You will know about Hull for one of two reasons. Either you’ve always heard it to be a depressing blot on the map that contains nothing and no-one of note, or because it has become this year’s UK City of Culture (I have no idea what that means either). Those who have not heard of Hull are likely also to be caught saying things such as, “anything above the Thames is north to me”, whilst drinking their fifth glass of Bollinger.
I imagine the general consensus is that, of all the places on this great, green Earth, the two most violent opposites are Hull and Oxford. The north-south divide goes a long way to ensure this contrast, but, in reality, the two cities aren’t all so different.
Hull is really beautiful. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – but I’m not even joking. If you look past the almost iridescent shade of brown which constitutes the Humber, what you’ll find is an old town that could rival even Oxford. Sadly, the vast majority of Hull’s beautiful old architecture fell victim to the Blitz, but what remains in the Old Town are little pubs dating back to 1550, winding alleys of cobblestones, working men’s clubs, and, weirdly, Britain’s smallest window.
At the bottom of Whitefriargate (up here we say, “Whayte-fra-gerte”), you will find one such winding alley of cobblestones. Its name: Land of Green Ginger. Why? Quite literally no-one knows, but it is good fun. Not far from the Land of Green Ginger is the house of one of history’s most significant figures, William Wilberforce, who led the fight against the slave trade. It is true, Hull has seen fewer titans emerge than Oxford has, but thank goodness we don’t have to keep apologising for the antics of 27 Prime Ministers.
If there is a difference between Hull and Oxford, then I think it may well be our sense of pride. Even though I have been in town only fleetingly during the vacs, I can still feel a sense of pride in Hull, especially after we won the title ‘City of Culture’. It exists in the air, and with the people who live in the city. It comes from all the times that the people of Hull have had to stick together in the face of adversity: our men in the trenches, the Blitz spirit, the trawler men lost at sea, and now as an industrial Northern town past its days of peak economic utility. Despite anything that has come against Hull, it has pulled through with a sense of community. Can’t kill a cockroach, chortles the bloke with the Bollinger from earlier. To him I say, come tell that to all of us.