In light of the announcement that the Turner Prize Award Ceremony and Exhibition is coming to Hull for 17, my talk about Place and Identity from last night’s Creative 1, becomes all the more timely. I want to witness and experience the so-called ‘ripple effect’ throughout the creative community that an event like this brings. Even at this early stage my money is on performance art or cont. dance featuring among the nominations for Turner Prize 2017. It does mean a whole year of the Ferens being closed while it gets a facelift, but also raises the possibility of the Live Art Space having a new lease of life.
Notes from Place Perception and Identity Talk Creative 1 May 27th McCoys Coffee Hull.
Identity Place Perception – Are we sleepwalking into a crisis of identity?
Why do we need a space to call home?
‘Home is emotionally, physically and economically foundational – and that’s why building a sense of belonging needs to be at the heart of concepts of social, physical, and economic regeneration.’ Urban Pollinators
We are attached to it. ‘Home’ we are part of it, it is part of us.
On stage at the New Adelphi Club: a place I refer to as my ‘second home’ and why do I assign such a notion to it? It is where I feel safe, accepted, welcome, I can relax be me or whatever version of me I choose to project.
The Adelphi is associated with so many good memories and it remains, despite not having been for a while, my favourite place in the whole city.
What does HOME mean to you?
These spaces make up our identity. They are the places where our family and generations before us have worked, played, lived and loved. They are like anchors, they are the permanent reminders of our past. These places connect us through collective experience, they give us a oneness: our Hullness.
Hullness was a different thing to everyone that’s what made it and us interesting: individuality. In terms of place and regeneration it suggested there needed to be:
‘More community voices onto the radar of the traditional, topdown approaches of planners, policymakers and place-marketeers’ – David Atkinson Hullness Report.
Old and New
Venues, bars, and nights all experiencing name changes, nothing is permanent everything feels disposable. I think this transience leads to a state where monetary value takes precedence and any other notions of value are fleeting and tokenistic.
Retaining the old names you preserve the essence of place, you protect the past and connect the people in a positive and meaningful way. Changing the place names, reinventing, starting again is precarious – there is no foundation; no sense of security and solidity.
By the act of renaming, ownership is removed from the people, power is asserted and with power comes the possibility of control. Take a way that sense of ownership and the reasons for it and we are like strangers in our city, in our home. If home isn’t home anymore, if it is transient and subject to change, then it is no longer home and we become lost without a solid foundation. The Boathouse (pictured) was a place that for many years stood against all efforts to control it, while remaining a rare artist-led space for exploration and freedom for practice/performance.
Commodification of people and place
Multi million pound development doesn’t make room or have time for individuality and self expression – it steam rollers both into submission.
The big corporations see opportunity for financial gain, it’s what they are built to do, they invest in the hope of making a return for them and shareholders.
But at what cost to the idea of our place and identity?
‘We consume places more literally via the food we cook, and via the placebased cuisines we favour when eating out. The clothes, music and other goods we surround ourselves with can also see us consuming place. Similarly, we’re sold visits to places by the tourist and leisure industries and if we like particular places, we revisit them time and time over once they become our favourite places. The concept of place thus patterns our modern consumer lives in numerous ways too.’ David Atkinson Hullness Report.
‘I think that’s a danger in all cultures. Big or small. As the commodification of citizens as consumers, expands high streets become a sea of corporate brands, and all cities begin to look the same. The Internet doesn’t help, as we tap into a global identity, we must keep our local identity alive.
Think global, act local!” (Originally coined by IBM I believe, but appropriated since.) But that’s a two-way street now. And in amongst the barrage of info we are hit with everyday, people become tired, lose focus on what really matters. Forgetting that it’s the community they live in that counts above all, for them, their family, and their community at large.‘ Rich Mills Weird Retro Hull
21st century spaces create divisions in community not unification.
‘The failure of early 21st century regeneration programmes has been to consider that wealth exists in everything else: property, finance, careers, spending, measurements of economic success. We now have a chance to redress the balance – not only at a national level in formulating and critiquing policy, but at local level as cities and districts seek to find more sustainable ways of creating a future.’ – Urban Pollinators
Ruskin famously said, ‘There is no wealth but life.’ I think we should be creating spaces where life in all its many different guises can flourish, not soulless commercialism.
I’m not against change. The only truth is that change is constant and change is inevitable. We are on the cusp of what could prove to be momentous changes, they may prove to be a fruitful change to many…I’m not against progress but progress for its own sake?
Change came with the advent of high-rise living and then with that change came what? Isolation, deprivation and increased levels of criminality.
Re-building in Hull. Throwing out of the Abercrombie Plan. Post war lack of confidence. The headlines from 1950 surrounding the rebuilding could almost have been written today.
The central area of the Old Town was designated as a Conservation Area in 1973; recognised as outstanding by the DoE in 1975; and formally extended in 1981, 1986 and 1994 to include the north & south ends of High Street and most of the area between Castle Street and the Humber Estuary. Where is that conservation area now?
Hull Photographer George Norris:
‘The North has been forgotten about by Westminster for generations, our city’s decayed once proud heritage has been in decline for generations and will take a generation to stop the rot. My personal opinion is that our elected leaders are terrible when it comes to preserving our cultural heritage. I and others feel powerless to make a change by their poor stewardship.
Im 51 and have seen the city I love torn down, communities which took generations to build ,rehoused in areas that they feel alienated in. Money squandered from KC shares,people sat on land waiting for it to appreciate in value waiting for the architectural and historical gems they sit on to fall into decline, when they should be reimagined and given new life. If you don’t invest in the things we already have we lose them and become all the more poor for losing them… I’m all for change but not everything is progress.’
There is a question to be asked around the speed of the developments: in just one year the brand new C4DI building will be completed. I would have liked some representation of Hull Art Lab within the new complex. Developers seem all too keen to wipe away all trace of what has gone before.
As someone said last night why not make record of the previous use of the space as warehousing fruit. How far back do you go maybe as far back as the Black Friars monastery hence ‘Blackfriargate’ sited in the area centuries ago. It is a commonly held assertion that not understanding the past leads to an uncertain and unsustainable future.
Evidence Supporting the constant need and what could be described as a desperate rush to preserve our histories. Examples of Organisations working in Heritage
Roots and Wings capturing Untold Stories that will otherwise be lost as this generation passes into the next.
Hull FC 150 and their heritage programme that they hope will inspire fans and families to reconnect with the past to inform their identity and relationship with the club and city.
Our own stop/start project On The Edge launched last year at Compass Live (one of the rare occasions when the Live Art Space was used for live art) that sought to create a digital and physical archive of perf. art in Hull. Again with today’s Turner Prize announcement, the lack of support and negative response we received from the powers that be when we first approached them with the idea, now looks extremely short-sighted of them.
Any number of memorials dotted about the city and a constant clamouring for more ways to memorialise people and place.
Many of the most active pages on soc media are those collating and celebrating history and heritage. Our past is very important to people and there is a desperate need to preserve.
The shock and anger felt across the city when buildings are lost – Cornmill, New York Hotel, George Lamb Memorial Chapel (remaining arches structure pictured) and the Clarence Flour Mill (could have held a wonderful Turner Prize in that space and then created a catalyst for its future, but no, its a casino the city needs)
The continual focus on the Maritime Heritage through artistic means. The collapse of the fishing industry, once the lifeblood of the city, now the old psychic wound that still bleeds thirty years on, since the end of the cod wars.
There needs to be real exploration of redevelopment driven by communities and community engagement, versus the prevalence of property and land speculation.
Build spaces that encourage engagement and promote understanding and revaluing of past and present, rather than conspiring an aspirational fantasy home. Emphasis on another view of a destination location and a different interpretation of prestige and importance to seek out. People should make a place their own, not be dictated to by the irregular shaped glass and concrete boxes, mood lighting and modish design.
A place can develop from the bottom up from grassroots rather than topdown with an outside vision imposed upon it.
Eg: The grassroots led organisations that supported the Baltic and contributed to its success and sustainability. The Baltic has benefited from and been made possible by the presence of artist-led grass roots development first in the 1960s where community arts provision came through local libraries, right through the guerrilla era of artist-led group shows.
Recent Guardian Article on Turner Prize nominees Assemble Collective working in Toxteth.
”Assemble’s work is founded in an interest in issues, and sites that go way beyond constructing pretty scenography in gritty industrial locations. It is about engaging with people on their own terms, driven, as they put it, by “a belief in the importance of addressing the typical disconnection between the public and the process by which spaces are made”.
‘Although the Hullness project did not set out to develop a method for exploring community centred place making, it may highlight routes to a more sensitive and participatory way of conceptualising and exploring senses of place from the bottom up‘ Hullness Report
Jose new arrival from Portugal to the city in 2015, has experience of and understands the effects and outcomes in three previous Cities of Culture in his home country.
‘There must be improvements not only in infrastructures, buildings, cultural events and tourism inflow, but also and most important, in Hull citizens who have a great opportunity to change to OPTIMISTIC mode. Through starting to build a trust culture, everyone can discuss new ideas and projects in the city, be committed and accountable to this beautiful city and be judged by their actions and results.’
Final Thoughts Engaging Communities
Positive story opening of Rank House on Holderness Road home of J.Arthur Rank about community-led regeneration – coming together of not for profit group Probe, Rank Foundation and Hull College led by Radio Humberside’s David Burns. An example where somebody got it right?
I’d like to leave you with this thought: In the centre of town there’s a place hundreds of years old with significant historical interest to the city and the county. Over the past ten fifteen years different generations of the dispossessed, have marked it out as theirs: their space. Those youths who sit in their space during the day, clothed head to toe in black, the weight of the world on their shoulders. If you fill in the city gates, where will the Emos call home?
For their assistance and enthusiasm
Anna Bean Artist
Rich Mills One Hull of a City (Weird Retro)
Rich Rignall Hull Art
George Norris photographer
Phillip Clarkson photographer
Jamie Akrill photographer and DJ
Jayne Jones artist academic
Hannah Cooper formerly of Arc
David Atkinson Hullness Report author