Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hull named UK City of Culture 2017

I grew up in Hull; I left at the age of nine but returned aged nineteen to study at the city's university. It's a very special city and I know of no other city quite like it.

Philip Larkin liked the end-of-the-line remoteness; as a child I thought the city was the world. It's flat in Hull and so the streets go on forever. When they do eventually give out it's to the gentlest, rolling hills that ever had the name - The Wolds - or to the sea. And the sea is always special.

The sea, of course, is what made Hull. Lining up at the end of break at Appleton Road Primary School if the wind was in the right (or wrong) direction you could smell the fish docks. Fishing, fish and fisherman were the beating heart of Hull.

Until the coronary that was the Icelandic cod wars and then EU quotas. Now, there's next to no fishing out of Hull and - like other cities which have lost their major industry - it's taken time for it to recover. But recover it has, and recover into something of a cultural icon.

Apart from Larkin (and a host of other poets who followed in his wake) there's William Wilberforce, Andrew Marvell, John Godber, David Hockney and many many more with an association with the city and the wider area. It's a place where things are happening and - from today - a place other people will start noticing.

Well done Hull! Or rather, King's Town upon Hull. City royalty at last...

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

On this day...

In 1917, with the USA just a short month from entering the war, the first ever Jazz (or 'Jass') record was released.

The splendidly-named Victor Talking Machine Company (who survive in the form of RCA Victor) was responsible, having a month earlier established a recording studio in - not New Orleans or Chicago, but New York.

And the band? An all-white five-piece called The Original Dixieland Jass (late changed to Jazz) band and the tracks - Livery Stable Blues (the 'B' side) and Dixie Jass Band One Step.

The record took New York by storm. And the rest, as they say, is history...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

World Radio Day

I love the wireless. Really I do. I could happily (or at least, comfortably) do without the telly but the radio is indispensable whether for keeping up with the Test Match, listening to a concert or just 'having on' in the background. And as a sometime-insomniac, BBC World Service is a lifeline in the long nights of little sleep. I can even listen without moving my head off the pillow (or having those annoying little bud phones in my ears) thanks to a wonderful gadget my wife bought for my birthday, which broadcasts the sound through my pillow!

All-in-all I'd say I'm a radio addict. And as such, I'm delighted that discover that the United Nations has decreed that there should, each year, be a World Radio Day to 'celebrate radio as a medium; to improve international cooperation between broadcasters; and to encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote access to information and freedom of expression over the airwaves.'

And it's today! Yes! So to celebrate, here's yours truly making his radio debut a long, long time ago... Don't laugh. I was only seven.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Great Flood

Sixty years ago tonight, the North Sea Flood (or Dutch Watersnoodramp, which literally translates as 'flood disaster') occurred. A combination of extreme events conspired to send tidal surge racing down the East Coast and wreaked particular havoc in the low lying areas of Lincolnshire and Norfolk where the sea encroached up to two miles inland. In the UK over 300 lost their lives; in The Netherlands, almost 2000 people died.

In all the events, services, broadcasts and features taking place today the numbers, measuring the scale of the disaster, seem to have taken on a greater significance when set alongside the personal testimonies of the survivors. Thanks to BBC Lincolnshire's Scott Dalton for these figures and to William Wright for some memorable personal testimonies today:

Forty-two. The number
Numbered with the living
on this night, sixty years ago.

Forty-two whose number
Came up on that evening;
Forty-two falling victim
to the numbers:

Three, extremes of weather;
Twenty, feet of water;
Two, miles inland flooded;
Twenty thousand, houses ruined.

On the coast today
A sunken century's bell tolls
for their number:

One, Anderby;
Trusthorpe - two;

Four, Saltfleet;
Mablethorpe - eight;

Sutton-on-Sea - eleven;
Ingoldmells, sixteen.

The forty-two.
Make them to be numbered
With Thy Saints, O Lord -
Poseidon, Neptune.

And pray that it should never come again.