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Arts and culture in Hull and East Yorkshire

Absolutely cultured

Arts and Culture Hull and East Yorkshire

Visit the East Riding Theatre, patrons of which include Dame Judi Dench

Coventry claimed the crown as the next UK City of Culture in 2021 and Hull is well on the way with its next challenge – delivering a legacy which will embed the benefits from the year-long programme into the fabric of the city and the region. The impact has not been immediately obvious but it was never about replicating the programme of events every day during an action-packed year, and there are other signs that a commitment to culture has taken hold.

Absolutely Cultured is developing and delivering new events as the successor to the City of Culture Company. Its role is as much about inspiring people to try something new as participants or as the audience and the result is a rich variety of art and culture events and a remarkable collection of places adopted and adapted for performance. The attractions extend throughout the city, towns and villages all the way to the artists in residence at Spurn Point, that looping easterly extremity of Yorkshire.

East Riding Theatre operates inside a converted Baptist chapel in Beverley yet has brought together some genuinely big names from the world of drama. Adrian Rawlins, known for his role as James Potter in the Harry Potter films, is the artistic director, Vincent Regan is the creative director and the patrons are Dame Judi Dench and Sir Mark Rylance. Strong support from business and the community, with an imaginative and affordable programme, combine to offer a delightful venue and an artistic force to be reckoned with. The Spa at Bridlington is the East Riding’s biggest indoor venue and accommodates everything from small workshops and displays to major exhibitions, festivals and concerts.

Burton Agnes Hall just a few miles from Bridlington is established as a venue for a variety of entertainment including a jazz and blues festival which brings internationally-acclaimed musicians to perform in the magnificent gardens and in the ornate rooms of a property which dates back to the 12th century. Pocklington Arts Centre punches above its weight for a venue of around 200 seats with its mixed and busy programme of film, music, drama, dance and more. The Centre is one of the collaborators in the annual Platform Festival, which has presented performers as diverse as Joan Armatrading, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Richard Hawley and Omid Djalili.

Adrian Rawlins, known for his role as James Potter in the Harry Potter films, is the artistic director, Vincent Regan is the creative director and the patrons are Dame Judi Dench and Sir Mark Rylance

Film and theatre

Arts and Culture Hull and East Yorkshire

Watch a performance at the Hull Truck Theatre

Junction at Goole is a modern and compact venue for film, theatre and music and in nearby Howden, the Shire Hall has become established as a unique venue for a wide range of matinee and evening art, culture and community events. Various pubs and clubs in Cottingham come together once a year for the Springboard Festival. Held over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend and with a track record going back more than 10 years, Springboard has become one of the biggest live music festivals in the region. The main stage in Cottingham Civic Hall is also the home of Cottingham Folk Festival where you’ll find traditional folk performers and, increasingly, big names from the charts of days gone by – Roland Gift, Steve Harley and Badly Drawn Boy are just three. Year-round you’ll find a programme of more chart favourites – think Bay City Rollers, Showaddywaddy and Tiffany – plus tribute acts remembering the likes of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.

Assemble Fest commandeers businesses ranging from cafe bars to hair salons along Newland Avenue in Hull in early June to present a one-day theatre festival of specially commissioned shows. A programme of street activity includes buskers, magicians, live art, yarnbombing, face painting and puppet shows. Just off Newland Avenue, down De Grey Street, is the world-famous Adelphi Club. The birthplace of The Housemartins, who evolved into The Beautiful South, has been providing opportunities for up-and-coming bands for more than 30 years. Among the stars of the future who squeezed into the tiny venue on their way to the top were Radiohead, The Stone Roses and Oasis. A visit to the Adelphi is a must for any music fans visiting the region.

The University of Hull hosts many events which are open to the public. At any given time you might find a sculpture trail in the grounds, live music in the students’ union building, performances in the Gulbenkian Centre and a gallery in the Brynmor Jones Library, years ago the work place of Philip Larkin and now expensively refurbished to accommodate touring exhibitions by world-renowned artists. Another major investment turned Middleton Hall from a conference venue into a state-of-the-art auditorium for entertainment ranging from chamber music to comedy, films, lectures and recordings for BBC radio shows.

Hull Truck Theatre, formed in the 1970s to tour its shows in the back of a van, moved into a purpose-built home in 2009 and remains a pioneering organisation and a regional ambassador of national significance. Truck still produces its own shows and welcomes an array of other work with a busy programme of plays, poetry, music and film as well as one-man and one-woman shows. Hull New Theatre reopened with a bang after its multi-million-pound refurbishment and presents entertainment for all ages ranging from pantomimes and other children’s shows to TV spin-offs, classic musicals, opera and ballet, including top West End shows.

The main stage in Cottingham Civic Hall is also the home of Cottingham Folk Festival where you’ll find traditional folk performers and, increasingly, big names from the charts of days gone by

Live music and art

Arts and Culture in Hull and East Yorkshire

Take a trip to the restored and historic Hull Minster which dates back 700 years

Other venues include the Bonus Arena, which can accommodate up to 3,500 people for rock and pop concerts, and Hull City Hall, smaller and with a great live music tradition – the venue where in 1970 The Who had planned to record what became their Live At Leeds album. Technical problems forced a rethink, but the band always felt Hull was the better gig, and they finally released Live In Hull 40 years later. Zebedee’s Yard, the yard of the former Trinity House School, has become a favourite for a variety of gigs which cram an audience of more than 3,000 into an intimate outdoor setting and during 2018 attracted UB40, Happy Mondays, The Wombats and more.

The Bonus Arena, a new, 3,500-seat auditorium, added a new dimension to the city’s concert and conference agenda when it opened in 2018 with curtain-raisers by local bands and comedians and a launch event by music legend Van Morrison. It is attracting some of the biggest names to visit the region, with a stage to match. Watch out for top bands and singers, big names from sport and TV and blockbuster films with live orchestra soundtracks.

The Ferens Art Gallery was closed for most of 2017 but reopened to national acclaim in time to host the Turner Prize. Its magnificent collection of paintings and sculptures, includes works by European Old Masters, portraiture, marine painting, and modern and contemporary British art. Highlights include masterpieces by Lorenzetti, Frans Hals, Antonio Canaletto, Frederick Leighton, Stanley Spencer, David Hockney, Helen Chadwick and Gillian Wearing. There’s also a regular programme of events, guided tours and changing exhibitions.

The historic Hull Minster, which dates back more than 700 years, is now fully open having undergone a significant facelift and is constantly adding to an events programme which in recent years has included rock concerts, fashion shows, exhibitions and real ale and gin festivals. Hull’s magnificent museums house fascinating exhibits and form part of a proud portfolio of eye-catching buildings, many of which are celebrated by Hull Civic Society with guided tours during the annual Heritage Open Days in September. An addition which arrived during the City of Culture year is Humber Street Gallery, home of the famous Dead Bod corrugated artwork salvaged from a shed at Hull docks and also the venue for a variety of contemporary visual art, design, film, photography and craft.

The historic Hull Minster, which dates back more than 700 years, is now fully open having undergone a significant facelift and is constantly adding to an events programme which in recent years has included rock concerts, fashion shows, exhibitions and real ale and gin festivals

Festivals for all tastes

Arts and Culture in Hull and East Yorkshire

The Hull Folk and Maritime Festival sees large crowds drawn to the Marina

The appearance of a piece of work by the anonymous street artist Banksy on a bridge over the River Hull triggered the launch of the Bankside Gallery, with graffiti artists applying their own work to walls in the Wincolmlee area while the City Council set about finding a suitable, secure place to display the original. It’s only a matter of time before the spray paint creatives add to a festival schedule which is as vibrant as ever.

Humber Street Sesh and the Hull Folk and Maritime Festival bring the crowds flocking to the Marina area for performances overlooking the Humber from Victoria Pier, Stage@The Dock and the open spaces along the waterfront. Hull Jazz Festival dates back to 1992 as a fixture in the calendar for July and with a winter edition in November, filling city centre venues with a programme which captures the diversity of the international jazz scene. Freedom Festival turns the entire city centre into a stage and presents a three-day international arts and cultural programme which was inspired by the William Wilberforce commemorations in 2007 and retains a commitment to explore themes such as democracy, equality and protest.

Humber Mouth, the Hull Literature Festival, has a 25-year pedigree with an autumn schedule which brings together author events, special commissions and community projects to celebrate literature, language and text-based arts. Ensemble 52, one of many theatre companies to emerge in Hull and East Yorkshire in recent years, partners with Battersea Arts Centre to deliver Heads Up, a programme of two theatre festivals a year. Its spiritual home is Kardomah94, where actors, musicians, poets and the like rub shoulders with architects and surveyors in a city centre office block now established as another creative hub.


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Image credits: ©Burnstuff2003/Gordon Bell/Adobe Stock; Gavin Prest Photography/East Riding Theatre; Hull Truck Theatre; Tom Arran/The University of Hull

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