Hull 'transformed' as fireworks spectacular launches City of Culture programme

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The thousands of visitors expected to flock to Hull during its tenure as UK City of Culture will be "surprised and amazed" by the city and local residents will be proud of what has been achieved, organisers have said.

Final preparations are being made for a spectacular New Year's Day start to a year of cultural events in Hull.

Crowds are expected to pack the waterside and other vantage points for a fireworks display over the Humber which organisers say will top the New Year's Eve show in central London 24 hours earlier.

And visitors will also be able to tour the first of hundreds of planned artistic events - Made In Hull, which is a celebration of more than 70 years of the city's history told through massive projections on some of its best known buildings. 

Rosie Millard, chairwoman of Hull City of Culture 2017, said the thousands of people expected to come to Hull will find a city transformed in the last few years.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There are many people in the UK that have never been to Hull. And I hope that they will come this year, 2017, to these major events and they will see a place that is really, very, very, different."

She said: "They will have a sense of a city in transformation. I think Hull is the least known city in the UK and for outsiders, they will be surprised and amazed by what an extraordinary place Hull is, and for locals, they will be proud of what the city has achieved.

"Because it's a huge change and it's not just a change for '17, it's a change for a very, very long time."

Ms Millard added: "They will have an amazing welcome from one of our 4,000 volunteers, who are mostly from Hull, and all absolutely bursting with enthusiasm. They will see a city with great optimism. They will see a transformed city."

Organisers of Hull 2017 and local politicians have explicitly linked the cultural plans for the year with the economic transformation of the city, symbolised by the £300 million investment by German tech firm Siemens in an offshore wind manufacturing plant at Alexandra Dock.

Hull West and Hessle Labour MP Alan Johnson told the programme UK City Culture status was a huge economic boost.

He said: "For me this means jobs. It's part of redeveloping the city. It can't do it on its own but it can be a major, major factor."

The former home secretary said that, if done right, City of Culture status could transform a UK city every four years.

Hull is the second city to be given this status, following Derry-Londonderry in 2013.

The city was selected in 2013 amid some surprise, from a shortlist which included Dundee, Leicester and Swansea Bay.

Organisers have been determined to develop a programme aimed at attracting visitors from around the world but also engaging the 250,000 people who live in Hull.

Launching the programme for the first three months of the year in September, Hull 2017 chief executive and director Martin Green told the elite of the UK's arts world: "This city's voice has always been strong - in 2017, it will roar."

And he said the opening day was unashamedly intended to make a loud and bold statement that the event had arrived.

The opening Made In Hull event will use huge projections by a range of local and international artists to celebrate the city's heritage.

It has been curated by Bafta-nominated documentary-maker Sean McAllister, who said he thinks the effect will be "euphoric".

The unveiling of Made In Hull will be followed at exactly 8.17pm on January 1 by the fireworks display accompanied by music and video on the Humber.

The events of New Year's Day will launch a programme which includes an array of work and artists.

The worldwide profile of Hull 2017 was raised in July when US artist Spencer Tunick corralled 3,200 naked people painted blue for his trademark photographs around Hull's landmarks.

Tunick's Sea Of Hull will be featured later next year at the Ferens Art Gallery, which will reopen in January following a £4.5 million refurbishment.

Other highlights at the gallery will include the unveiling of a nationally significant early 14th century panel by Pietro Lorenzetti and five of Francis Bacon's notorious Screaming Popes.

University of Hull alumni, the late Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, will be celebrated with a retrospective of his work and an exhibition in January.

Hull Maritime Museum will begin the year with a look at the city's whaling history with an audiovisual installation of a Bowhead whale.

And the city's well-known Hull Truck Theatre's programme will include a new play by Hull writer Richard Bean, The Hypocrite, set in the English Civil War - which started in Hull - and starring Game Of Thrones and Full Monty actor Mark Addy.

Other highlights of the year will include a celebration of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, which will focus on the role of guitarist Mick Ronson, who was from Hull.

Council leader Stephen Brady has said more than £1 billion of investment has flowed into the city since the UK City of Culture announcement, including £100 million of capital investment in the cultural and visitor infrastructure.

Mr Green said people in Hull have watched with growing excitement as the Made In Hull exhibition was put together over the last few days and weeks around landmark buildings like the Maritime Museum and The Deep.

He told the Press Association: "We're all set. All the building work work that's supposed to be finished for today is finished. There's a real sense of the stage being set and we're ready for showtime."

Asked about the overall feeling among his team, he said: "Excitement, really. Whether you're a hard and old techie production guy who's seen it all before or a volunteer, perhaps seeing it for the first time, everyone's sharing that excitement and apprehension."

Mr Green added: "You can see the whole country talking about this city and that has a chain reaction of pride, which breeds confidence. We're ready to open the doors and say to everyone 'Come on in'."

He said social media has helped spread the word around Hull about what is coming up as the city centre has been transformed by artists from across the UK and the world.

Asked about the reaction so far, Mr Green said: "A mixture of surprise and jaws hitting the floor. I think people had an idea of what we were trying to achieve, which is a very different way to start a year as well as a very Hull way to start a year.

"What we knew from the outset was that we didn't want to do a one night opening ceremony because it means that so many people can't come.

"That's why we designed something that was spread through the city centre over seven days because absolutely everybody is invited.

"And that is absolutely indicative of the attitude to the year. Everyone will find something they will like and it's for everyone.

"I think people have seen the level of production that we're putting in and the sheer scale of some of the pieces we're doing, particularly on The Deep, which is all about the people who have arrived and departed from this port city, and they're looking forward to seeing it all coming together."