How long have you been involved in the Hull UK City of Culture?
Hull won the bid in 2013 and I was appointed in 2014. So my cornerstone document was the bid. The company I work for, Hull UK, is all about curating and evolving things and bringing new ideas. We were asked to raise £13.7 million and we raised over twice that amount. So we have been able to do better and bigger things than we originally thought possible.
Are you from Hull?
No but I knew the city because I had a lot of friends here. I've been living here now for two years.
What does being UK City of Culture mean for Hull?
Hull has had its ups and downs economically and socially. Economically it's now really investing in green energy. Siemens have built a £340 million turbine factory and they are employing a thousand people. But there's no point in having jobs here if nobody wants to live here. So the UK City of Culture project is helping re-introduce the city to the rest of the country. Its residents feel engaged, proud and the place is buzzing. It gives it a sense of confidence, when you come up, you'll feel it.
Was there anything you've managed to programme that was particularly difficult to produce?
Flood, by Slung Low is really interesting. If you're going to have a project over a year, you should at least have one piece that is going to last as long. But to then make it into a project that exists online, on television and live is so ambitious. I don't think that's ever been done before. There were many points in that project where we thought: 'Can we bring this together?' I'm really excited about it.
What will be the UK City of Culture legacy?
Hull is UK City of Culture for four years. So a lot of my work now is looking at the programming and operations for 2018 and beyond. The legacy will be building on what we've done and continuing to promote the cultural eco system of Hull. We don't want to be a city where artists feel they have to leave in order to get on. We are supporting emerging stars like Middle Child and Silent Uproar. So beneath the more sexy end of stuff is a lot that goes on to support the cultural processes.
What do you hope being the UK City of Culture will do for Hull?
There has been a concentration of metropolises recently. But we need a new concentration on mid-tier cities across the UK particularly within the 'northern powerhouse'. Many mid-tier cities like Hull have found themselves in a position of me-tooism: how can I be more like Manchester. But only Manchester can be Manchester. This renewed focus on other cities helps them find their own unique voice and that stretches far beyond culture and into industry. This ultimately is the power of UK City of Culture project. In the next 40 years it will change ten cities, renewing their pride and confidence and confident cities can do anything they want.
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