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Solace blog

28th June 2018

Hull’s Year as the City of Culture – a proud time to be in local government

2017 was a transformative year for the city of Hull and a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity for everyone. It gave the city new-found energy, optimism and confidence.

As a Council, we always said our aim would be to ‘set the stage’ for the City of Culture team, the public, and our many partners to tell Hull’s story and we can confidently say we did just that. Following the £27 million regeneration of our city centre, the refurbishment of two of Hull’s cultural gems, the Ferens Art Gallery and Hull New Theatre along with the £80-million regeneration of the Fruit Market area on our riverside and a £4.2m investment in Hull’s historic Old Town, our city is transformed.

At a time when Council budgets are being substantially reduced, some said that investing so significantly in arts and culture was a risk but, recognising that this is a journey that is still continuing for our city, we can clearly say that this was the right decision.

Undertaking a capital investment programme to complete four years of regeneration work in only eighteen months was also a huge risk. The two years preceding 2017 were incredibly challenging years for us, with the majority of the city centre under a sea of ‘orange barriers’ and the Council facing regular criticism. However, we were determined that our city would be ready for 2017 and, towards the end of December 2016, as workmen left and our streets reopened, the sense of pride amongst residents and the amazement of visitors was palpable, and helped to quickly demonstrate that the right decisions had been made.

As a result of a hugely successful 2017, the first of our four as UK City Culture, we expect to exceed the economic impact targets we originally set within our UK City of Culture bid back in 2013, meaning visitors to the city have brought in over £60-million in the last 12 months, via ticket sales, hotel bookings, and city centre spending, with visitor numbers exceeding six million for the first time.

This, in turn, means the economic landscape of our city has changed significantly. Over the last five years, Hull has seen over £3.3-billion of public and private investment, demonstrating a clear and renewed confidence in the city.

Businesses are showing more interest and are now “knocking on our door” and telling us they want to invest in Hull.

We are working hard to ensure this investment continues in the years to come, which will not only continue to enhance our local economy but will provide increased quality job opportunities for our people – a major ambition of our 30-year City Plan.

As a Council, we are now seizing the opportunities to build on this momentum and for the city to prosper further. We have invested a further £36-million in a new music, conference and events centre, that will open to the public later this summer, and are rapidly moving forward plans for Yorkshire’s only cruise terminal, a £50-million project that will benefit the entire region.

A major redevelopment of our museum and heritage offer is well underway and the creation of a major new £27- million attraction, with funds already committed, will shine a light on Hull’s unique heritage as Yorkshire’s Maritime city, reconnecting the city to its historic River Hull waterfront. Plans for a £130-million redevelopment in the heart of the city centre, around Albion Square, will also increase our leisure and retail offer, helping to reshape the city as the conventional retail landscape changes around the country, along with plans to build hundreds of new homes on the east bank of the River Hull.

Our ambitions remain extremely high and we are working with our many committed business partners to ensure that our positive direction of travel continues. In September last year, the Council confirmed its continuing commitment to investing in culture and the arts with a £250-million plan to deliver further improvements to the city’s cultural and visitor infrastructure and a pledge to provide on-going support to the city’s independent arts sector over the next ten years. These plans will ensure we build on the huge success of 2017, maintain our considerable momentum and continue with the speed of positive change, creating a springboard for Hull to achieve another City Plan objective, to become a world-class visitor destination.

The journey for Hull has far from ended and this is just the beginning. We will continue to hold the UK City of Culture title until 31 December 2020, when we hand the title over to Coventry on 1 January 2021, and we fully intend to make the most of it!

In 2017, Hull was rejuvenated as a vibrant, optimistic and welcoming city experiencing increased investment, job creation, and visitor numbers, but it does not end here. The city has repositioned itself as a place where people want to live, work, learn, invest and visit and we will continue our journey, moving forward with our newly invigorated sense of pride and confidence. The city has changed forever, and our story continues.

by Matt Jukes, chief executive of Hull City Council