The Blitz: why has Hull been ommited from the BBC series?

September 12th, 2015

Anniversary of the Blitz: ‘I thought, I cannot be alive’

Laughably, it was because no suitable local celebrity could be found to guide the BBC cameras around Hull’s proud Victorian civic buildings, her 18th-century Old Town, her vast docks, and her spectacular Gothic parish church with its colossal perpendicular windows (mercifully left unscathed).

This ignores the fact that Hull has a series of brilliant and notable people connected with it – starting with Alan Johnson, the affable MP for Hull and Hessle, and continuing with actors Maureen Lipman and Sir Tom Courtenay, BBC radio luminary Jenni Murray and a raft of groovy musicians: Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals, Everything But the Girl, The Housemartins…

But perhaps it is just as well they didn’t find someone to do it. Because Hull has its own singular character and story which has never relied on celebrities to promote it.

It was named the 2017 City of Culture partly, the judges said, because the force of the city was not delivered via one or two famous people on a red carpet. Hull’s triumphant pitch came from a passionate desire felt by the entire city.

Secondly, Hull has other concerns. Of course the Blitz is acknowledged and respected here. There are still bomb sites in the middle of the town; walking around this morning, I passed one. But right now, the feeling and the mood here is all about the future.

With less than 500 days to go before arrival of the juggernaut that is the £18 million City of Culture, the thrill and excitement is palpable.

Arts institutions are getting ready for a new unveiling, with more than a fresh lick of paint; several are being rebuilt.

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A spectacular, 365-day programme is being put together, with the partnership of not just local, national and international cultural institutions, but also every child in the city, and 4,000 volunteers.

Let other cities trot out their celebs to play out their war stories, and good luck to them. The nation will soon see that Hull has a different story to tell.

• Rosie Millard is chair of Hull City of Culture 2017

World War Two

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