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Hull residents in heaven after city of culture win


News that Kingston-upon-Hull has won the race to be UK city of culture in 2017 has delighted those who live there

"It's not long ago that this place was in the Crap Towns book, but there has been a lot of investment and a lot of progress," said Martin Taylor, of Hull History Centre, at the news that the city had been chosen as the UK's city of culture in 2017, beating off challenges from Dundee, Leicester and Swansea. "This will be a game changer."

The Hull History Centre curates the archive of Philip Larkin, former librarian at the local university, whose poems such as Days inspired the bid. "The ambition is for each day of 2017 in Hull to showcase something individual, which will make a daily impact on the life of the city and have an impact across the country and the world," explained Taylor. "I'm sure the city will deliver something memorable, powerful and unique, much as the city is itself."

News of the award has surprised some, with Lancastrian cricketer Andrew Flintoff asking his Twitter followers: "It's not April fools today is it? Just heard on the wireless that Hull has become the British city of culture! #windup"

But Richard Heseltine, the university's current librarian, said: "Everyone who lives here has been totally engaged with the bid. I'm sure the other cities did a great job, but you could feel the energy here.

"Larkin had a reputation as a grumpy old man, but I think he would have been very pleased with this. He had enormous affection for the city and understood its strengths, and found Hull a very congenial city in which to work and write his poetry. He benefited from Hull's literary culture, which is still very strong."

"This puts the city on the map and makes Hull visible, finally," said Elaine Burke, an arts consultant. "The people that live and work here have known it for years. Hull is a really special place where magical things happen, but few people outside realised it. Everyone knows about the Humber bridge, but there's some really quirky, unusual stuff that goes on that doesn't happen anywhere else."

Burke said arts had been used to refurbish GP's surgeries and that a local businessman, Malcolm Scott, had turned one of his offices into a theatre space and recording studio. "The postwar decimation of the fishing industry has taken a huge toll on the confidence of people, so for getting people's aspirations going again the award will be absolutely huge," she said.

Chamber of Commerce member Philip Ascough said there was a "huge scream" when the result was announced. "People were preparing for the consolation that if we didn't win, there's still so much culture going on. But that's why we've won.

"It's like the parable of loaves and fishes. When we went for the city of culture, people started to realise what we had, from rock venues such as the Adelphi or Hull Truck theatre. One of the big triggers was Larkin With Toads [a public art display that was part of the festivities in 2010 marking the 25th anniversary of the poet's death], which was hugely popular and brought in money and tourism. People saw from that what the arts can do for a city and an economy."

The city's musical community – which has produced the Housemartins, DJ Norman Cook, former Hull University students Everything but the Girl and David Bowie's backing band, the Spiders from Mars – shared the celebratory and hopeful mood.

"The Spiders from Mars are hugely influential, but they haven't had the recognition," said Mark Wigan, whose Museum of Club Culture is currently holding a display of Bowie artefacts. "We've had over 30,000 people to see this exhibition, but it would be terrific if the city of culture could finally create a proper lasting tribute, such as a statue."

"For the visual arts, this is fantastic, said Andy Pea of Kingston art gallery, in the cultural hub that used to be the city's fruit market. "I was sitting holding my baby daughter when I heard. Otherwise I would have jumped for joy."

On the streets of Hull, there was similar ecstasy, despite the grey skies and rain showers.

"Hull is always regarded as a downtown city," said plasterer Martin Coultas, who has only lived in Hull for six months but found "a different thing, lots to do. I'm impressed by this place."

"I'm really excited," said bakery assistant Andrea Widdowson, dressed in her white apron and cap. "It's wonderful to think that other people will come and visit what is a nice city. If you live here, you appreciate things such as the Freedom festival in the summer and the Deep marina, where there's so much to learn about the fishing industry."

"I turned on Radio 2 this morning and Chris Evans was saying he'd never been to Hull," said Andy Farrer, who helps run the antiques and books emporium Caleb's Place in the fruit market. "But now he says he's going to come here. Becoming the city of culture will be incredible for Hull."

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