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Hull the 'City of Culture', I'm Very Proud to Call You Home

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"PMSL".

That was the response I received earlier this week when I tweeted, in advance of any decision, that I truly believed my hometown, Hull would be the City of Culture 2017.

A few hours later, my prediction was proved right. Hull - or to give it the correct title, Kingston Upon Hull, or 'Ull to us locals - did indeed bag the prestige title.

Did the people, who had earlier scoffed, retract their PMSLs or their LOLs? Did they ekkers like. Instead, they seemed to laugh louder.

See, that's always been a challenge for my home. People have always looked down on it. We've been the butt of many jokes, been voted the "crappest city" and are literally the 'end of the road' (M62, in case you're wondering). Even as recently as last month, The Economist loudly declared that the government should "abandon" Hull, cease any investment and instead focus on supporting its residents in their quest to leave.

But here's the thing... most people who scoff at Hull, have never even been. And I guess that's the way life works, if a bandwagon rumbles past us, we sometimes can't help but jump on it. If someone, or some place strives, we can't seem to wait to knock them.

So now the city has this glittering accolade. Is this it? Is, as the bid proudly declared, our time now? Is this, the answer to change perceptions?

I'll be honest. I hadn't previously heard of the 'City of Culture' until Hull got involved and I wasn't sure what benefit it would be to our city. Like a few people, I was perhaps guilty of being a little sceptical at the start of this journey. I too initially pondered, at a time when our council was stretched for cash, whether this really was a good way to spend it.

But let me tell you something... all that has changed.

When I watched our bid video, the hairs on my arm stood on end. My tummy churned and I felt an immense sense of pride. It was the kind of pride that is hard to explain. It was something pure, which came from deep inside me. It lifted my spirit and it made me smile.

As the weeks rolled on and Hull made the short-list, it all began to feel real. Success was in touching distance. We could see it, we could feel it and it felt like if we dug deep enough, we would be able to grab it. And grab it we did.

Watching Maria Miller make the announcement, I felt like a kid on Christmas day. When I heard her announce Hull as the winner, I must have woken the neighbours with my cheer. I was literally bursting with pride. A day of celebrations began. Congratulations, media interviews, parties and a few people pinching themselves. More than likely a few monster hangovers the next morning too.
The City of Culture accolade has brought us all together. It has sent a message to our young people that we are worthwhile and it has pumped a shot of energy into the city and the residents, both current and former. It is the start of a whole new chapter for Hull. The accolade is a springboard from which we are able to launch great things. The eyes of the world are literally on us and it is time to show everyone what we are made of.

So, to answer my own question; "do I think our time is now?" Dear reader, I most certainly do...
Hull is special. The people there are kind, giving and humble. Some of our great British inventors and poets were born there. Songs that I know you'll know the words to have been written in Hull. I could list some of them, recite some Philip Larkin poetry for you or even tell you about LCD screens, boiled sweets and William Wilberforce. But I won't do that, because Google can tell you all that. Instead, I'd like to share with you the main lesson that I have learnt from Hull's journey from "Crappest City" to "City Of Culture" and that is a simple one: If you have a vision; if you have a dream; then you must follow it. If people laugh, use it to spur you on. If something knocks you, you keep on going and you never, ever give up. Because truly, anything is possible...

Kingston Upon Hull, City of Culture 2017, I am very, very proud of you. And I am even more proud, to call you home.

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