A slow bus ride in the City of Culture…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s elephant in the room is the one clicking the remote with her trunk trying to find a David Attenborough programme on the TV.
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Writing in little notebook on the number 66 bus. 17.33 Thursday 5th January 2017:
I boarded this bus in the Interchange at 17.28: We immediately moved off and slid gently into a traffic stream that was flowing very slowly, but in fits and starts – ‘fits and starts’ – what a strange phrase that is…
17.37: I realise, that due to the temporary rerouting of the traffic, the city centre is almost gridlocked. I have just put on my new ‘noise-cancelling’ headphones and switched my little MP3 player onto random play. The sound of the large shouting lady at the front with the two small jumping-about children has receded by several virtual metres – oh, the marvels of current audio technology.
Even though the bus is full, stuck in traffic, and a bit smelly, I am now enjoying listening to Ray Davies of the Kinks singing Lazing on a Sunny Afternoonah, that’s nice… Let’s close our eyes, relax, and stretch out in the healing stream of nature’s gentle yellow photons – ah, the smell of the warm grass, the buzzing of the bees, and the rumble of distant lawn mowers…
17.46: The reason for this traffic jam is partly because of… oh look, flashing blue ambulance lights in the distance!… the celebrations for Hull being UK City of Culture this year. There is a ‘spectacular’, but fairly short, video installation with a very loud soundtrack and bright moving images projected onto the faces of the buildings in Victoria Square in the city centre. Apparently it is something to do with the history of the city and is showing every evening this week.
17.50: Now listening to The Cramps doing Garbage Man.
The bus is moving a bit, but there are cars and other buses trying to sneak in in front of us – some of the passengers are expressing outrage at this in no uncertain terms – the driver is taciturn on the issue though.
17.56: Captain Beefheart doing Well.
Of course, I believe that the Great God of the Arts is behind all this frustration and annoyance I’m experiencing. He/She is punishing me for being churlish and not engaging with the glowing aura of culture that has descended on the town – just before I got on the bus I was invited to join a couple of good friends of mine to go to experience the above mentioned installation, people have called it ‘marvellous’, but having earlier said that I intend to avoid anything to do the City of C, I declined their kind invitation.
As I write this, sitting here on this creeping trembling bus, my friends are probably standing there, soaking up the culture and being deeply moved by the flashing images, and especially the depiction of the bombing of the city in WWII, and the awful trawler sinkings of the 1960s. I happened to see a couple of clips from this production online: Excuse me, how do you think an old person who had been in the Hull bombing, and had lost relatives back then, would react to having it recreated for them in full colour and noise? And, did I really just see some animated images of drowning trawlermen being sucked down into the sea to die there amongst those cute fishes?… This isn’t some ‘story’, it was real!…
17.59: Operator Please, Just a Song About Ping-Pong.
You see, back last year when it was announced that Hull had been chosen for this ‘honour’ my heart sank – yes, I know, I am a spoil-sport. But we don’t really do ‘culture’ very well here – just look at our current architecture and our dreary cheap public sculpture – Hull does have its culture, and its great – it’s the warm friendly people and the general feel of the city, not all this arty-farty stuff. It’s sad, but the people in charge here don’t seem to have much in the way of style or imagination…
18.04: Beck: Loser.
I suppose a truck load of money has been spent buying in some culture from people who can do it, and some cash will have been grabbed in those vicious and bloody fights between local arts administrators and other pushy ambitious ‘arts people’ who have managed to come up with proposals for some suitably wishy-washy projects, drama, and awful street art, which refer to the city in some vague way.
18.09. Oh look, out of the bus window, you can see one of those coloured ‘moths’ (which actually look more like plump decorated plastic cushions than actual moths. In my experience moths are generally fairly flat, these are just a bit too bulbous) that have been screwed onto walls all over the town centre. Why moths?… There is a very tenuous connection to local aviator Amy Johnson, whose plane was a… wait for it… a de Havilland Gypsy Moth… Hm…
18.20: Albert Collins: Cold Cold Feelin.
Oh good, I think we are speeding up a bit. One of the big loud lady’s children is leaning into the driver’s cab and poking at his arm with a little pale forefinger. Yes, we are definitely moving now.
18.29: Japanese Court Music.
Ah, it will be my stop soon. Still, the hour it has taken has not been wasted has it? I wonder, could this piece of writing be part of the City of Culture?…
Hm, I don’t think I’d want it to be.
I wonder how my friends liked the big video and sound thing? I must get in touch later and ask, and also I’ll apologise for being such a miserable churl…
Next stop please driver! Ding!…

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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11 Responses to A slow bus ride in the City of Culture…

  1. Oh I do like your music choices! And yes I agree about culture not being something you can “make”, it just IS. Its an experience individual to a place, not contrived according to some artyfarty consultation with a bunch of trendies. Bah! It’ll be our turn next, you wait.. 2021 and already the high heifers have a party organised. I think someone ought to remind them that the application form said “Cities Only Need Apply” 🙂

  2. Dana Doran says:

    aaaah…so yeah Mr. Whatt….by coincidence, immediately preceding your post today I read this..https://flash-365.com/2017/01/10/gallery-of-post-post-modern-art/
    I know you’ll see the humor…..and then, I simply must comment that here in the US the government is constantly legislating our “culture”….they seem to be a bit behind because, as a friend pointed out, this is where we’re headed (?)…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoUWHfh733Y

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Re: the post-post-mod:
      It all happened when people (journalists, historians, critics, reviewers) decided that art ‘evolves’ and the true goal of the artist is to create the ‘new’ – unfortunately that was a long long time ago, and we have since run out of ‘good’ new things, and the only ones left to be even slightly ‘noticeable’ are the flimsy crap ideas which require no skill or intelligence to do, and they say nothing – also they are quite easy to do too.

  3. Jheron Bash says:

    Well, I think your international readership deserves periodic cultural updates on this City of Culture carry on, Dave! I understand the video installation has been followed up with another, quite interesting, installation. Has this reduced your churl at all? We should be told …..

  4. luke610 says:

    Eyup … thanks for passing by my hole in the whacky whacky way and ‘liking’ my stuff, really appreciated. I am a Yorkshire lass born and spent some part of my long life in a small village on the outskirts of the City of Culture … a tiny spot called Wawne. Ah, the Kinks … thanks for reminding me, time to listen to all my ‘old’ stuff from the Sixties and Seventies … great blog this is of yours. I am following now.

  5. junkmonkey says:

    When I lived in Hull Many many moons ago I owned a copy of the 1951 (I think it was) Post war reconstruction plans. It was a well-produced, large format hardback full of gleaming, post-war optimism. Not exactly William Cameron Menzies’ vision of the future in The Shape of Things to Come, but that sort of thing on a budget. I don’t recall any of it having been built by the time I lived there in the ’80s. I had this theory that, as Hull was one of the few places bombed during WW1 AND WW2, the local council took one look at this bright, shiny future and said. “Stuff that, the bogging German will only come and bomb the bugger flat in 30 years.”

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