Hull - where culture existed way before 2017

Hull made the headlines as City of Culture in 2017. It also, as I recall, made it to the top of some ridiculous list called Britain’s Crappest Towns (or something) back in the early 2000’s.

Ironic, really, that I was working at the brilliant Hull Truck Theatre when I heard about Britain’s Crappest Towns - a theatre company that took the name of Hull all over the world. So much so, in fact, that when I left to travel around New Zealand and work at Auckland Theatre Company, I didn’t need to give any introduction to my former employer.

Hull is special. It has a vibe that’s really quite difficult to put into words - making it all the more endearing. And it’s changed dramatically over the years. In fact, since the year that The Twenty Seven Club was set (1994), parts of Hull are unrecognisable. But it’s not all shiny new buildings and wine bars - there’s a real underground, pop-up vibe to the place that still exists - even though there are of course some shiny new buildings and wine bars.

Sticking with the theme of music, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane with some old Hull friends and acquaintances, to celebrate some of the best Hull venues and nights out that we can only partly remember….through personal anecdotes.

Spiders…

…and its dark maze of webs

Remembered by Andy Roe, artist and author of ‘Spiders - Tales from Behind the Web’

It was 1987, and during the last half hour of one particular Spiders Saturday night, I’d managed to pluck up enough courage to speak to a girl that I’d fancied for ages. And in our brief conversation, we arranged to meet up at the club the following week.

The following Saturday came, and I turned up at Spiders, full of of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of seeing the girl again. I began to look for her the moment I rolled into the club, traipsing up, down and around the premises many times - and you know how big and dark the place is - comprising half a dozen different musical areas, several bars, an upstairs floor, and countless wrought-iron spider's webs, spanning the floor to the ceiling - yet I failed to find her (you’ve got to remember that we didn’t have mobile ‘phones in those days).

After searching for an hour or so, I suspected that she wasn’t in the club. However, come 1.30am, when kicking-out time arrived, I exited the club and stood around outside for a while, chatting with my friends, as was the habit back then - and probably still is now. And it was while I was chatting with some friends that I saw the elusive girl, standing just a few feet away. She was casually conversing with a couple of other girls. I immediately went over to her and asked if she’d just turned up at the club, thinking that that could be the only logical explanation as to why I hadn’t seen her all night. She looked at me curiously for a moment before telling me that she’d been in the club for the past three hours – looking for me!

Talk about two ships passing in the night(club).

Yo-Yo at the Welly…

…and its overly excitable dance floor

Remembered by Priya Coe, DJ and co-founder, Yo-Yo

When Yo-Yo started getting busier and busier, around the time Britpop exploded, we were cramming way too many people in the small room upstairs at the Welly. At the time, I was still using mainly vinyl, with a small smattering of cds. What a lot of people don't know, is that the dancefloor upstairs at the Welly is a 'sprung' dancefloor. What this means is that it's designed to take the impact of people dancing and it almost bounces up and down with the people as they dance.. Most Britpop songs involved a lot of jumping up and down and the sheer combined weight of the people jumping made the whole floor of the Welly shake. The turntables I was using were just placed on a table in the DJ booth and one night when the club was particularly busy, they started moving around this table, causing the records to keep skipping. So my then boyfriend at the time (now my husband) Andyoyo, who was helping me, had to spend the last three hours of the night holding the turntables still whilst the music was playing. It took quite a lot of effort and strength but this was the only way to stop the records from skipping. He couldn't move his arms the next day! The following week we managed to get a table screwed to the wall so it never happened again!

Shaft at the Welly

…and its dance-floor draw

Remembered by Sarah Mole, artist and ‘I’d love to turn you on’ podcast co-host

Super Sharp Shooter, everything on Ninja Tunes...even the Grange Hill theme tune! Shaft really was the hey day for me…it was a mix of funk and hip-hop. Then when jungle became a thing they wove that in too and it all seemed to work harmoniously! The atmosphere was dark and smoky, sweat literally dripped off the ceiling and ran down the walls. It was FULL of artists, musicians, DJs…basically, people who loved a dance. Which is why, when I was working there, I would often leave my spot from behind the bar and offer to do the glass collecting…because then I could dance while I was working and people simply stacked the empties on top of the ones I was carrying. It was hard not to dance, which is why the dance floors were always so full - and when those swing doors to the top dance floor opened, you got a serious backdraft of heat and steam. A legendary night out.

Helter Skelter at Silhouette

…and its school nights out

Remembered by Lucy Nichol, author of The Twenty Seven Club

That’s me at school looking tired with bad eyebrows….this is why…(no excuse for the eyebrows though)…

Helter Skelter was Tuesday night’s club 14-18 - unofficially. It was my first experience of a club night out and saw me move from shy girl who refused to dance, to Lambrini lightweight who foolishly took on the big guy who knocked her over on the dance floor just as Violet by Hole came on.

There were three long ‘tables’ at the back near the dance floor that became the Beverley youth club section for a while. And Wednesday mornings in English class always included a theatrical yawn to enable talk of ‘oh my god, I’m sooooo fucked, I was at a club in Hull last night dancing to Ska Sucks by Propagandi’ before picking To Kill a Mockingbird back up to discuss the treatment of Boo Radley with Mrs Harper.

We were looked after though. So helpful were the staff at Silhouette that they even passed on a message when my panicked mother called to get a message to me that my older friend forgot to turn her car lights on when she drove up our village street after collecting me.

Embarrassed much?

Parties at Hutt Street

…nobody threw a party like Hull threw a party!

Remembered by Simon Crook, Hutt Street party resident and artist / designer / animator

You barely finished thinking whether or not a party would be a good idea and you’d get 400 people and Mantra DJs on your doorstep. I remember once, I’d gone to the off licence and when I got back to our street there were two police officers sitting on a wall. Being friendly I joked and asked them if they’d come to shut the party down. They laughed and said they’d come down because they’d seen the crowds and wondered what was going on but it was so rammed they couldn’t get in. Everyone seemed good natured so they’d sat a bit further down to listen to the tunes.

Another time, I walked into my bedroom to find a guy and two girls - he welcomed me in and asked me if I liked his room. I let him give me a guided tour.

We had all sorts of visitors - Bentley Rhythm Ace, Crass, certain ex Housemartins, Fila Brasilia…

The only thing I owned that ever went missing was my pair of Chester Cheetah leopard skin fun shades. It wasn’t so much that they were amazing (just cheap plastic) - it was the sheer volume of Cheetos I’d had to consume to get them that rankled. It made them special. I’d made a badge which said ‘I know it’s not sunny’ which I could point silently at if anyone thought it would be funny to point it out.

I remember going downstairs to make a cup of coffee in the aftermath of a party to find three naked people sitting round the dinner table. They asked if I wanted to join them but I declined politely, made my coffee and made a mental note to scrub the benches.

We’d put mattresses up against the external walls and invite all the neighbours - not one complaint during a ten year period!