OH, leave Hull the hell alone. The East Yorkshire city can look after itself and doesn’t need any support from me, but here it is anyway.
As any fool now knows, Hull is UK City of Culture. This honour initially brought a few guffaws of a “you must be kidding” nature, followed by plenty of genuine interest in the city. And then as Hull launched its cultural year, two London newspapers decided to spoil the party.
And as any other fool knows, there is nothing the Sun and the Daily Mail enjoy more than spoiling a party.
The Mail went with: “Welcome to the UK’s Capital of Culture: Hull descends into drunken carnage just hours before it marked its new status as Britain’s ‘art city’”. And the Sun went for “SCRAPITAL OF CULTURE”.
Both used lurid photographs of people engaging in drunken misbehaviour, and Mail Online included a tagline saying: “But on Twitter some people have been very skeptical about the city’s new status.”
Well, there is a lot to be sceptical about here – including the Mail Online’s ability to spell the word.
Yesterday, Press Gazette, a journalism online magazine, reported that the Sun was “baffled” by the backlash.
A spokesman for the newspaper said: “The Sun ensured our piece was an accurate account of events in Hull on New Year’s Eve, based on the testimony of the city’s top police officer, eye-witness accounts, and live photographs sent by picture agencies and posted on social media.”
Oh, yeah? There is accuracy and then there is going out looking for mischief. What’s depressing about the Mail and the Sun on this occasion, as so often in the past, is that they have spotted something positive – in this case the often overlooked but proud city of Hull being honoured for its culture – and decided to go and fling some dirt.
Photographers could have snatched pictures of people caught in drunken misbehaviour anywhere in Britain on New Year’s Eve, but they chose Hull so they could poop that party.
The Sun’s statement talks about the “testimony of the city’s top police officer”. Another Hull officer, Chief Inspector J Glansfield, wasn’t impressed with the tabloid assault, tweeting: “1day, 2 events, 20k + visitors, 0 incidents, 0 injuries, 0 arrests, One Hull of a city. #Hull2017.”
The Hull Daily Mail, having itself reported on New Year’s Eve rowdiness in the city, then turned against the Sun, writing: “After last night’s brilliant UK City of Culture opener, which saw more than 25,000 people marvel at the fireworks and light displays, the London-based tabloid opted to write about ‘lashed-up louts’ who apparently sparked New Year ‘carnage’ in the hours leading up to the event.”
Press Gazette reported that former Hull MP John Prescott drew parallels with The Sun’s coverage of Hillsborough on Twitter saying: “People don’t buy The Sun in Liverpool for its smears. I predict the people of Hull will do the same for this hatchet job.”
A hatchet job of a much lower order, it must be said. But Hull and Liverpool are joined by more than the M62: both are coastal cities that can seem a long way from London, and London ways of thinking.
I have no brief for Hull, having been to the city only three times: once to visit the Deep when it opened; then twice last year, the first time to write a feature for the Yorkshire Post, and the second for the launch of a book by crime writer Nick Quantrill.
This year I plan to return and feel excited for the city. Hull has not had an easy time since the Second World War. Between September 7 1940 and May 21 1941, Hull was, after London, the city hardest hit by German bombers. Thanks to its docks, the city was badly damaged, with 95 per cent of houses damaged and much of the city centre wiped out. Yet that Blitz somehow remained hidden or at least little discussed. Many of the decades that followed were tough, too.
That, of course, was a long time ago, and now Hull has an exciting year ahead.
The way national newspapers view the north can sometimes be a mystery and an annoyance. Only last week, the Sun reported that York was flooded again when it wasn’t, and used old photographs as if they were new – to back up their ‘story’.
York got off lightly compared to the duffing Hull received. But then the road to Hull is paved with bad intentions, especially if it runs out of London media-land.
Anyway, I hope Hull enjoys its year and I will pop over to say hello sometime soon.