Wednesday at the Central Library did not disappoint. With barely time for a coffee after meeting Melvyn Bragg I found myself with red wine in hand chatting to different kinds of people from wide areas of the UK all here in the Food for Thought café for a writhing sea of art, poetry and music to follow. First we were visually informed by local artist Cliff Foreshaw’s Hull Cityscapes where I Was joined in conversation by a Town Planner from Richmond, London, who was at City of Culture to attend a maritime convention which amongst other things would forge links between Shetland and Hull. Something that interests me as I lived on Shetland and am writing a book about the links between the whaling ships and Hull and the Greenland fishing grounds in the 1800’s, The Hanged Man of Grobsness.
Cliff stood in front of his paintings in the cafe describing some of the views. Throughout the week I have interviewed people as they sat and ate surrounded by his work, asking volunteers, the retired, people from all walks of life what they thought. Over the week I came to realise how much it meant to local people that the history of Hull’s landscape was being recorded by someone locally rooted with such accuracy. The colours are both bold and smoky and give the feel of a working, steam smoking maritime centre with the blades at Siemens beckoning future prosperity in one piece for a city once reliant on whaling and fishing for survival. You can contact Cliff on his website if you want a piece of history hanging on your wall.
There was a large gathering who followed Cliff and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais into the room next door where our eyes and ears were nourished with a slick and well synchronised performance. The music was put together by composer Deborah Pritchard’s and entitled Voyage, which celebrates the twin “voyage” statues, one pointing to Vik on Iceland near The Deep in Hull and the other towards Hull in Vik. The audienc
e travelled with them. Artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir captured the essence of the sea, grey and for ever in motion, by leaning the statues forwards as if the communities in Iceland and the Humber are reaching out to each other. Cliff is working on a piece at the minute which reinforces links between Hull and other herring fishing communities those with a connection to the sea like in Georgia soon.
This evening we were treated to a slick and well synchronised performance by Simon and Cliff. I have reviewed CD’s of poetry in performance for national magazines, some of which can be outlandish and irrelevant, but Cliff spoke of mermaid statues, whales and maritime themes close to my own heart as I have carried out extensive research on whalers like the Truelove for my whaling book. His words were interlaced with relevant language which hit you like a bullet. You can tell he is a well-travelled man there was a piece packed with Tasmanian words which rolled off the tongue. I loved the way Simon would lower his trumpet and look towards Cliff to interchange music with words. It created an eerie atmosphere. One of peace before the storm. The lights were lowered and purple reflected off the trumpet as the haunting, slowly delivered notes swam to our ears. I did feel like I was in Shetland looking out to sea wading in snow again. It also made me want to read more of Cliff’s poetry. The collaboration worked.
Later in conversation Cliff told me the exhibition could be moving to the St Stephen’s precinct. Details are still to be finalised. Carrying the legacy of 2017 on.