I’M WRITING this in Hull, Britain’s City of Culture 2017, where I’ve just done a wonderful gig with fellow poets Luke Wright, Joelle Taylor and Dean Wilson at one of the opening events of this year-long festival.
I have a huge affection for the city, above all for the Adelphi Club.
It’s a tiny, hollowed-out terraced house next to a bomb site which is one of the few remaining truly independent small-music venues in the country.
I’ve been playing there regularly since it opened in 1984. It hosts all kinds of underground bands and performers and has provided a launchpad for the likes of the Housemartins and Pulp.
Owner Paul “Jacko” Jackson is one of the absolute heroes of the national music scene and it was great to catch up with him for a drink and a natter after last night’s gig.
I’m happy to say that the Adelphi will be very much involved in the festivities during the course of the year.
Hull is buzzing with creativity and energy, with the streets around the regenerated dock area thronged with hundreds of curious locals.
Our gig was at Fruit, a performance space based in an old fruit market — derelict spaces are being reclaimed and the history of this often neglected city celebrated.
Hull is exactly the kind of place which deserves City of Culture status.
It’s a working-class place and, though its key maritime industries have been decimated, it’s proud of its past and its traditions.
As organiser Sean McAllister says, the festival programmers aim to showcase 75 years of a proud city with events targeted at and involving a local population who often feel excluded from the arts.
Good on them. But Hull’s elevation has already showcased the sneering hypocrisy of the right-wing tabloid press.
The Sun and Daily Mail both ran obnoxious put-downs of the city based on the fact that there were fights during the New Year’s Eve launch celebrations — “Scrapital of Culture” was the Sun headline.
You can go to any major city on New Year’s Eve and find fights if you want. The implication was obvious.
Hull isn’t posh or trendy enough for the award. It’s too poor, isolated and neglected. Right-wing tabloids claim to speak up for working-class people against the “metropolitan elite” but their proprietors and journalists are part of it, indeed at its very heart.
They only like working-class people who doff their caps, shun trade unions and believe the garbage they are fed. Well done John Prescott for calling for a boycott of the Sun in Hull as in Liverpool.
I yearn for the day it is boycotted everywhere. And all the best to the people of Hull — have a brilliant year and get rid of the utterly rubbish people who “own” your football team soon. The Tigers deserve better.
Today (Thursday) I’m travelling to Chelmsford to do a fundraising gig for Asylum, another of the diminishing number of truly independent small music venues.
It’s threatened with closure due to financial difficulties and The Square in Harlow is sadly about to close despite the best efforts of a dedicated bunch of local people. It’s the least I can do to help keep another small Essex venue open, such places are the lifeblood of the scene. New year’s resolutions?
To get my new book of poems Undaunted on the streets as soon as possible and to do even more gigs than last year, which is saying something. I’m sick of liberal hand-wringing at the current state of politics. I have a message of defiance and hope and I shall take it anywhere it is welcomed. If you’d like to put me on, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or via social media. A happy and combative new year to all Star readers. Unity is strength!