Hull City of Culture 2017 on track for economic hub

Houses of Parliament

As the second city to win the UK City of Culture award, Hull is already seeing investments to improve the city's economy by 2017

In November 2013 the city of Kingston upon Hull, often shorted to 'Hull', was named 'City of Culture 2017', ahead of Swansea Bay, Leicester, and Dundee. Since then Martin Green, who was commissioned head of ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics, has been appointed head the 2017 City of Culture team, who has stated that he aims to make Hull an 'exciting and attractive and intesting' city by 2017.

There have been numerous plans to transform this often misunderstood city into a tourist attraction within itself, as well as bringing industry back to the city, which it lost in the 1970s as the fishing industry declined. What this means for Hull, currently a black spot for employment in the UK, is the promise of more jobs. Already, Siemens has announced the decision to build an offshore wind farm near Hull, creating up to 1000 jobs, as well as additional jobs during its construction. In addition to its new status, at the beginning of this month, the government announced that £2.5 million is to be spent on Yorkshire's coastal region, of which, Hull will be receiving £800k to spend on its historic Fruit Market for renovation and to create new jobs.

By the year 2017, Hull promises to be a cultural hub, offering more job opportunities and a healthier level of tourism, however many have criticised the transport links to the city. Hull is the only city in the district of East Yorkshire, and is, because of this, far from any other major municipality. Inaccessible from the south of England, besides via the iconic Humber Bridge, Hull is renowned for being 'out in the sticks', with the M63 - leading into the M62 - as the only major road accessing the city from the rest of the well-populated areas of the north of England. However, in March this year Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin confirmed that £2.5m is being invested to improve the rail links in and out of Hull by electrifying the lines, in order to accommodate an estimated additional 12 million tourists expected to visit the city in 2017.

In addition to improvements in rail links and companies investing in the city, Hull-based companies are already seeing financial benefits. Digital Hub C4DI (Centre For Digital Innovation) has secured a £15m investment deal, and food industries and companies have recently benefitted from Hull's Yum! Festival of Food. This festival aimed to bring potential diners to the city centre, where there are had previously been a limited amount of eateries. Because of the increase in interest in the catering industry, fuelled by the success of the festival, brand new catering establishments are beginning to open in the city centre, which suggests Hull has the potential for an even greater economy.But one major issue, that many would argue must be tackled, is the aesthetic appearance of Hull. For those who have been it is far from the dystopia imaged by those who haven't, however, due to its poor economy and lack of grand architecture Hull is in wanting for an improved image. £25m is to be invested to develop the city centre, with £400,000 to transform the picturesque Trinity Square. Reverend Neal Barnes, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, has maintained that if this square was in "York or Bruges," it would be "full of visitors at this time of year". This rejuvenation aims to increase the attraction for the Trinity Festival, held annually in the city, for future years, as well as promote current businesses located near the square, and appeal to potential businesses looking to set up in the area.

Londonderry, City of Culture 2013, saw "an incredible and sensational year", according to Actor James Nesbitt, and University of Ulster chancellor. Shona McCarthy, chief executive of Culture Company 2013 reported that in 2013, from "May right through to September we have broken all previous records for hotel occupancy". As well as a boost in the tourism sector,the city has financially benefitted from an increase in investment of around £100m. However, it is reported that the employment sector, surprisingly, did not benefit: "Whilst we had great marketing around City of Culture it has had no impact on jobs, The jobs situation has actually got worse", says Conal McFeely of Creggan Enterprises.

It would seem that Hull has everything that helps it stand out as a city of culture, from its political figure William Wilberforce, instrumental in the movement to abolish slavery, to the renowned poet Philip Larkin who wished to reside in no other city. Though it still has a long way to go to meet its targets for 2017, one hopes it achieves everything Londonderry did last year to help boost its economy, if not more.