Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Cultural Desert?

I know that some people (who are awful) wouldn’t necessarily associate the city of Hull with the word culture.

In fact we did make a bid to become Europe’s City of Culture a couple of years ago, but failed miserably. Whilst I admired the hopefulness of this effort, I think we’re a few years away from that kind of accolade.

But things are slowly improving. We had the Larkin 25 celebrations which included the Larkin with Toads installation and I think that the desert is beginning to get a few more water holes.

Whitefriargate is in the centre of Hull and is one of the main shopping parades. At least it was. St Stephen’s shopping centre was open on the other side of town and this led to a migration of people away from the area. Lots of shops closed down and it was starting to look a little depressed.

However some clever, bright people decided to turn this depression into an opportunity and commissioned artists to exhibit installations inside the empty shop units. Unfortunately I think some of these have gone unnoticed, but the latest, and final exhibition is most definitely on a mission to be seen.

Whitefriargate is playing host to an exhibition by two artists called Hsiao-Chi Tsai and Kimiya Yoshikawa who have put in place 3 installations in a piece called Rainbow-Friargate (see what they did there?!).

Whilst a lot of people walking with their heads down might miss some of the pieces inside the shop units, one of the pieces is pretty much unmissable. Mainly because it’s up two freaking trees in the middle of the street.

This piece is called Rainbow-Friargate Float and is made from bits of foam which have been strung up and tied to the branches of the trees. From a distance it’s absolutely beautiful, it’s like a tree on acid and is one of the cheeriest things I’ve seen in a long time, especially given the dismal weather we’ve been having (all of you with blue skies can do one, there hasn’t been blue sky in Hull for over 2 weeks now!).

I felt like quite the twerp in a busy street taking photos of foam up a tree but I am trying to steel my nerves and not let it bother me. Especially as I’m taking part in Kathy’s photo scavenger hunt (PS One of the items we had to collect this month is ‘a rainbow’ – I think this fits the bill.) and need to get braver about looking like a bit of a twat.

Apparently the other two pieces incorporate UV lights and paint so will change according to the time of day. I’m thinking I might have to stay in town late one night to check this out. So far I’ve only seen one of the other pieces called Blooming Propeller which is as beautiful as the Float piece, but I haven’t had a chance to photograph it yet.

I love that Hull is doing stuff like that but I hate that my first reaction is to go “Uh-oh that’s going to get vandalised.” Unfortunately it’s a thought borne out of experience. The toads lasted less than a week before they were vandalised and I have serious fears for this piece as it’s only made of foam and you can reach up on to your tippy toes and touch it quite easily. I have my fingers crossed however that the citizens of Hull will do me proud and not do their best to ruin a great piece of culture.

I will (obviously) keep you updated and try and get some photos of the other pieces before the rainbow shimmers and disappears into thin air.

The installation is running until May 13th and I think I’m already going to miss it.

You can go here to read more about the installation and artists.


  1. But but isn't South Riding like super popular at the moment? Aren't you East Riding types riding a wave of Winifred Holtby appreciation and fan-girliness?

    Isn't this the biggest cultural thing to happy to East Yorkshire since... struggles... well, clearly since you moved there...?

  2. Oh it's lovely - I especially like that first picture of it.

    I'm going to have a go at the photo scavenger hunt but inspiration is somewhat lacking at the moment.

  3. I think they're very cool - pretty colours. x

  4. Oh thats a lovely piece of art..really bright and party-ish, and yeh I know what you mean about the vandalism thing because if We had anything like that in Barnsley the local chav population would take immense delight in destroying it.
    Hope Hulls pieces last.
    Em xxxxxx

  5. Can you send some of these fab trees over to carlisle too? Think the grey is here too wish it would hurry up and get a bit warmer.

  6. It's lovely isn't it? I have to say that's what normally happens round our way if we get anything like that - people just can't keep anything nice!

  7. That tree installation is amazing - i love it!

    Is that Larkin as in the poet? We studied him in school - I really liked his work.

  8. Wow, that is one funky tree! Love the idea of street art - definitely gets people talking. We had some great installations last year as part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival including the Big Red Ball project: - looking forward to this years efforts!

  9. Let's hope the killjoys don't trash it...that is a shame about the


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