It’s time Derby takes some lessons from Hull in self-love 

Hull celebrated being named City of Culture 2017

If you’re still reeling from Derby being claimed as the “worst place to visit” by Which?, then good writes Kirsty Green
Having worked in Hull – a place which used to repeatedly top the “worst cities” lists – I know that it is the locals’ passion for their city which will turn around its fortunes. 
When I was in Hull, I was working for the team tasked with bringing the City of Culture 2017 title to the city. 
Hull was up against Dundee, Leicester and Swansea Bay and even with the final odds of the Yorkshire city winning the title standing at 11 to four, the people of Hull were starting to galvanise. 
When I joined the campaign team, Hull was just about to make the shortlist for the City of Culture title. The road to that accomplishment had focused on bringing together the people of the city and involving them in every step of the journey. 
If you’ve been consistently labelled as ‘thick’, ‘in the middle of nowhere’, ‘deprived’ or many of the other criticisms regularly thrown at the people of Hull (often by those who had never visited) then it may take a bit of persuasion to believe your home is worthy of the City of Culture title. 
But the people did believe. 
One of my early tasks was to attend the annual Freedom Festival in the city where we invited visitors to share their views of Hull with us in a camper van equipped with video equipment. I spent many years as a journalist doing ‘vox pops’ and having to ask people their opinions so I was used to quite a high refusal rate with “no thanks, not interested”. Not in Hull. There was sometimes a queue of people wanting to pop into the van to share what they loved about their city.  
Older people were proud of its military history. In fact, it was at this early point during my time in Hull that I was told I should be using its full title of Kingston upon Hull – the proper name given to the city by King Edward I after he bought the port for his military campaigns. They were also proud of its resilience – the port remained open during the Second World War despite Hull being the most severely damaged British city or town during the war. That gave rise to the need for the rapid building of the apartment blocks which had so often been labelled ‘ugly’. Young people wanted to share their favourite bars and gave rave reviews of Hull Truck Theatre while artists rejoiced about the independent and street art scene – even Banksy later chose to locate one of his famous pieces in Hull.  
They were proud, proud of their often-mocked accents, their white phone boxes, their place by the sea – not in the middle of nowhere but at the edge of the world
And it was upon this strength of feeling that the city’s final push for cultural capital status was built. 
Hull wanted the world to see in it what it saw. So, it didn’t pretend to be somewhere else, it didn’t try to beat Leicester, or Swansea, or Dundee – it boasted about being Hull. 

The first theme for the bid was Routes to Roots, recalling Hull’s history, heritage and migration. The second was Made in Hull, celebrating the culture, architecture, artists and more who were made in, or made it in the city. The third was Freedom, paying tribute to the contribution of Hull to the freedom movement, not least via Hullensian William Willberforce. The final was Quirky. This captured those white phone boxes, the painted toads – the Hullness. It was also a theme which was used during the campaign to address the city’s criticisms head on, to poke fun at itself in a fond way, in the way you can lovingly tease a family member knowing you wouldn’t want them any other way. 
These were themes the people had wanted, things they were proud of and believed in. And they got behind them, sharing posts on social media with the much-loved hashtag #HullYes.  

If we want other people to believe in Derby, we need to believe in it. We need, as a city, to understand what makes Derby – what our strengths are, what is unique about us. We need to shout about our accomplishments and embrace our imperfections while always striving for better for our place and our people. Since the Which? article was published, we’ve seen various views on what these things are – our engineering expertise, our stunning Sadler Gate, our UNESCO World Heritage site. There are more, let’s share them. 
We need to feel aggrieved by the criticism, to defend our city.  
Right up until the night Hull was named City of Culture 2017, the odds were still against the city, only Dundee was less likely to win it according to the bookies. But I was in the room where the announcement was being streamed live. Everyone involved in the bid was there, it was like a party. Win or lose the people now believed in their place and the people in that room believed Hull could win. And it did. 
We can learn from Hull, which was named 14th best big city break in the latest Which? Guide, above Nottingham and 10 places above Derby. But we are not Hull, nor are we Nottingham, Leicester or any other city. We are Derby and it’s time to believe in our city.  

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