Channel 4 News, the irritating daily showcase for Jon Snow's hideous socks, came from Hull on Monday night. The report was all about how the recession was being felt most amongst working class communities. I had no problem with the theme, it is something that should be hammered home, together with the destruction of manufacturing as a by-product of the bankers' folly. But why do they always choose Hull? It seems that it is an off-the-peg symbol of deprivation for lazy researchers.
I was there again last night, seeing old friends and drinking too much. A great place; lovely people (and Karen only mentioned her trip to Barcelona last year twice). I hate seeing it depicted as the epitome of misery. Yes it is a bit different, yes it is a working class city, and certainly it is not affluent. But what sums it up was a research project being undertaken by a colleague at the University a few years ago on enhancing social capital on Hull's estates. She gave up. Why? As she said, 'There is loads of social capital there. They help each other the whole time, look after each other's kids, support their extended families. It is built into their way of life. It's the East Riding suburbs where there is none. We need teams of volunteers from the estates to teach the people in the suburbs how to do it."
It was a lovely way of turning the question around. Of course the obvious point is that with money you have less need of self-help, however it does illustrate, even amongst the most well-meaning of people, the attitude of condescension to the poor and to cities like Hull. Still feeling the warmth of the welcome, I am more convinced than ever that Hull need celebrating, not denigrating. We should be investing in the city, not out of pity, but because it is a simple act of justice towards wonderful, resourceful people who do not deserve to be abandoned at times of economic hardship.
As far as I am concerned, I was lucky to have been able to live and work there for nearly fourteen years and particularly so in the friends I made. It is a great place, a smashing place to live and I shall remember with fondness the sound of the fog horns from the ships on the Humber, even as I sit on a sun kissed patio in Greece.