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Tag Archives: #Hull2017

When I opened my curtains this morning onto a non-descript autumn day, I found a rainbow waiting outside my window. Traditionally my view is nothing spectacular: a road, and houses in all directions. If I’m really lucky I might get to hear bird song over the new developments’ machinery.

New houses on green land, new houses on flood plains, new roads, new shops. Irritating drivers, thoughtless pedestrians. I might as well live in a fantasy world.

No one listens just outside of Hull any more than they do inside it, I suspect. Yes, City of Culture 2017 lots of things happening, not all of it ‘Hull’.  Yes there’s that stigma again.  An understandable one for those of you from Fantasycon who happened to have survived the meal offerings at Scarborough’s Grand.

Hull? Isn’t that the place the PM just compared to Detroit? There’s a lot about Detroit I like, but I do worry for the city up the road when targets are placed on things so few get. A bit like Shoreditch, and planners designing roads for towns they’ve never been in.

Yet, despite all these negatives and changes – be they wanted or forced upon us – I’m surrounded by endless references to worlds that don’t exist and a culture that cannot be bought in or rebuilt at any price. Even though ‘outsiders’ are trying. Generations ago the town told a king to ‘do one’, a true rebel revolt waiting to be found in the history books. And that’s not the only one.

While the politics at a local level might belong in a dystopian novel along with the rotting boats along its beck, buildings born from fishing wealth inspire Georgian alternate history tales down streets where Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell would be quite at home.

I still expect to see Lord Poppy (Emma Newman's Split World Series) here one day.

I still expect to see Lord Poppy and his entourage (Emma Newman’s Split World Series) here one day. Image by Jon Parkes Photography

Inspiration for Lewis Carroll lies in wait at one church, while Tolkien’s touch is everywhere. Under-crofts and ancient churches treasure their secrets, next to narrow staithes hiding murderous lore of their own. The source of the town’s multicultural world building stares us in the face as we pop in to Maccy D. The essential component to any fantasy novel, the ‘barter town’ market trades under many faces. The nightlife would give Bladerunner a run for its money.

The future veers out across the Humber where its bridges are swallowed in paranormal mist.

Avoiding its miserable mud as the fog rolls on, the ghosts of Romans still search for their missing mosaic. Further along, over lost raised walkways, souls continue their pilgrimage to towering standing stones. Secret rooms buried in rubble uncover the forgotten meeting places of the elite and still standing pubs hold tight to the conspiracies plotted there. Pillar boxes maintain their guard for the airships while buildings draped in tattered canvas plead for a hero to rescue them. Shelters crumbling into an eroding coast are blinded by the hazey sun while pirates saunter back down the estuary.

HMS Bounty approaching Paull. Humber Bridge in background. Image by Karen Constantine. Source BBC.

Not actually a pirate. HMS Bounty approaching Paull with Humber Bridge in background. Image by Karen Constantine. Source BBC.

There’s so much to complain about these days, yet we take so much for granted. Like an unexpected rainbow filling a grey sky with colour.

So I’m quite happy living in my fantasy world, and I’m certainly grateful for the endless inspiration. Its global and diverse population are a great source for characters and conflict. That unsuspecting hero? Hull is one great big community that won’t turn its back on a friend.

Of course the rule for Hull is you don’t mock Hull unless you’ve lived it. Everyone Back To Ours, is the phrase for the coming year so you can’t say you haven’t been invited.

Snubbing it? You can probably do one. 😀




Last night (March 21st) saw the burning of the Temple. A wooden temple built overlooking Londonderry, the 2013 City of Culture.  Late yesterday afternoon the Temple’s architectural avatar built by Adam Clarke, BlockWorks and Sparks on Minecraft received the same fate.


Templecraft is an innovative digital arts project inspired by a monumental real –world construction. More here:

When I first heard about it, I immediately thought of The Burning Man Festivals held in Nevada which has become a ritual in its own right. David Best being the sculptor linking the two projects.

Ok, why am I waffling about what is clearly ‘not book related’. What has this to do with writing, reading and stories? (Aside from all the written messages left in both versions of the Derry Temple, of course.)

Because this particular ‘piece of art’ was accessible through a Minecraft server as well.

I know. Minecraft isn’t a book either, or as some would argue, even ‘art’. Moving along…

So long as you had access to a Minecraft on PC version you could transport yourself across the world to Londonderry and be a part of it. A teeny tiny dot on the globe and no airfare needed. You didn’t even need to “understand” it. Minecraft made it accessible to people that would not have given it the time of day. Minecraft brought in visitors that wouldn’t have even known about it.


Templecraft Timelapse by Blockworks.

I know you can follow events on Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media sites. You get to see a festival through another person’s eyes on YouTube experience their feelings and are left wishing you were there too.

It’s not the same thing as being there in person.

We were there in spirit. My family are still talking about seeing the ‘Real’ burn on the news at the same time as exploring the ruins on a server.

BBC: Londonderry temple was a bonfire to peace

So what does this have to do with writing?


As authors, our main aim is to engage our reader, just as any other artist seeks to engage their audience.

Could a book cross that many miles as swiftly? Twitter and co can cause a buzz about a book but that’s not a writer to reader level of interaction. A movie adaptation can invite others in to the story, but as we all know, the movie is never the same as the book.

Reading transports you to anyplace, anytime. One at a time at a speed you can deal with, all you need is the time to turn the page.

Prose can engage and inspire people, but  I doubt one book/story could access the range across generations and interests as The Temple did.

Over time, maybe a book could. Look at that best seller list. The big sales are also movies with a massive web presence, toy lines and various merchandise. That is not writer to reader engagement, that’s franchise expansion.

I’ve spoken with and worked with children who do not know who Harry Potter is. (Imagine!) Children who don’t read books with endless words at all. (Comics are a different beast. However this isn’t going to cross into an debate about whether anyone reads any more.)

These same kids would have been on Templecraft though. They would have explored it.

So, author-writer-person, ask yourself this. Why are you writing?

Fame and fortune?


To share a story?

Then perhaps it’s time you looked at other ways to share your world with others.


*Thank you Londonderry for also showing the next City of Culture, Hull… that the fun doesn’t stop after the spotlight moves on.


“Dunno what you wanna go to Hull for. Only thing it’s good for is being the end of the M62.”

“I hate living here, there int nowt to do.”

Living in Hull you hear these things quite a lot. (Minor understatement.)

Really? People! Where have you been the last couple of years?

Another one that gets me:

“I wish Hull was more like *insert other fabulous town of much doing here.*”

Seriously. September is here, and you can’t swing a cat for happenings. Some of it more obvious and anticipated than others. Click the links to find out more about each event.

Heads Up Hull!

Heads Up Hull!

Heads Up Festival Kicks off on the 4th and runs to the 16th This one is a “something for everyone” event, with both local and international creativity oozing from the venues. It’s the second this year and runs along-side of not against the massive Freedom Festival.

Starting on the 5th until the 7th this is the big one – the one that gets the most media coverage, so therefore the one that most know about. Party time, acts, debates, music, theatre, art, poetry.

Hull Freedom Festival 5-7th September

Hull Freedom Festival 5-7th September

Anything that can be filed under the word “creative”. Right here, in Hull and I am gutted that I will miss the majority of it. I feel like a traitor! Events are both inside and out, day time and night, to attend with some ticketed events as an extra, not a requirement. So it doesn’t matter if you’re skint or loaded.

You have a couple of days off… that’s what work’s there for, right? Three things demand your attention as of the 11th.

First, Hull Heritage Open Days will run from 11th to the 14th

Heritage Open Days. access to buildings, businesses, places that are free to explore for a limited time.

Heritage Open Days. access to buildings, businesses, places that are free to explore for a limited time.

Heritage Open Days, while it might be national, Hull’s been doing its own historical thing for thirty years now. Yeah, I know… Hull trend setting again. Go figure. This year there’s a huge amount of historic buildings you can explore and with it discover tales of what Hull was. From milling to movies, working man to millionaire. Fish isn’t the be all and end all of this city. Lets not forget the Ale Trail, (wait! Beer isn’t the be all and end all either) another chance to wander about the old town and the pubs that have not been beiged out.

There’s a special Saturday Trinity Open Market on the 13th as a part of the Heritage Open Days event. Normally held once a month on a Friday, it’s a great place for that unique ‘not on the high street’ thing you’ve been hunting.

When you are done shopping pop on over to the Gin Festival:

Fruit Space is holding this year’s Gin Festival on the 13th held with supporting music and the chance to learn some cocktail making skills tickets cost less than a take away pizza.

Slightly merry now? Can’t you handle your drink?

But wait. I’m sensing a little of the ‘not impressed’ attitude here. So lets throw in another

Hull Folk Festival -12-14th Sept

Hull Folk Festival -12-14th Sept

something to do. Hull Folk Festival also runs at across the same weekend, starting on 12th until the 14th once again in the happening Humber Street and Marina location of Hull, with over 50 live shows at Minerva, Fruit, Green Bricks, Ruscadors.

You got that? Heritage, Gin, Folk.

Ok, Back to Fruit Space this on the 21st to catch their Cult Cinema Sunday offering of Beetlejuice – don’t forget your free popcorn. Because, well, I’d hate for you to be bored. If that isn’t your cup of tea chill out at Pearson, Pickering, East or West Park. You’ll need to relax and catch your breath anyhow as next up is Trinity Festival on the 26th.

Hull Trinity Festival

Hull Trinity Festival, 26th -28th Sept. Three days of awesome music from the North of England. Free.

This one is all about the music, and there’s a lot of it in Hull, but it’s not just Hull and local bands turning up with Toploader and TOY making headlines this year. A festival that started out in 2011, this year Trinity Festival is hosting over 100 acts, and it has bled to the local pubs and clubs around Hull’s old Town and beyond.

September, time for a bevvy or two on the marina, and and party till dawn round the old town.





Thats it. September’s done. October means only one thing in Hull.

Hull Fair.

See. I haven’t even scratched the surface of ‘usual’ offerings found down Newland and Princes Avenues,  or dented the bank balance.

How can people moan that there’s nowt to do in Hull?


FantastiCon. Hull’s (first) SFF Convention.

Well, it’s the first that I know of.

A young Jedi decided to take on R2D2 with a lightsaber at Hull’s first “SFF” con. R2 was unarmed, but stood his ground valiantly. That wasn’t all.

Kickerstarter funders had early access, but for others the fun started with a Dr Who panel and a nosey at the various books on offer. Muffins really do sell books, just in case you were wondering.

The main feature of the convention was the launch of the Elite: Dangerous  fiction being published by local press Fantastic. Elite: Dangerous is a kickstarted video game that has now spawned novelisation and pen-and-paper RPG arms. Each author funded their licence by a Kickstarter campaign. Novel plots ranged from Kate Russell’s Mostly Harmless, featuring a female main character to the grit and grunge of mercenary exploits.*

One of the novels Elite novels launched.

One of the novels Elite novels launched.

Fan fiction gets a lot of bad press,  unfairly in many cases, more about that elsewhere.

It was (as expected) primarily a gamer event with a fiction launch in support of the Elite novels published by Fantastic Book Publishing. You could try the game out on the Oculus Rift a virtual reality headset. A revolutionary piece of technology offering an amazing view and interaction within the game world that has applications beyond gaming.

I like my games, but that annoying first person feature messes with my motion sickness. It limits the enjoyment. As I’d missed the Oculus Rift at Nine Worlds I was keen to get my hands on it to see if this problem would remain.

Remember the Wii? The whole get up get active style of gaming it brought to us? The Oculus Rift is allowing game developers to experiment with the next step using a headset, a joystick and of course a computer. Not a gaming computer, might I add. Avoiding all the tech speak, very basically the software works on a run-of-the-mill laptop like mine.

This is totally immersive gaming. The real world becomes the digital. Space in this case, all around you and I was told before I tried it: “Don’t forget to look behind you!” the advice along gave me an idea of the ‘in game’ experience.  The headset is pretty much forgotten the moment you start playing despite its appearance. Presented with an array of buttons that would impress a pilot, naturally I was shot to pieces within seconds, and I couldn’t tell if my motionsickness issues were resolved. There’s always next time. I hear the headset won’t be all that expensive (as gaming tech goes) when it comes to mass market.For those of you that prefer dice to video games, you could have tried your hand at the ‘traditional RPG’ game, also set in the same Elite story world.

Back at the convention proper – after dodging the Dalek that was all about exterminating Iron Man – I discovered a little local talent.

Humber City.

Humber City. An intriguing Scifi Crime Drama set in future Hull. Click to see their Facebook page!

Humber City is an interesting television SciFi Crime drama. It is still searching for a network to call home, but with any luck we can see it all soon.

The cosplayers made a good showing too. Alas, my camera died so I couldn’t catch all the time spent sticking and sewing.

There's an Assemble pun here somewhere.

There’s an ‘Assemble’ pun here somewhere.

Cosplay at any SFF event will range right across the genre, and FantastiCon was no different. Comic book mutants mingled with video game heroes and anime cat-girls. The winners got to take home cute trophies.

Kudos to the vendors. Especially Oh Japan – love the t-shirts, the monumental enthusiasm and the fact that he knew the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon. Very important that.

It was great to have something in the home town and not have to spend hours on various forms of public transport. So a 2015 FantastiCon? Bigger? Better, beyond the video games? Who knows? I’d love to see the organisers incorporate some of the notions and policies used at other cons if they host this again next year. Some more local talent too as I know there is plenty. 2017 is coming after all.


* Gollancz also offers Elite: Dangerous, just in case you want more!