“We’d like you to create a map of Hull’s cultural events to include in the bid,” the Bid team say to us at H&H Towers.

“A map of all the stuff we’ll be doing if we win?”

We’re all thrilled. A sneak preview of all the fabulous stuff our city will be doing if we’re chosen! How cool would that be? Of course, it will be on a strictly confidential basis –

“No,” the team explain. “No, we want a map of the things that are happening already.”

We love the idea, but can we really fill a whole map just with stuff that’s already happening? Isn’t the point of the City of Culture bid because we don’t have enough yet, and we need to do more? To get bigger? To get better? To be more…cultural?

The list of events comes in. We print it out and take a look. It’s respectably long.

One of our illustrators, Matt is from West Yorkshire. Matt doesn’t have a lot of local knowledge, so we brief him on what Hull’s all about.

What’s the deal with the Freedom Festival? he asks us. We reply, It started as a festival to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wilberforce, and went from there. Yes, he asks us, but why are you holding it?

Our explanation of the Freedom Festival takes us all over the City - into the Museum Quarter, the Fruit Market, the College, Queens Gardens. We make a breathless finish in Victoria Square, where everyone gathers in wild celebration to sing and dance and eat and make a racket, under the strangely disapproving gaze of Queen Victoria. (The questions keep coming. What’s going on in that photograph of people dressed as Andy Warhol? Why have you honoured your longest-reigning Monarch by putting public toilets underneath her statue? And what’s in the triangular building just behind her? Whales? SRSLY?)

Describing the Maritime Museum is the start of a long conversation about our city’s deep connection with the sea. We talk about the Voyage sculpture, and explain how that serenely lovely figure reminds us of our historic relationship with Iceland - a relationship that has sometimes been like brotherhood, and sometimes uncomfortably like a bad marriage. We explain that Voyage’s twin looks back at us from Reykjavik, and I reminisce about the time I went there and actually saw her under the low gold light of winter, looking back towards my home.

We show him pictures of The Deep, and try to explain what it means for us - a city once made prosperous by the fishing trade - to provide a home for one of the world’s most important marine conservation centres. We talk about how it felt when we first saw its gigantic prow jutting out into the Humber, how its building was the catalyst for a huge redevelopment that gave us back our waterfront.

Hull sounds great, Matt tells us. I’d love to see more of it.

We go on. We talk about the club scene, and about the artists who began here (- THE Mick Ronson? THE Throbbing Gristle? THE Paul Heaton? – Yes, yes and yes) and about Humber Street Sesh (- A HUNDRED AND FORTY local bands? - Yes. – Oh come on now, really? - YES!). We talk about Hull Pride and Hull Fair and Hull Truck. We talk about the time elephants really did go bouncing down Ferensway. We talk about Warhol, and da Vinci, and Hockney. We talk about the day The Ferens saved Lorinzetti’s painting for the nation. We describe how good it felt to see our city mentioned in the National press with respect and not mockery, with gratitude and not grudge. The map begins to take shape.

Then we look again at the list.

“Hang on,” says Joe. “We haven’t got half the stuff that happens at the Fruit Market.”

I look again. We seem to have loads of stuff happening at the Fruit Market.

“No,” Joe insists. “We haven’t talked about Something Entirely Different. Or the street artists. And there are more recording studios than that.” He talks for ten solid minutes, about new music and edgy art and experimental film - stuff I never knew was happening, but which is clearly brilliant.

Soon the Fruit Market is so crammed we are arguing over what we can bear to leave out.

We move on to the City Hall, and exclaim over the starry musical programme. I mention that I played with the City of Hull Youth Symphony Orchestra, and we used to perform in the City Hall several times a year. Now it’s my turn to hold the floor. I tell everyone about the foreign tours they took us on – fundraising like mad for months, then all of us piling onto a coach and heading off to Continental Europe.

A bunch of teenage kids from Hull! And we went off on a coach and played Mozart and Tchaikovsky overseas! As I say all of this out loud, I realise how insanely lucky we were. Hull’s never had it easy, but the city I grew up in still cared enough to invest in kids and classical music. We still do. In fact, we invest more. Today, all the city’s Senior Youth Ensembles tour. We add them to the map.

This happens a lot.

The more we look, the more we talk, the more questions we ask, the more we discover. The original decent-sized list is now an outrageous fantastical sprawl. It’s amazing, and bewildering. The map’s crammed to bursting, but there’s so much more we want to add. We shrug our shoulders and keep adding anyway. Now it’s almost too full, but we don’t care. It’s full because our city is awesome! This is a story that’s worth telling.

As we’re adding the finishing touches, The Economist runs a piece recommending that Hull be abandoned, its population relocated, its streets left to decay. It recycles the old, tired stereotypes we’ve lived with all our lives – empty shops, high unemployment, culture of welfare dependency, blah blah, failed society, women and children first and the last ones out put the lights off. Has the person who wrote it even been to Hull? I don’t know, because the article has been published anonymously.

A month earlier, I would have been just as angry, but I’m not sure I would have had such a good answer. Today, I look at the map we’ve created of our city’s noisy, thriving, unique cultural landscape, and I smile.

Of course he(?) doesn’t get it! It’s hard to see much from the top of an ivory tower. You need to get out onto the streets. You need to have a nose around in the Old Fruit Market. You need to do the Larkin Trail and wander round the Museum Quarter. You need to sit on the front row at the Truck and be slightly freaked out at just how close you can get to the actors, then drop by The Other Space and be even more freaked by just how great a theatre in an old office building can be. You need to come to the Festivals – all of them – and then stay for Hull Fair. You need to check out the Ferens and the Museum of Club Culture and the Land of Green Ginger. You need to come to one of our open-mike poetry nights, then get yourself down to the Welly afterwards. You’ll need to spend a year with us (why, what a coincidence) and you still won’t have seen everything.

Oh, and one more thing…you’ll probably be needing a map.

On the 17th of January we had planned a show at Hull’s Blue Lamp on the cusp of it’s closure with Hulls male interpretation of PJ Harvey AKA Chris of Foolish ATOMS and The Dead Hormones. With new material to play we were saddened to hear of it’s closure not day’s before hand, it’s always been a nice albeit dysfunctional venue which is somewhat why we like the place and hope it reopens!

AS AN artist, film-maker and former winner of the Liverpool Art Prize – a competition that began during the European Capital of Culture year in Liverpool in 2008 – I can state categorically that what Hull is about to encounter offers a myriad of truly life-changing experiences…

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We’re massively honoured to have worked with the Hull City of Culture team on the bid. Here’s the case we put together to house the document itself, right before it heads off to the judges.

And that isn’t all, we can’t wait to show you what else we’ve been working on for it, watch this space.

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