People who had never before even looked at Hull are suddenly paying it a lot of attention.
This year, it is UK City of Culture. There has been widespread investment and a vast programme of events is running throughout 2017. But there has still been sniping.
Spectacular events heralded the start of the year, but The Sun ran a two-page report on supposed ‘mayhem’, beneath the headline “Scrapital of Culture”, which angered many local residents.
“Those people had probably never been to Hull,” says James Scott, who grew up in Glasgow, then lived in the south of England, but who now lives in Hull.
“Being named City of Culture has been a great thing for Hull,” he says. “There has been lots of new infrastructure coming in, there is a whole different opinion about Hull and we have people coming from all over the country to see events, and saying ‘why have we not come here before?’ and talking to people in the streets, saying ‘aren’t they friendly’.”
“When I moved here I thought, this is lovely – it’s a great community, and community has been lost around the country.”
It’s a great community, and community has been lost around the country.
We met a group of 10 Hull residents at The Annex of The Community Enterprise Centre off Cottingham Road, for a Voices From The Margins event. Although some of those present had only just met, the conversation was in full flow even as we arrived.
There was a lot of pride in the city but a repeated view that more could and should be done for some of the city’s poorest residents, and several said that key issues were not being adequately addressed in the run up to the General Election on June 8.
Tony Brown (not his real name): “I do not think they are talking about the right issues for people on benefits.”
James Scott says he lost his job and then faced delays in his Universal Credit, leading to him being served an eviction notice. He says: “I am basically living off food banks and the church and my friends, and that is so detrimental to my mental health. I am not someone who dosses; every single day I look for work. I have not heard anyone telling those stories. All I have heard is rhetoric on cutting this or cutting that. Sometimes I watch the news and I think, who do I believe? All they want to do is slag each other off. You are not getting answers; you do not know what to think. Then you look at social media and get ideas from people who do not know what they’re talking about!”
I am basically living off food banks and the church and my friends, and that is so detrimental to my mental health.
Sheila Steer: “I think a lot of people are frightened to stand up and say ‘this is wrong’ because of what they could do. They could sanction you, or make you homeless.”
Revd Dave Rogers: “I would like to hear a politician talking about creating some real jobs. We keep getting told employment is going up but we all know some of those jobs are not real – they are zero-hours or an occasional shift.”
We keep getting told employment is going up but we all know some of those jobs are not real
Vera Smith: “You cannot live on a shift if you get that once every two weeks.”
Cat Occhini: “We need to get a manufacturing base. Particularly with Brexit happening, we need to start training kids.”
Tony: “Hull is one of the gateways to England. It has a perfect river and a rail network and one of the best motorways in and out of Hull. Is Hull blocked off, because it’s at the end of the motorway and people do not want to drive the extra miles? Hull has everything going for it, every form of transport – so why can’t it be better?”
James again: “It is so horrible having to go to your mates or food banks just to survive. It makes you feel worthless. If it was not for my dog, there are a few times over the last six months I would have killed myself. At one point I was going to lose my home and had no money and did not know where my next meal was coming from. In this day and age you should not have to live like that.”
At one point I was going to lose my home and had no money and did not know where my next meal was coming from.
Tony again: “Before I came to the church, I did not know about half the food banks that exist.”
Sheila again: “Sometimes what makes it even more difficult to ask for help is sheer pride – you do not want to let people know you are struggling. Pride is a thing that will drive people even further away from seeking help.”
Sometimes what makes it even more difficult to ask for help is sheer pride – you do not want to let people know you are struggling.
What message would people here like to give to the election candidate, or to whoever forms the new Government?
Angie Longbone: “Help us. Just help us… The form that would take would be to have a fairer society, to support the needy, and to stop making morality a dirty word in this country.”
Angie says Britain is at the point of becoming a ‘post-Christian country’ and fears that politicians who appeal to people’s greed will succeed.
Connor Wildridge: “There should be more opportunities to go into jobs without experience, like giving training at the actual job.”
Tony: “Give a guarantee that they will not sell the NHS”
Sheila again: “Follow through on the promises you make that are going to make our country a fairer, more just society.”
Jamie again: “I would like someone to stick by their policies”
Tony: “If they make promises, it should be made law. If they say they will create 500 jobs for a year it should be law that they do that, not for them to be able to say ‘right, I’m in power now, forget it’.
If you have had suicidal thoughts or are concerned about someone, you can phone Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123 or find your local branch at samaritans.org/branches