Hull. No one had ever heard of Hull before it became the UK City of Culture for 2017. Certainly not because of its 114-year-old football club nor its two rugby league outfits nor its mighty past as a of centre of commerce and seafaring.
The way its City of Culture was talked up by those in the arts and the media, you would be forgiven that it’s just about the only noteworthy thing about this city on the Humber in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
At the other end of eastern England there is apparent excitement for a renewed effort for Canterbury to gain City of Culture. Ironically, we were the losers when bidding for 2017.
The excitement comes from city hall where councillors sitting on the policy and resources committee unanimously agreed to explore the idea of making a “credible and attractive” bid for 2025.
A report before them states: “Making a bid to be UK City of Culture presents clear opportunities for Canterbury and east Kent and evidence from previous bids suggests there are benefits to be gained whether we win or lose.”
But elsewhere the news is being met with pessimism, cynicism and gloom – with the man on the street asking whether the council should be devoting such energy to it when there are more pressing concerns.
One commentator said: “Councils are always pleading poverty, but can always find tax-payers’ money for their vanity projects. Does anyone really believe that having the title City of Culture will bring additional tourists to the city?
Canterbury is famous in its own right.”
Another described it as a “waste of money and resources” which would “allow councillors and officials to swan around at public expense”.
And a third opined pithily: “There must be better things to spend our money on.”
The choice for those in power might come down to a simple question of whether they want to be lead by the head or the heart, whether they spend our cash on things like clean streets and roofs over people’s heads or painting and film.