Londoners will, of course, split their sides laughing, tickled pink that anything cultural could happen outside of their city of empty penthouses and closing nightclubs. And indeed, there’s something a bit forced about the very idea of a UK City of Culture – handed to a run-down place in a condescending, ‘let them eat cake’ manner, almost as a ready made excuse the next time someone complains about how London is an arts funding sponge (“but look, we gave those Northern oiks a whole year of stuff…”). And all too often, cities that are awarded this status make a pig’s ear of it. But Hull – the 2017 UK City of Culture (go on, get your sniggering over with) has just announced it’s main line-up, and dammit if it doesn’t have some great stuff in there.
The highlight, for us at least, is the Humber Street Gallery devoting an exhibition to COUM Transmissions – the precursors of Throbbing Gristle, who caused outrage (and were famously described by one outraged Tory MP as “the wreckers of civilisation”) with their sexually graphic, body fluid and mutilation filled live performances, including the infamous Prostitution show at the ICA. This is still challenging stuff – arguably more s now, in our days of easy offence – and to see it as one of the centrepieces of an event like this is thrilling, frankly. We’ll certainly be doing all we can to go along and check it out.
Even nudier, if less confrontational, is the work of Spencer Tunick, and his latest piece, shot in Hull in July, will be on display at the Ferens. Sea of Hull not only features his usual mass of naked volunteers, but in this case has them all painted blue. The effect is pretty startling, even when seen in small snippets. This should be very much worth a look.
And then there is the three day festival celebrating Hull’s very own musical genius Basil Kirchin. Three days! Imagine. Kirchin, if you are unaware, was the experimental, ambient genius responsible for some extraordinary film scores – Primitive London, I Start Counting, The Abominable Dr Phibes and more – and making a series of extraordinary, revolutionary recordings. The festival will feature an eclectic array of performers including Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory and St Etienne’s Bob Stanley and The Specials’ Jerry Dammers, who will be doing a library music DJ set. There is also a festival of Nordic music, curated by John Grant, which can’t be anything other than intriguing.
There’s a film festival of “dystopian visions of a digital future”, and a bunch of events around Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – film screenings, talks and a possibly unnecessary performance by Holy Holy, the band made up of ex-Spider Woody Woodmansy, Tony Visconti and the bloke from Heaven 17.
There’s the fair share of tat, of course (the poor buggers have to play host the The Turner Prize, for example), as you’d expect in any such event, and presumably more events and fringe activities will be added. I do wonder if anyone doing anything as edgy as the COUM shows now would be embraced by the event and the local council, though…
Full details here: https://www.hull2017.co.uk/