Partners welcome findings showing impact of Hull’s UK City of Culture year

Partners have welcomed figures out today that reveal the positive impact Hull being UK City of Culture 2017 is having on the city, from participation to the impact on the local economy.

Interim findings of an evaluation study being undertaken across the year by the University of Hull’s Culture, Place and Policy Institute (CPPI) show that nine out of ten residents attended or experienced at least one cultural event in the city in the first three months of 2017 – the Made in Hull season. This is more than double the number participating before the city’s bid.

At least 450 events, exhibitions and cultural activities took place during the first season, attracting over 1.4 million visits, with many drawing large, often sell-out audiences. As we approach the end of season two, this has now increased to a total of nearly 1000 events, exhibitions and cultural activities.

As well as 342,000 visits to the Sean McAllister directed opening event Made in Hull, more than 420,000 people are estimated to have experienced Nayan Kulkarni’s installation Blade, which ran from 8 January to 18 March.

This positive trend has continued with more than half a million visits to Hull’s museums and galleries in the first four months of the year. Ferens Art Gallery and Hull Maritime Museum have seen year-on-year increases of over 500%. It is confidently predicted that 2017 will be easily the most successful year ever for the service in terms of visitor numbers.

The iconic poppy sculpture Weeping Window, by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, received over 720,000 visits at the Maritime Museum in Hull, making it the most popular venue to host the poppies since the tour began in 2015.

Additional figures released by Hull Truck Theatre this week show that 37,510 people saw a production there between January and June, an increase of over 8,000 people on the same period in 2016, with an average of 40% being new visitors.

Other findings from the University, which is the Academic Research Partner for Hull 2017, suggest that being UK City of Culture is bringing a feelgood factor and increased confidence to the city.

Seven out of ten residents agree that the year is having a positive impact on the lives of local people and there have been opportunities to participate this year across the city. Hull 2017’s indispensable volunteers have already undertaken more than 100,000 volunteer hours; schoolchildren across the city have been actively involved in the No Limits learning programme; events like the Back to Ours festival have brought a wide range of events to people’s doorsteps; and the 60 projects funded through the Creative Communities Programme continue to involve local people in developing artistic projects around Hull.

John Glen, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said: “It is fantastic to see the huge benefits Hull is enjoying as UK City of Culture. That nine out of ten residents have experienced one of the cultural events is truly remarkable and shows how the city is embracing this special year. Cultural investment can help transform communities and we are already seeing the positive impact it is having on people’s lives, local businesses and tourism in Hull. The renewed focus on culture in the city will also help secure a lasting legacy that goes far beyond 2017.”

Phil Redmond, Chair, UK City of Culture Independent Advisory Panel said: “These impressive figures indicate both value and the impact of being the UK City Culture, while vindicating the Panel’s decision to award the title to Hull. They have done what we asked: raised the bar for whoever follows in 2021.”

Martin Green, Director of Hull 2017, said: “As we approach our third season Freedom, it goes almost without saying that this year has been quite a ride already. There’s been an incredible response to the cultural programme and we are thrilled that 90% of people living in the city have tried at least one cultural activity. Let’s not forget, this is just a snapshot – there is plenty more to come and we hope people will continue to try things out, not just this year, but beyond 2017. Of course, none of this would be possible without the vision of the council, which successfully bid for Hull to become UK City of Culture, the support and collaboration of partners, as well as the strong community of artists that will continue to ensure it remains a vibrant cultural centre.”

Councillor Stephen Brady, Leader of Hull City Council said: “With six months still to go, it’s wonderful to see the difference UK City of Culture has made to Hull and how residents and visitors alike are responding to the amazing arts and culture we’ve seen across the whole city. The year is achieving everything we could possibly have hoped for and more – from increasing pride and participation to raising the profile of Hull and improving the economy. My thanks go to everyone involved in making it happen and to all of the residents, volunteers and visitors who have already made 2017 such a memorable and game-changing year for Hull.”

Rosie Millard, Chair of Hull 2017, said: “When we started out on this amazing project we had no idea how it would be received, but these figures show that things are going the right direction. What is especially thrilling is how people living in Hull have taken living in the UK City of Culture to their hearts. Our hope is that they will continue to be inspired long after the year is over as Hull’s reputation as a great cultural destination continues to grow. In the meantime, there’s six months to go, with lots more fabulous events to come.”

There are signs that the year is bringing benefits to the local economy. Hotel occupancy was up 13.8% in season one, compared to the same period in 2016. Visit Hull and East Yorkshire also report that city hotels are now twice as likely to see their occupancy go over 80% as they were in 2016.

Over half of city centre businesses reported a positive impact during Made in Hull, linked to increased footfall, sales, diversification of customers and a positive atmosphere in the city. 37% of those businesses reported an increase in turnover and 27% saw an increase in profit on the previous year, with 40% being able to offer staff additional hours.

Councillor Terry Geraghty, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure and Chair of Hull Culture and Leisure Limited said: “The city has certainly seen an influx of new visitors in the first six months of 2017, not only enjoying all the events and exhibitions, but also exploring a wonderful destination that has always been here. Hotels across the city have seen unprecedented bookings, with occupancy levels at a record high and an increase in midweek leisure bookings. A noticeable change for the hotels is with the midweek breakfast service. Typically, corporate business visitors have finished breakfast by 8:30am, but more and more hotel guests are eating later, indicating that more are visiting for leisure rather than business purposes.”

Hull Trains reported a 17% percent increase in train journeys during the first month of the year (compared to an industry average increase of just 4%). The rail operator says customers have responded well to the extra weekend services and quicker journey times that it has developed for Hull’s year as UK City of Culture.

Hull Trains carried an additional 52,000 passengers in the first five months with overall year-on-year growth of 12.7%. Hull Trains Managing Director, Will Dunnett, says: “We have begun the year very strongly and early analysis has indicated much of this passenger growth is from people coming from the south. In the first half of the year, we have brought an additional 13,300 people from London to Hull compared to the same period last year and I believe much of this growth is due to the impact of Hull 2017 events.

“High-profile events such as the Big Weekend saw a significant spike in customer numbers, however we are attributing a lot of this growth down to Hull’s events overall and the positive response to the additional early morning services on Saturdays. These have proved popular with customers wishing to make the most of a day in the UK City of Culture.”

TransPennine Express, which carries rail customers from destinations across the North to Hull, saw 13% more passenger journeys to the city from January to May 2017 compared with the same time period in 2016.

David Hatfield, TransPennine Express Station Manager for Hull, commented: “It’s clear from our figures that more and more people are choosing to visit Hull by train which is really positive news for our city. Last month, we introduced an extra evening service from Hull to Manchester, giving people more time to enjoy a show, performance or event as part of the Hull 2017 programme.”

Hull-based regeneration company Wykeland Group is a Major Partner of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and the company’s contribution includes developing the unique Stage @TheDock amphitheatre, a major events venue during the year and beyond. It is also part of the Wykeland Beal joint venture, which, in partnership with Hull City Council, is driving forward the transformation of the Fruit Market area, including the successful Humber Street Gallery.

Wykeland Managing Director Dominic Gibbons said: “City of Culture has increased enormously public engagement with culture and the arts – a legacy that will pay dividends well into the future. It has also supported regeneration and investment, by producing unprecedented positive publicity for Hull as a place of opportunity and optimism, and by staging events that have brought huge numbers of people into areas such as Fruit Market which are at the forefront of Hull’s exciting cultural and economic rejuvenation.”

Other positive indicators include over 8 million pageviews on the Hull 2017 website, with over 1.2 million unique users since its launch.