Saturday, 1 January 2011

Hull, the Hull Boat House and a Happy New Year



Scenes from the Boat House.




























For New Year some people go to Costa Rica, some to Las Vegas, some to Trafalgar Square, some to the cupboard under the stairs [a sensible choice if you ask me] others to bed early. Us? We go to Hull, Kingston on Hull, an exotic location on the North Bank of the Humber. I am not using the term 'exotic' ironically. Hull is like Glastonbury, a place where the Dreamtime mingles with the Mundane, only it's darker and more sinister, absinthe to Glastonbury's cider and Magic Mushrooms.

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Psychogeographically Hull is near the edge of the world which you can find, if you are interested, between Spurn and Bridlington at the crumbling clay lip of the Holderness coast beyond which there is nothing but sea and mist.
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Hull has always attracted poets, mystics and maniacs. It's cheap to live there and there's plenty of urban and maritime dereliction to inspire an avant garde art work or two. However it ought to come with a Health Warning: Living in Hull can induce psychosis, drug dependency or alcoholism. That is not meant as a criticism of the place but simply a testimony to its mystic power. I love the place. I lived there for three years and those three years haunt and inspire me still.
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Mike Bisby, one of my oldest, dearest and craziest friends, is our host whenever we visit Hull. Mike is the guy to talk to if you want to get beyond guidebook platitudes to the real stuff of the place. Currently he is working, with some friends, on a project to turn the old Hull Rowing Club into a centre for artistic activities, particularly those of a more adventurous kind.
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The building was the home of Paul Burwell an experimental musician, Wikipedially defined as 'a thaumaturge and percussionist', who, sadly, died in 2007. I understand that there was some mystery around the exact circumstances of his death but it is certain that the Demon Drink had an involvement.
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Mike and his associates are having to work hard to realise their dream. They have had to contend with many difficulties in their work. Vandals, leaking roofs, Japanese Knotweed, boats stuck in trees and the general disorder of the site have all been problematic.
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Mike took me for a tour round. I found the atmosphere intense and disturbing as though all kinds of invisible forces were tussling with each other in the ethers. I felt odd little nervous twinges in my body and a simultaneous feeling of attraction and repulsion to the place. It made me want to embark on some grand artistic enterprise but I couldn't formulate anything in words. The influence of the place is still gestating in my mind. I feel like I might enter a trance and start speaking in tongues in my attempt to express it. So here I am waiting for something to emerge...
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I took some photos during our visit which, I think, convey some sense of the Boat House. The ambiance of the surrounding landscape is in harmony, if that is the right word, with whatever it is that the Boat House is. On one side there is the sluggish River Hull on the banks of which are various derelict buildings and industrial sites. On the other a rather uncared for park, scrubland featuring assorted inner city detritus and a huge wind generator nicknamed, Mike tells me, Anubis, the Jackal Headed God, because when one of its blades is momentarily pointing straight down the other two blades look, respectively like Anubis' snout and the ears. Anubis was the Egyptian God who protected the dead and brought them safely to the Afterlife.
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Our visit to the Boat House took place on the last day of the decade. A day of endings but also a day from which to look forward to new beginnings.
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Writing this nearly two weeks after our visit, I find myself beset with a complex set of emotions that include both gloom and optimism. I feel that what I've written is incomplete. I want to say more, but don't know what that more is...

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