It’s never dull... ...in ‘Ull. So goes the old saying about what I now think of as my home town, Hull. I actually only lived there for a year; however, it was during this year that I met my beloved husband. He proceeded to tell everyone his girlfriend was from Hull (I had been there about seven months at this point) and somehow I and the rest of the world got the impression that I was born and bred in t’city of ‘ull. Not strictly accurate, then, but I did enjoy some of the greatest months of my life there – and worked there for several years – and am more than happy to claim it as my own.
Anyway, there may never have been a finer example of how un-dull it is in Hull than yesterday morning, when 3,200 people turned up to take part in a little photography shoot.
Minus their shoes.
And everything else bar a layer of blue paint.
For an outdoor shoot on public roads.
US photographer Spencer Tunick, famous for these mass nude photographic projects, reportedly called this the biggest UK turnout he’d ever had. I’m so proud of my city for being more naked than anywhere else.
Although I had heard it was happening (as a family member of mine planned to take part), I didn’t think much of it at the time. Naked people, in paint, being photographed. Happens all the time.
But rarely in such numbers.
In a city with a fairly poor – undeserved – reputation, 3,200 people got up in the - extremely - early hours of Saturday morning, to paint each other, stand outside and be herded round the streets for four hours. Naked, and for nowt! It’s a trifle baffling, really. Who would do this, and why?!
I was about to speculate, although I really couldn’t see a decent argument for. Then I remembered the aforementioned relative, my uncle, and dropped him a line to get the 411 on his motives, er, motivation.
“It’s a great way to be part of the cultural landscape of Hull”. Sounds doubtful...
...but he’s not the type to give a fig leaf about nudity, either, so I don’t think that was the draw, at least for him.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to get into the whys: does it matter why? They did it, and the pictures are compelling. They make me think about ‘my’ city and its people, how calm they all look (they must have been so cold!), how normal they make the scene appear (we do this every Saturday morning...) and how committed to playing their part everybody was (they lay on the – cold - ground. Strangers painted one other. They were all separated from their phones for at least four hours. They gave up part of their sleep and part of their weekend. Without recompense. I repeat: I am baffled.).
My lovely uncle has just popped up in the corner of my screen: I asked him about the starkers bit :)
I’ll put his response here if it’s not rude...
..Oh, it’s not. It’s lovely :)
“It was interesting to see so many naked bodies in one place- every shape and size, the beautiful mass of blue humanity relaxed, happily naked and together to create something special and memorable for Hull. Toned, perfect bodies, aged, broken bodies, fat, thin, young and old - all in four shades of blue (I was B4)- it was a truly remarkable sight and a wonderful, shared experience- and one soon to be shared with the world- the pictures are awesome; can't wait to see the exhibition in Ferens [Art Gallery, Hull] next Spring!”
Is this how everyone felt? Was everyone there moved to action at the thought of becoming part of Hull’s cultural landscape? It is 2017’s City of Culture, after all!
3,200 people. Wowsers! Made me proud to be "from" Hull.
Linda Evangelista reckoned she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000. This crowd did it for nowt, without a designer - or any - label in sight, and the resulting exhibition, Sea of Hull, in 2017, is arguably going to be a lot more interesting than your average supermodel shoot. And I’m a whole hemisphere away from it. Sacré bleu!
PS Stunning images here, courtesy of The Guardian - 'ave a look!