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Tuesday 28 October 2014

Fact 42. Hull is twinned with Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Cities are twinned to stimulate and foster commercial, educational and cultural links and the twinning of Hull with Freetown was instigated by a former High Commissioner of Sierra Leone, Dr. S.T. Matturi who had been educated at Hull University. The twinning was formalised just over 34 years ago on 25th October 1980.

Freetown city.

Freetown celebrates its founding in 1787. This is when the British resettled 400 black slaves that had got their freedom at home. An agreement was agreed with the local Chiefs and they founded a settlement called Granville Town after an British abolitionist. The Chiefs hadn't realised that they had ceded their land permanently and burned the settlement down in 1789. The survivours were moved else where in the country.

After the American War of Independence some black slaves fought on the side of the British. They were called the Black Loyalists. As a reward they were freed and re-settled in Nova Scotia. In 1792 the Sierra Leone Company was looking for settlers to move to the Freetown area. In the end they had 1100 recruits from Nova Scotia who had got depressed by the poor weather and the discrimination there. They left in 15 ships. 64 of the settlers died on route. They arrived at the previous settlement that had returned to jungle. The men went ashore to clear the brush and jungle. When they got a big cotton wood tree they stopped and all the men and women paraded from the shore to the tree singing hymns of praise. The town was called Free Town.

The original cotton tree that was the site of the prayers and worship of the  Nova Scotian settlers.

The place survived being sacked by the French in 1794 and by 1798 there were 300 to 400 buildings. By 1800 the settlers were disenchanted as they were being paid in currency that can only be redeemed at the company stores and they hadn't been given the land that had been promised. An uprising was prevent by the arrival of 500 Jamaican Maroons. Some of the Nova Scotian settlers were banished but many returned. Later freed slaves from the West Indies and Africa that had fought for the British against Napoleon were also resettled in the city. In 1808 it became a British Colony.

During the Second World War Freetown was a big convoy assembly point and staging post for the South Atlantic. There was a naval base there and seaplanes were based for convoy protection

Freetown around 1940.

The country of Sierra Leone and the capital city Freetwon were devastated by the civil war that ran from 1991 to 2002. British Forces helped to bring about conditions that led to a peace treaty being signed. It is estimated that 50,000 lost their lives. 70% of the population live below the poverty line and now they have the presence of ebola that is decimating the health and economy of the city.

One of the oldest twinning schemes is that between the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Cottingham with the Church of Our Lady Star of the sea in Juba, a suburb of Freetown. Over 25 years the Cottingham Church has assisted with building a church, school, clinic and bakery. It is by no means one way traffic either as when the Holy Cross church suffered a severe fire following a break in. The people in Freetown sent parcels to assist the church in Hull to get going again. Now the clergy in Hull always wear the vestments that  are sent from Freetown.

At this time of need in Freetown wouldn't it be good if meaningful ties could be set up to enable participation with the year of culture in 2017. They have a very mixed ethnic and tribal culture and must have many dancing, acting and singing and musical groups that could benefit all communities from exposure on a big stage. 

A Freetown slum.

Susan Bay, Freetown.

Monday 13 October 2014

Fact 41. Hull Fair is probably the largest travelling fair in Europe.

The second Friday in October is always the start of Hull Fair. The date is awaited eagerly by all in the area as the Walton Street area by the KC Stadium is taken over by the largest travelling fair in Europe. The fairground trucks can be seen heading to Hull from all over the country and even over on the ferry.

Hull Fair.

The first charter to grant Hull a fair was in 1278 but it was Edward I that granted a six week fair in May and June in 1293. In those days it was an economic event where trade was done and products bought and sold. By Charles II's time it had moved to 20th September. It was in 1751 when they changed the form of calendar in use that the move to October occurred. This meant that eleven days were lost from the year and there were minor riots in Hull as they thought that their fair may be cut short. The people were placated and the fair was made into a week long event that would start on the Friday that included the 11th October and ended on the following Saturday.

Over the years the fair slowly began to include more entertainment and less trade. By the 18th and 19th Century the shows included jugglers and puppet shows and also wild animal shows where the people of Hull were able to observe beast from far afield.

Bostock and Wombwell 1919
Bostock and Wombwell's travelling menagerie at Hull Fair in 1919.

The fair has moved around the city over the years. In the 1800's it was held in the Wellington, Nelson and Queen Street area near the pier and in the Market Place. It was also held outside the town on the Brown Cow fields before moving to Corporation Fields on Park Street in 1865. The fair continued to grow but it was never popular with the local residents and eventually it moved again to it's present site at Walton Street in 1888. It was originally an 8 acre site but in 1906 it doubled in size making it the largest in Britain.


By the late 1800's mechanisation brought more and more rides to the fair and this continues to be up dated and get faster, higher and more spectacular to this day. In 1908 there were 27 special railway excursions from far and wide bringing 12000 to the festivities. Electricity brought another element to the show and it was called the Light City. In 1919 there were twenty rides and now there are many many more.

Walton Street Fair Ground.

Full extent of the site.

The helter skelter.

The Starflyer is 70 foot high and must be scary in a high wind.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Fact 40. The Spiders from Mars were actually from Hull.

On 6th July 1972 pop music changed for ever when Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie) and the Spiders from Mars performed on 'Top of the Pops'. This performance influenced people as varied as Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet, Ian Mc Culloch of Echo and the Bunnymen and Boy George of Culture Club. It was seen as a breakthrough performances.

Top of the Pops performance transmitted on 6th July 1972 but recorded the day before. Davis Bowie on left and Mick Ronson on the right.

The Spiders from Mars consisted of Mick Ronson (guitar), Mick (Woody) Woodmansey (drummer) and Trevor Bolder (bassist). All of them were from the Hull area. Prior to the Spiders from Mars there were two other East Yorkshire musicians working with Bowie, John Cambridge and John 'Hutch' Hutchinson. Cambridge and the first three played in a band in Hull called 'The Rats' and had some success before Cambridge ventured to London and started working with Bowie. Cambridge before venturing back to Hull to tempt Mick Ronson down to London to join the 'Hype' that became the Spiders. Ronson was working for the council marking our football pitches. Not long after he called Mick Woodmansey as they needed a drummer. In turn they called for Trevor Boulder to join too.

Trevor Bolder, Mick Woodmansey, David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

Mick Ronson was a proud Yorkshireman and very masculine and so was a great counterpoint to David Bowie's image. He was a brillaint guitarist and has been rated as the fourth best ever at some time. We also arranged the music for several Bowie albums. Mick Woodmansey took over the drums from Tony Visconti and had had is own bands in and around Driffield where he was born. Next came Trevor Bolder who was a good trumpet and cornet player as a youth.

Some of the Spiders were more reticent that others to embrace the new Ziggy fashions and Mick nearly headed back to Hull as he feared that he would lose all his friends if he had to dress like that! Mick Ronson was also credited with arranging on the album.

Mick Ronson died in April 1993 of liver cancer at age 46. Trevor Bolder died in Hull in May 2013 of cancer aged 63. Mick Woodmansey is still drumming and is currently with 3D. 

                        Mick Ronson                                              Mick Woodmansey

Trevor Bolder.

As a fitting tribute to these trail blazing musicians wouldn't it be great to really feature them and their music during our year of culture. At present there is an underused small stage dedicated to Mick Ronson in Queens Park. There could be all sorts of people playing the music at a concert or Sound a Like/Look a Like competitions and also some permanent recognition in the area.

Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey April 2012.