skippers and (of course) librarians, all had their part to play in helping Nova Studios construct the archive for the unparalleled Made in Hull installation, which takes place this week.

It was a journey that made me see afresh the city I grew up in. It connected me to the city and gave me a greater understanding of Hull.

I spent several days holed up in the Yorkshire Film Archive, in York, which has a pretty incredible collection of films from across the region that tell our county’s history.

What I saw was evocative and moving.

One tape that people will see parts of in Queen Victoria Square, shows King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Hull, in August 1941. The visit was filmed by EF Symmons and it captures something about Hull I always knew, but never quite understood. Shot after shot, the film lays bare the devastation the bombing raids of WWII had on Hull. Shells of buildings gape, and mountains of rubble line the streets. There is something poignant about these images, which made me realise the terror that WWII brought to Hull. The rows of house fronts stand like a monument to those who died in the horror that reduced the rest of those houses to dust and rubble. It is often said that Hull was the second most bombed city in the country. It is said so often, that its meaning is diluted. But this footage gives these words a powerful truth.

Following on from the bombing you will see footage of the sombre VE Day parade, which saw nurses, soldiers, policeman and children troop through Hull City Centre. This is contrasted by the joy of people celebrating the end of the war, arms around each other, dancing in East Park.

When it came to looking at how Hull was rebuilt we found films that detail the building of Telephone House, in Carr Lane, the Bransholme estate and the Humber Bridge. Times of abundance were demonstrated with shots of people shopping on Newland Avenue, children playing in East Park and men and women flirting in Pearson Park, done-up to the nines and enjoying life.

But who filmed these scenes? Mainly it was amateurs who enjoyed looking at life through a lens, capturing the small everyday things that are so interesting to us now – people like us filming and recording people like us, just like we do now on Instagram and Facebook. However professional film companies and news organisations also documented life in Hull. The Police Force made numerous films about road safety, which gave us a great snapshot of life around the city from the 1950s onwards and wonderful shots of East Park. Probably, my favourite footage found throughout this process shows the Cecil after dark. People queue, buy their tickets and file into the cinema and then, from under the floor in the pit of the theatre, the organ rises… if only going to the pics was still like that.

Nova also sourced Hull rave footage for Jesse Kanda, footage of people at work for Make Amplify that can be seen at the foot of Scale Lane Bridge and photographs for Imitating the Dog’s Migrations and Arrivals piece, which can be seen on The Deep.

Such a massive task could not have been done without the help of the people of Hull and in particular The Hull Daily Mail and Hull History Centre.

Being involved in the event, providing the raw materials from which a talented group of artists have produced such a moving and colourful reflection of the life of this city has been a real privilege. What a start! 

Nova Studios Ltd produced This City Belongs to Everyone, the film that helped Hull win the City of Culture bid. The company are currently working on two projects for 2017:

  • How Do You Have A Happy Life? a series of 12 short films shot in Hull and its partner city Freetown, Sierra Leone.
  • Nova are also co-producing Mind on The Run the story of composer Basil Kirchin.