‘Sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me) in between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP’. So wrote Philip Larkin, one of the cultural sons of Hull in his poem Annus Mirabilis in 1967. Fifty years on Hull has just completed its own Annus Mirabilis as the UK’s City of Culture 2017. The baton now passes to Coventry which will enjoy its year in the sun in 2021.
Hull has had a fabulous year; testament to the impact the City of Culture status bestows on winning cities that can demonstrate that not only it can host the year, but also, crucially, show it can leave a legacy. On paper Hull had a lot to prove. Hardly fashionable and located at the end of one of England’s cul-de-sacs, its reputation outside of those in Yorkshire & Humberside was tainted to say the least. Mention Hull’s cultural back story to an off-comer and you may have elicited The Housemartins and The Beautiful South, the aforementioned Larkin or, at a push the birthplace of actress Maureen Lipman. The football and rugby league teams – for sport is culture as well isn’t it? – have seldom lit up the back pages.
But the past year has seen Hull come out of the shadows. The Turner Prize 2017 was awarded in the city and the Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars was a live musical event that attracted attention worldwide. Over 2,000 other events, exhibitions or activities have also taken place. Shops, hotels, bars and restaurants all took on extra staff to cope with 3.5 million visitors throughout the year, whilst 50 new businesses have opened. The city’s museums saw a five-fold increase in visits. Amazingly, nine out of ten Hull residents took part in some kind of cultural activity laid on by the city in the first three months of 2017. As London did with the Olympics, the city smartened itself up, sorted out its public transport and got its mojo back.
Such a rip roaring year does beg the question, what of the long term impact on the economy and the property market? When its City of Culture status was announced in 2013 it wasn’t long after that Siemens announced it would make its largest worldwide inward investment – £310m alongside Associated British Ports – in Europe’s foremost wind turbine manufacturing plant on the Humber. In January 2017 the first turbine blade came off the production line and 1,000 people are now employed. In a neat collaboration, a 75-metre-high wind turbine ‘installation’ featured as a work of art in Queen Victoria Square during the year.
Being green is growing. Hull is now one of the UK’s leading centres for bio-mass handling with a new £150m facility for Drax Power which opened in 2017. British Land was spurred on to install 1,100 solar panels on the St Stephens Shopping Centre, the first initiative of its kind.
Hull University has always had a solid reputation as a one of the pre-1992 civic universities. As a key partner for City of Culture, the University is investing heavily in facilities and accommodation. A new £28m medical building opened in 2017 and another £150m of investment by the University is underway or planned. Graduates may be persuaded to stay on in the city; Reckitt Benckiser are building a new £105m R&D facility – the Centre for Scientific Excellence – in Hull which they claim to be their largest R&D investment in the world.
Hull has always been an affordable place to live. House prices don’t seem to have responded significantly to the City of Culture year – up a very creditable 3% in the year to October 2017 according to the ONS – but at an average of only £108,497 they remain at roughly half of the UK average. Residential gross yields in excess of 8% are still readily attainable. Large residential transactions in the year were mostly in the student sector and included the sale of about 90 of the University’s shared houses to Kexgill. Student Warehouse also sold its £18m house portfolio to an overseas buyer during the year. The University closed its £155m deal with UPP for them to provide a further 1,750 purpose built student beds to meet demand. Not surprisingly student applications are growing. If nothing else, the City of Culture status has fixed the city in the student psyche.
The last major art commission in 2017 was a light installation called ‘Where Do We Go From Here? It is as if the city itself isn’t wholly sure how it builds on its 2017 success. Indeed the entire City of Culture legacy is a matter of ifs. If the city can maintain the momentum it has gained in the arts; if it can secure World Heritage status for its old town (as seems likely); if it builds on its green energy credentials; if it continues to attract inward investment in the face of Brexit; if it retains its graduates in the city. For sure, if it achieves only part of that, it will have been one hell of a year.
Notes to editor
Andrew joined Allsop from Chestertons in 2002 to head up the Allsop Leeds office. He is also Non-executive Chairman of the firm’s residential property management subsidiary, Allsop Letting and Management.
He has 30 years’ experience in all aspects of the residential investment and development markets. Has advised on a variety of major investment transactions including take-overs and stock exchange reporting. Day to day work includes the valuation of a variety of residential property and portfolios for loan security, tax, litigation and accounts purposes. Andrew also advises a number of student accommodation Funds on portfolio value.
You can contact Andrew for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on +44 (0)113 236 6670.