Spirit of 2012 is a Principal Partner of Hull UK city of Culture 2017. As well as supporting one of the largest volunteering programmes that the UK has ever seen, Spirit of 2012 is funding work to ensure the impact of this once-in-a -lifetime year reaches across Hull’s many communities.

The number of people volunteering for Hull 2017 has been huge. With new volunteers signing up on a daily basis and training continuing right up until the summer.  Nikki Adebiyi, Spirit’s Communications Intern, visited Hull to experience a volunteer training session for herself. 

So far we’ve seen an amazing array of events and shows in Hull from an epic summer tea party celebrating 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK, to The Uproot Festival, which saw the BBC take up residency in Hull’s Truck theatre for three days. There are many other arts and cultural events taking place on a daily basis, covering film, music, art, theatre and dance. A big part of the success of these events are the Hull volunteers. They make sure that everything runs smoothly and that they assist the public in any way they can. I headed up to the Yorkshire city, history known for its fishing industry to check out one of the sessions and meet with the amazing people of Hull.

As you enter the station, the sense of pride and accomplishment is apparent. There are banners clearly detailing Hull’s triumph on becoming UK’s city of culture 2017 hung inside the building as well as some volunteers giving information and handy tips to newcomers as well as the locals to the city. 

I made my way to the newly renovated Archbishop Sentamu Academy to meet Nicole Steele who was leading the training, and her team – who helped coordinate the session brilliantly. On arrival, I was greeted by some of the existing volunteers spoke to them about their roles. Even the uniform itself seems to instil a sense of pride, with volunteer Dave Miller explaining: It’s great to be involved in this, and it’s absolutely fantastic I get to walk around with this on!”

[Hull volunteer Rachel Kerr talking about her experience to the trainees]

They were all enthusiastic about bringing in the new wave of volunteers and training them on everything they would need to know. One member of the coordinators showed me the different groups and explained the stages of training that were going to commence. The first two stages of training, ‘City and Culture’ included a gallery exhibition which looks at the past and present achievements of Hull. This includes art and creative concepts and shows that have taken place in the city so far. The second section was a fun pop quiz taken place in a make shift pub that tested the trainee’s knowledge on Hull from their famous legends who come from the city to historical moments that have taken place. 

I joined a small group of trainees who were introducing themselves to each other whilst discussing their excitement. When asking some of the trainees what they love most about Hull, most of them agreed that Hull was looked down upon by other Yorkshire areas. They explained that morale was very low for many of the residents before 2017 and people felt there was nothing to be proud of when looking back at Hull’s history. The group agreed that having a chance to learn more about their city’s culture and achievements made many residents actually feel like they have something to be proud of – which is an amazing this. Every time I visited I could feel the sense of community and the atmosphere in Hull.

We were taken around a mini exhibition by an emerging artist currently living in Hull, Luke Beech. Luke walked us through the exhibition, which displayed some of the amazing events that have taken in the city so far. I mentioned that with so many shows going on, especially with the Turner Prize was being staged here at Hull, it must be an amazing time to be a creative in this city and asked what this means for him as an artist. Luke talked about this being a great chance for more support to be given to emerging artists coming from the country. He felt that- though it is great that more residents of Hull are discovering art- there is still a lack of access of facilities for graduates and people like him. 

On the other side of the venue, another group of trainees were involved in the third stage, the Orientation, where they find out all the serious information when it comes to volunteering – from health and safety to choosing a volunteer opportunity and guidance about receiving their volunteer uniform kit. According to Nicole, the principle of these training sessions is to show the future volunteers “our true and full support with everything they need whilst taking part in this scheme.” This statement truly sums up their main goal when delivering the sessions. A major concern before the year started was the organisers being able to communicate with the residents of Hull. I was informed that a whopping 10% of people living in the city do not have internet access. These sessions needed to explain clearly and efficiently to people of all abilities how they would be assisted throughout their volunteering time.

I spoke to Zakithi Mchunu, a mother who, originally came to Yorkshire from South Africa first, relocating to Leeds before moving with her family to Hull. When talking about her relocation to the smaller city, she felt that coming over to Hull seemed natural to her: “every time I visited I could feel the sense of community and the atmosphere in Hull.” When talking about her reasons for wanting to be a Hull volunteer, Zakithi stated: “I’ve been here for four years now, I want to contribute to the city and get to learn more about its culture by meeting people who I wouldn’t necessarily encounter.”

This year has seen a shift in attitudes about Hull and it is certainly for the better. From my visit, it certainly seemed like the reward of becoming UK’s city of culture was improving the morale and energy of the residents. But a question playing on everyone’s mind that I spoke to is: what’s next for Hull? Once the year is over, will the city go back to how it was or will this just be a starting point for Kingston upon Hull to become a major city in England?

To find out more on Hull City of Culture 2017 go onto their website here.

Further Information

Hull City of Culture 2017 website

Hull volunteers twitter