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What is the point of having a ‘city of culture’?

20 November 2013

5:10 PM

20 November 2013

5:10 PM

‘Hull has been named the 2017 city of culture. Better luck next year, Luton.’ So wrote the Telegraph’s Tim Stanley on Twitter.

Nadine Dorries said: ‘Hull? City of culture? As one originating from Liverpool, a former recipient, I’m er, surprised but of course, delighted for Hull!’

That summarises the general reaction to the choice of the 2017 UK City of Culture. I’ve never been to the East Riding city, so I can’t comment on whether the widespread view of it as a dump is fair, but certainly lots of the cities that compete for this honour are certified Crap Towns. Dover? Stoke-on-Trent? These are not cities of culture, unless you mean culture in the loosest sense, as in ‘gang culture’ or possibly the culture that grows at the back of the fridge.

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I’d be curious to know how much concrete economic benefit there really is, and to what extent the real winners are the various arms of the state-run heritage, culture and arts industry, based in London.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says it wants to promote a ‘vibrant and sustainable arts and culture’ scene in the chosen cities, although I would question whether anything that relies on the state can really be called ‘vibrant’ (unless you’re using that word in its euphemistic multicultural sense, which I don’t think they are).

The best way to ensure a lively arts scene in any city is to attract artistic people, and the educated, middle class who will support them, and make them want to stay and have children rather than leave after university. Since crime is a major factor that puts people off, hiring a load of extra policemen in the New York style to patrol the streets for a couple of years would probably have just as good an impact on a town as getting the Arts Council along.

A more cultural and perhaps slightly less fascistic sounding way of attracting culture vultures would be to make towns more beautiful, as this is one of the drawbacks English cities face in trying to permanently regenerate – it’s why Edinburgh and Dublin are much better at attracting the right people and therefore capital.

Hull was actually the city that inspired the system of listing historic buildings after a photographer captured the aftermath of the Hull blitz, the worst after London. Following the war, like with all English cities, most of its beautiful architecture was not rebuilt and what replaced it was sub-standard. You can see what town planners and Nazis between them did to our cities from 1930 and 1970 in Gavin Stamp’s wonderful Britain’s Lost Cities (old Hull, in particular, looks stunning).

So rather than spending time and money on a culture scheme which is going to attract a fair degree of mockery, why not invite cities such as Canterbury, Norwich, Plymouth, Bristol, Worcester, Birmingham and all the others to lobby to have their city centres restored to what they were before the 20th century’s various maniacs got their hands on them?

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Show comments
  • William Wilberfoce

    To the author; your right it doesn’t look like that any more it looks like this

  • Helen Dalgairns

    You say this “Since crime is a major factor that puts people off, hiring a load of extra policemen in the New York style to patrol the streets for a couple of years would probably have just as good an impact on a town as getting the Arts Council along” I live in Hull, born and bred here, I have a degree, a great career and I am an artist. I have always felt safe in this city, maybe I have been lucky but one thing is a fact Hull never got involved in the 2011 England riots and this maybe due to the fact in Hull we don’t have organised gang culture like other cities do. People are free to make their judgements and say what they like about why Hull has been awarded City of Culture 2017, as freedom and challenging things is what Hull is about. People in Hull just don’t like negative comments from people who have never visited the place.

  • Helen Dalgairns

    You say this “Since crime is a major factor that puts people off, hiring a load of extra policemen in the New York style to patrol the streets for a couple of years would probably have just as good an impact on a town as getting the Arts Council along” I live in Hull, born and bred here, I have a degree, a great career and I am an artist. I have always felt safe in this city, maybe I have been lucky but one thing is a fact Hull never got involved in the 2011 England riots and this maybe due to the fact that in Hull we have little if any organised gang culture like other cities do. People are free to make their judgements and say what they like about why Hull has been awarded City of Culture 2017, as freedom and challenging things is what Hull is about. People in Hull just don’t like negative comments from people who have never visited the place.

  • James

    I have known Hull all my 64 years. My mother’s family came from around there, and while I don’t know what it’s like to live there, it’s a fine city to visit, with plenty of interest, culturally historically and architecturally, and the people in my experience are kind and hospitable. It can be quite raucous at times, but never boring. I never understood how it got into that crap towns book, when there are so many dull identikit towns dotted around the country. Maybe it’s like that whole “chav” thing, which fundamentally is middle class snobbery patronising working class culture.

    • Chris Veasey

      Well said, every word, and good on you. I’ve also known it all my 64 years, grew up there, and can confirm it was a great place to live – idyllic even. And still is. And it’s not nor ever has been the overwhelmingly ‘working class’ city it’s often portrayed as – far more balanced and diverse than that, notwithstanding the tendency of some to live in the dormitory sluburbs Outside the Pale, particularly to the west of the city boundary.

  • http://www.angryharry.com/ Angry Harry

    @Ed

    LOL!

    Very funny article. Made me laugh a lot.

    Many comments below are funny too.

  • David Booth.

    I remember Hull as being full of charity shops, fat people in track suit bottoms and The Humber Bridge which should be renamed The Humber Bribe!
    No the best thing about Hull is the M62 which takes you swiftly out of the place to Liverpool.

    • Chris Veasey

      ‘full of charity shops, fat people in track suit bottoms…..’ – sounds just like Ealing, Chiswick etc and other supposedly upmarket London townships where I’ve lived half my life, for my sins. Nothing wrong with cheap secondhand shops or such convenience informal clothing. None of that in Liverpool?? – do us a favour!!! Hull was a lovely city to grow up in and live in, and despite the appalling physical and economic damage inflicted on it since my day it still is. And a damn sight better climate than rain-sodden Liverpool and other cities on the west side of the island.

      • David Booth.

        Hull still has bomb damage from WW2 awaiting repair, hardly a sign of civic pride.
        And I can’t help but note that all the people singing Hull’s praise’s in the media no longer live there.
        It may well be that being “City of Culture” actually does some good for Hull and for this I do not begrudge.

        • Chris Veasey

          Not true – there’s actually only one bomb-damaged building left, a former cinema which has been the subject of controversy and efforts to get it preserved in that state as a monument to the blitz. The worst of the bomb damage was cleared up and fine new buildings – far better than elsewhere such as Plymouth or Coventry – put up throughout the 1950s, before the catastrophe of concrete and glass brutalism and equally brutal untamed highway engineering swept across the city as well as the rest of the country in the 1960s and onwards. Far more damage was done to this city, as to others, in those decades than during the blitz – and regrettably far more lasting too. But despite its share – but no more than its share – of grotscape, Hull remains an interesting and diverse place townscapewise as otherwise, with many fine and distinguished – and in many cases seriously historic – buildings and street scenes for them with eyes to see and brains to discern.

          As for not living there anymore, there’s many reasons why folk end up elsewhere through force of economic and other personal circumstances. That in no way invalidates their continuing regard for their home town.

          • David Booth.

            Hull may have its problem but it certainly has a doughty defender in yourself Chris, I salute you.

            • Chris Veasey

              Thanks David – regrettably I have not had the slightest influence, least of all with my fellow Hullites, in a lifetime of ‘boring for Hull’ and the wider North of England) ever since my teens when my father’s career took us away.

      • Jambo25

        Stockbridge, in Edinburgh, is full of charity shops but it also has shops selling hand made jewellery, imported handicrafts from the Far East, a butcher/game dealer, a Waitrose, Tom Kitchin’s gastro-pub several other decent restaurants and a general range of shops. My wife and her pals go in for that peculiar middle-class hobby of going round all the charity shops. No, I don’t know why they do it either.

  • swatnan

    Should rake in several million a year, and thats about the same as Prezza’s pension.
    Hull could become the Venice of the Wash.

    • Chris Veasey

      The Wash??? – didn’t they teach geography at your school, wherever that was? – they certainly did at mine in Hull, and very well too. Hull was a bit of a Venice in some parts at one time (though without the gondolas), but many of the more picturesque drainage canals were filled in decades ago.

      • Child of the Moon

        Oh, well that’s how it is, Chris; everyone’s got a lot to say without doing their homework first. Like the fact that dear old Lard… oops, sorry, Lord Prescott was merely shoehorned into a safe seat in EAST HULL, where no one will ever own up to ever having voted for him. Hull was never the nest of flames for that fat phoenix to sit on and preen: he had nothing to do with the rest of the city, but why spoil a bad story, eh? The fact that anyone thinks Hull is on The Wash – leaving aside the ubiquitous, cheap-shot, endlessly regurgitated Prescott slaver – speaks volumes.

  • NewImprovedPretendName

    “What is the point of having a ‘city of culture’?”

    Probably to make people in fairly horrible places (Liverpool, Derry and Hull) feel very slightly better about the place they live, and by extension their life, which sounds like a good enough motive to me. Civic pride is underrated enough …

    I agree with you about making city centres look beautiful again, although some of the ones you mention are amongst my favourite places even as they stand. My particular hate is for identikit buildings which have been architected to the most run-of-the-mill standard imaginable. See e.g. http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-41079023.html). I’d rather something that was uglier than that but into which some real effort and imagination had gone (even this: http://www.sustainability.mottmac.com/sustainabilityprojects/?id=171925&mode=type). And Birmingham’s choke-collar dual carriageway can go …

    • Child of the Moon

      The “fairly horrible places” you list were built for industry. If everywhere was meant to be quaint and picture postcard-pretty, there would be no picture postcard-pretty! You like the benefits of these places, just as long as none of that stuff is in your neighbourhood. Somebody mentions Beverley, well, I used to work there and it smells like rotten eggs without a refinery in sight, and there a more chavs, gymslip mothers and rowdy nights on the town than there are in Hull when you compare the sizes of both places, take it from me! I got that from a very reliable source. Ever heard of ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’? But if you want to be shallow all your life…

      • NewImprovedPretendName

        That’s a tad aggressive! Obviously you have a point, but what you say is no consolation when the industrial tide drifts back out again. We could of course follow the Detroit model and just let towns and cities die naturally (there is something of that in Margaret Thatcher’s comments on Liverpool, and some contemporary comments on Hull). But if people are going to continue living there, then it’s good to give them something to boast about. I don’t see what’s so bad or shallow about putting a bit of effort into appearances. We can’t all live in Florence, for sure, but the Victorians were still onto something with their views on civic pride and improvement.

        • Child of the Moon

          You blithely dismiss three cities as “horrible places” and
          call me aggressive? What to do when the industrial tide goes out? Well, you’re left with a shell-shocked city
          that’s had the bread taken out of its mouth by those nice men in suits in that palace without a smoking ban. And when that happens, there’s very little money to put things right again, and often little motivation too, as we’ve seen with American cities like Detroit and Port Arthur, Texas. Idiots like Thatcher (whose whole existence was a denial of who she really was) and those gel-haired rats in aftershave at The Economist are our biggest enemy. But not even Kubla Khan could build a utopian Xanadu just like that, and Hull – my hometown – and Liverpool have done really well in trying repair things, given the limited resources. The New York Hotel in Hull now looks like something from downtown Port Arthur, but it’s owned by a London businessman who let it rot and no one castigates him – they blame the city and its people.

          I agree with you about civic pride and beautification, and I
          share your views on architecture, but it’s not always easy in the case of industrial cities, especially ports. Our marina, seawall and pier district, overlooking the vast estuary, are wonderful and I wouldn’t swap them for any other part of the U.K. But I hate seeing the once-lovely New York
          Hotel; it’s heartbreaking, but what can I do? I ignore most of the trash on here, but I do think you have a point and are worth debating with. I’m paying you a compliment, though you probably won’t think so. I’m not aggressive; I’m reacting to aggression. I’m fed up with sneering ignoramuses dancing a tarantella on cities that have faced hardship. These people would probably tell you how much they loathe snobbery too; you just have to laugh…

          • Child of the Moon

            Oh, my point about ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’ is that
            while a place might look pleasing to your eye, that doesn’t mean it’s all so wonderful. A pulchritudinous woman could
            well be the nastiest woman on God’s earth. I think Beverley is a dreadful place because I have seen and smelled
            beyond the Minster, a few cobbled streets and the odd quaint tearoom. I’m nearly fifty and the only time I have
            ever been accosted or threatened in the street in my life was in Beverley and not in the much-maligned Hull. I live in
            Hull, always have, so I know more about it than anyone who dropped by on a rainy day, or to see a football match or because they had business on an industrial estate. I know its faults and love it still. I go to every exhibition at the Ferens, have seen locally-staged operas, ballets and plays and I have read a great many books in my time, yet according to the twits on here, I can’t even read because I come from here. Will the REAL ignorant people please stand up? And I would never use the word “s***hole” to describe anywhere that is essentially home to a great many people. The fact that anyone would use that word tells you more about THEM than it does the places they get a kick out of bullying from a safe distance. I’m not bad-mannered or coarse enough to do that anyway. Even if I thought it.

            PS – NewImprovedPretendName,
            I am not saying that you are ignorant, because you’re not. It’s really nothing personal. I still think you’re a little shallow though,
            heh-heh…

          • NewImprovedPretendName

            Interesting reply, thanks. I live in Birmingham and, with some reservations, like the place.

            • Child of the Moon

              I’m glad you like Birmingham; we should like our all cities in all their variety. I like Kingston-upon-Hull, but it could be much better, of course. There were plans to redevelop the east side of the River Hull, but government cuts put paid to that and left us with the fabled “bridge to nowhere”; have you heard of that? It’s a pretty nifty bridge though! We can only hope the original plans get dusted off and turned into reality one day, but this underlines my point about the dreaded money issue!!!

  • Neotelemachus

    I have been to Hull and found it to be a shithole. Has it changed substantially in the last 15 years?

    • Alexsandr

      nip north to Beverley. far prettier.

  • tanky

    the sad thing is they expect this to revive their economy in the long term. spend millions of pounds on some free plays, concerts, street art for a year and then somehow, miraculously hull will be a centre of tourism ever more. There are no jobs and no opportunities but, here are the house martins playing a gig on the humber bridge (another piece of government bribary) that will make your life better!

  • Fergus Pickering

    Not at all. An excellent choice. It is true the beeb’s resident luvvie managed to chunter on for an age without mentioning either Phlip Larkin or Andrew Marvell. How many cities can boast two poets of such distinction? Not Liverpool I think.

    • HookesLaw

      It ill behoves a veteran of celebrity jungle to turn her nose up at culture. Or Hull. Or anywhere. Or even show her face in daylight.

    • David Lindsay

      Or London, come to that. For such a big place, it produces astonishingly little culturally. People like that wind up there. But, considering that it has for so long been by far the largest city in the country, very, very few of them ever come from there originally.

      • manonthebus

        Do my eyes deceive me? Did you write that London produces astonishingly little culturally? This cannot be! Are you having a moment of madness?

        • David Lindsay

          It is perfectly true. An awful lot is put on there. But check where the people involved grew up. It was almost never London. Yet London has been far and away the largest city in these Islands for a very long time.

    • global city

      Google ‘Liverpool…………’ anything in the arts or creative sectors and I’m sure you will change your mind.

      Hull is a fine but empty shell. has lots of good buildings.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    Hasholme Longboat? Marvell? Whales? Fishing (we once did that, y’know)?Wilberforce? Amy Johnson? Larkin (and toads)? Hull Truck? Numerous thesps? RPO? The Deep? KC? Green Ginger?

    Nah! Nothin’ of interest here. An’ it’s norf uv Watford.

    • McClane

      And they all went to London.

      • MalcolmRedfellow

        Err … no. Most proudly recalled their East Riding roots. And Amy, sadly, bravely, went into the Thames Estuary.

      • Child of the Moon

        Everyone went to London because they had no choice, McCain. By your logic, everyone is a product of London. The Beatles went to London; does that take away the fact that they came from Liverpool? They were what they were because of where they came from, like everyone else who doesn’t come from England’s very own Sodom; that just where the money and all its attendant vulgarity is. London sucks the life out of the entire U.K., not just Hull. And if you must be so nasty and bitter about things, do at least try to be informed.

        • Child of the Moon

          By the way, Coventry native Larkin didn’t go to London (I only wish he had), while Hull Truck, The Deep, The KC Stadium, The Land of Green Ginger and every attraction that you were either too blind, too ignorant or too prejudiced to see (if you really did come, that is), are still very much here and not bound for Sodom at any time in the foreseeable future. Incidentally, foggy old London town was
          always a big let-down to me; considering that every last drop of Mother England’s love and care is lavished upon this greedy and very spoilt child, it certainly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Random gunfire? Organised gangs? City centre riots? We don’t have such quaint customs up here in Eas’ Yorks, y’all. Damn! London beats us to the punch again. London? You can have it!

          Why do you bother anyway? You clearly spend more time thinking about these places than you should. If you offered constructive criticism, fair enough, but most of it is so cartoon malicious and OTT that it verges on the camp and thus removes any validity it might have otherwise had. Actually, I feel quite sorry for you.

  • telemachus

    The purpose of the current City of Culture is as a tribute to the best Deputy Prime Minister since records began

    • McClane

      Its only purpose, idiot#1 as you are apparently now called.

      • Neotelemachus

        Have an uptick for correctly addressing our number one idiot. I shall similarly reward all who do the same.

    • HFC

      That’ll be a close race, no doubt.

    • HookesLaw

      Where was Willie Whitelaw born then?

    • Neotelemachus

      You commend Prescott today Idiot #1 but will you still say so next week. You had nothing good to say about Bercow today but these were your views last week:

      Bercow is doing just fine
      He fails to be cowed by the bullying hectoring Government front bench
      Cameron talked over him at the last PMQ’s and should be barred for a day as punishment
      We cannot go back to the days of Lenthall being bullied by crown representatives (which is what Government ministers are)

  • lgrundy

    What’s the point in having a city of culture?”

    Because it’s better than a city of multi-culture?

    Talking of which, I see Hitchens has given your recent book The Diversity Illusion a good review over at his blog.

    Sounds interesting. I’ve just ordered a copy on his recommendation.

    • Chris Veasey

      Hull is nowadays a city of multi-culture, contrary to the bletherings of ignorant London meeja-hacks that persist in portraying it as all-white all-English/British. Inner north Hull in particular is very much United Nations, or regrettably sometimes Divided Nations. But a lot less racial tension/ hatred than places like London, to say nothing of some of the E Lancs/ W Yorks towns and cities – far less ghettoisation in Hull.

  • fathomwest

    Well if Glasgow had it and Londonderry why not Hull? Good luck to them. Perhaps the editor, Fraser Nelson, could venture out up t’north and see the changes mass immigration have brought.

    • Jambo25

      I’m from the other end of the M8 and hardly a Glasgow partisan but do you have any idea how ludicrous your posting is, vis a vis, Glasgow given the very large stock of high quality cultural venues and other assets the city has? In cultural terms Glasgow and Hull are different ends of the telescope. I have had a reasonable time on the couple of occasions I’ve been to Hull. In particular, I’ve enjoyed a couple of fairly rip roaring nights down in the old Polar Bear pub before it got poshed up but Hull simply isn’t on the same planet, culturally, as Glasgow.

      • Chris Veasey

        Er, well you unwittingly make the point – what was Glasgow universally famous, or rather infamous for, before its year as City of Culture catalysed its renaissance, eh? Yes to be sure it’s now a real metropolis and a pleasure to visit and live in, at least in parts.

        Of course Hull is unlikely to rival Glasgow in our lifetimes as it’s only about a third or a quarter the size of Glasgow and moreover lacks the dense and extensive hinterland of large satellite towns which contribute so much to making Glasgow a real regional capital and sustaining its cultural assets. But on a proportionately lesser but still substantial scale Hull’s forthcoming year as City of Culture could give Hull as much lasting benefit as Glasgow’s year of glory did for it.
        – as long as it involves something a bit more substantial and truly cultural than ‘dancing white phone boxes’ ‘ rivers of light’ and other such lowbrow tat spectacles.that are apparently planned.

        • Jambo25

          I’d like to see Hull prosper. I don’t know the city that well but I’ve got a couple of relatives who went to university there and I’ve had a couple of really good nights out in the city.

          It simply doesn’t have the assets which Glasgow always had even before the Year of Culture kicked off. Glasgow always had a couple of world class art galleries. Was a centre for ballet, opera and orchestral music. Hull University is a fine institution but it really isn’t in the same category as the University of Glasgow and GSA. Glasgow is also part of a connected city area with Edinburgh about 45 minutes away and Belfast not that far over the water either.

          As a result Glasgow has been really rather successful in regenerating at least part of it’s economy. It’s not generally realised down south but Glasgow, for all it’s very real problems, isn’t quite the economic basket case it’s sometimes made out to be. It’s GVA figure is a good deal higher than a lot of English provincial cities.

          I wish Hull well and hope that things improve for the city. It certainly has been the forgotten city of England for too long.

          • William Wilberfoce

            Regards Art gallery’s, Hull host’s the most critically acclaimed collection of public artworks, outside of the capital, as evidenced by the recent Da Vinci and Andy Warhol exhibitions. Yet Another ill-informed and condescending opinion regarding Hull I’m afraid. The popular misconception which purveys Hull, is a result of the limited opportunity in which Hull has had to market it’s cultural wealth. Largely attributable to the false portrayal of the city, by a derisive National media, which has clouded Hull’s image for decades. Hull is in fact a very liveable City, with vast open spaces, grand Victorian architecture
            and a waterfront quayside fit enough to grace any desirable coastal destination in Europe or beyond. Hull having the highest graduate retention rate of any City in the UK, provides ample testimony to this assertion.
            “People are slow to leave it, quick to return. And there are others who come, as they think, for a year or two, and stay a lifetime, sensing that they have found a city that is in the world yet sufficiently on the edge of it to have a different resonance.” Philip Larkin 1982

            • Jambo25

              On the QS ranking of world universities, Glasgow is ranked 51st and Hull is the banding 501st-550th. On the UTS rankings, Glasgow is 139 and Hull isn’t mentioned in the top 400. The QS rankings are probably more accurate.

              In terms of cultural facilities there is simply no equivalence between the 2 cities. Glasgow has the Burrell Collection and Kelvinside Art Gallery which are both home to really major, wold class collections. Even the smaller Pollok House has a small but eye popping permanent collection of paintings by El Greco, Goya, Murillo etc. Add on the RSNO, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, Citizens’ Theatre, SECC, Hydro etc. I am not decrying Hull which is a city I quite liked on my brief acquaintanceships with it: just saying that it isn’t in the same class as Glasgow as an educational and cultural centre.

              • William Wilberfoce

                I concede the University point, my information was out-dated; however if you scratch the surface, Hulls cultural proposition is right up there..! I will not force-feed you a prescribed list of Hull’s must see’s, I’d prefer you took the time to uncover the hidden gems of Hull for yourself.

                • Jambo25

                  Don’t get me wrong sir. I’m not decrying Hull: just questioning how much good this year will do. I think cities like Hull which have been victims of government policies as well as ‘natural’ economic forces deserve and need far more help than they are getting. I don’t think that just means money but a general move away from the way in which virtually all macro-economic policy is made with solely London and the South East in mind.

                • William Wilberfoce

                  Agreed; the proof is in the pudding, but I am quietly confident it will be a success. The bid seems to have galvanised the whole city, and for once the council seems to be making all the right noises. Guess only time will tell.

                • Jambo25

                  I hope that the future is better to Hull and I wish you and the city well.

  • McClane

    Hull is the dead end of the M62. It has some nice scenery as you arrive, after that it’s flat and boring. You count mileage between branches of Tesco Express. Hull Royal Infirmary is a major landmark, if only because it looks like a KZL incinerator. Things improve as you drive north. There’s a Waitrose on the Willerby Road.

    • Child of the Moon

      Then don’t arrive, McClune – simple! You’re flat and boring too. Live and let live. Or is that too difficult for you?

  • glurk

    We have crap cities because we were skint after the 2nd World War and not only couldnt afford to regenerate them in the way they deserved but we were in the grip of a rip it out and chuck it design revolution which is rampant today and flourishes because people want crap bluntly. If we want visually interesting towns and cities we’ll have to look beyond the universal petrol station architecture that emanated from the States originally where everywhere and thing is mass-produced and looks just the same and stop trying to do everything damned thing on the cheap.

    • Jambo25

      Funny how all those European states which had been even more heavily damaged by us during the war and were even more skint than us after it, managed to rebuild pleasant, livable cities.

      • Jimmy Lemons

        Says who? Theodore Dalrymple says France is worse than England when it comes to ugly modern architecture. And that post war German and Dutch architects fell in love with brutalist concrete designs as much the English ones did.

        • Jambo25

          Theodore Dalrymple is a doctor, not an architect. You are right about France. There are some truly awful post war, sub Le Corbusier developments, not just in Paris but in big provincial cities as well. However, the average German or Dutch city is much more pleasant to live in than their British equivalents and I know Germany very well and bits of the Netherlands quite well.. Compare Lubeck with Hull; Dusseldorf with Birmingham etc.

          Strangely enough my son is a town planner and his view is that the difference between UK and European cities was as much down to different planning philosophies as to the quality of architecture.

          • Chris Veasey

            I remember landing up in Lubeck early Saturday afternoon – the whole town was closed, apart from one caff – the only place i could get anything to eat. You can’t compare places like Lubeck with Hull – Lubeck is a fossil city whose best days are behind it, by centuries. Hull is alive and evolving, as it always has, and with a great future to come. And as for Dutch cities, take a trip out of Amsterdam’s picturesque old city across the river Ij and savour one of the vilest concrete jungle nightmares Europe has to offer – that’s as much the REAL Amsterdam, as are the endless dreary low-density middle class sluburbs in which the Dutch specialised throughout the last centre and which surround the old city on all its other sides.

            • Jambo25

              That must have been some time ago. That used to be the case with all German cities up until relatively recently. Shops and a lot of restaurants closed at lunch time on Saturday afternoon. I got caught like that in Bremen once. About the only place I could find to get something to eat was a Mac D. Strangely enough, once it got dark the city centre was jumping with a lot of people down at the Beck’s bar in the Altmarkt. My wife and I sat out until early in the morning knocking back Beck’s finest and watching buskers.

              Lubeck still has a small port trade and has a couple of industrial zones with quite a lot of commercial activity. It is also reclaiming much of it’s commercial hinterland such as Schwerin, Wismar etc which was blocked off from it.by the old intra-German border. It’s also a sizable second order shopping and service centre though a bit overshadowed by nearby Hamburg. No offence but if you think that Lubeck suffers in comparison with Hull you have strange taste in cities.

              As for Amsterdam. Sure it has some high and medium rise suburbs. However a lot of it’s suburbs have now taken on the characteristics of satellite towns, each with it’s own little commercial centres , services etc. They form self contained little communities which appear to be much more pleasant to live in than some of the suburban wastelands in the UK. In fact it is the Dutch planning system which created this which partially lies behind the present move to localism in planning in England.

              • Chris Veasey

                Well yes it was some time ago – and the things I recall about Lubeck’s nightlife were swaggering overdressed middle-aged beneficiaries of W German postwar ‘economic miracle’ flaunting their evident wealth – and a rather cramped and tawdry brothel quarter I strolled (quickly) through.

                • Jambo25

                  Brothels I generally give a miss. There are a couple of very good restaurants and a couple of OK bars. Travemunde with it’s beach and rather good fish restaurants is only about 30 minutes away as well.

  • In2minds

    “The Department for Culture, Media and Sport” –

    A bit like the cupboard under the stairs then, full of odd stuff waiting for a local jumble sale?

  • David Lindsay

    It’s not London (of all places, frankly), so it’s a joke, then? Well, the wrong sort would never go to Hull, so it ought to be a roaring success. Perhaps someone will finally discover why that city is known as Hull rather than as Kingston? That alone would be worth whatever it cost.

    • McClane

      It’s neither Hull nor Kingston. It’s Kingston upon Hull. It’s Hull for short.

      • David Lindsay

        I am told that it was called Kingston (the Hull is the river, a tributary of the Humber) until it took a strongly parliamentary line during the Civil War. After all, Newcastle upon Tyne is not called Tyne, is it?

        • Chris Veasey

          It was called Wyke (or Wyke upon Hull) till Edward 1st (who should be Edward 3rd or 4th if we had a less Franococentric king numbering system) compulsorily purchased it from its owner Meaux Abbey in the late 1290s and developed it as one of his new towns, renaming it Kingston upon Hull. But it was commonly known as just Hull long before the 17thC civil war – one of Chaucer’s fictional characters was a maritime pilot of who he wrote “there was none such from Hull to Carthage”. Personally I favour calling it familiarly KH (as in LA, KL, BA etc). BTW I assume you’re not the David Lindsay my childhood/yoof friend in north Hull who sadly was killed when he crashed his dad’s car are you?

          • David Lindsay

            Alas, not. But it is a very common name. Many of the Clan Chiefs, the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, have had it, as did a fairly famous Scots poet, and that seems to have set a certain pattern.

          • David Lindsay

            Alas, not. But it is a very common name. Many of the Clan Chiefs, the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, have had it, as did a fairly famous Scots poet, and that seems to have set a certain pattern.

  • Smithersjones2013

    I laughed . Did no one else apply or was it Prescott’s croquet playing that swung it? Its nothing more than another fool enterprise to waste taxpayer’s money.

    • David Lindsay

      Thank you, Alan Partridge.

    • HookesLaw

      I don’t think it necessarily means it *is* a city of culture. it is a site where some festival for promoting culture will take place. Even i am prepared to admit that Yorkshiremen can learn to be cultured.

      The point about town planners destroying our environment is a good one I believe.

    • kcband8

      Just for accuracy, the taxpayer is NOT paying for it.

      • JMcNairn

        Absolutely right. There is NO government money being spent on this.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Whenever I hear the word culture I reach for my grant application.

    • David Lindsay

      It is one of those things which can only be appreciated by people who cannot afford it without State action. It would not exist at all if matters were left to the Thatcher-Blair classes, the likes of Nadine Dorries. There would literally be nothing, and they would not even notice.

      • Russell

        It is only appreciated by people who want something and for other people (taxpayers) to pay for it!

        • David Lindsay

          Point proved.

        • global city

          That’s like 95% of London’s arts & cultural infrastructure then!

      • tanky

        Of course that is the states job isnt it? to give people free entertainment. Hull being such a prosperous city doesnt need money spending on anything more urgently does it?

        • McClane

          Hull needs to be rebuilt. Somewhere else. Without its failing schools, its failing hospital and its Prescott nepotism.

        • David Lindsay

          There is an age-old connection between cultural and economic life.

          You would whinge about any spending outside the South East, where you pretend that you don’t have any.

    • In2minds

      Correct, it’s simply a consolation prize

      • David Lindsay

        Consolation for what? For not being no-books-in-the-house Tory country? That is its own consolation.

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