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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Let’s not be bitter... but it’s one Hull of a dodgy decision

I went to Hull once. Didn’t like it much... doubt I’ll be going again. Mind you, that was years ago, when Hull was in its heyday and smelled of fish.

Heydays are gone now and there is no fish any more, so maybe – at least in malodorous terms – things have improved.

Not cod but culture dominates Hull now. Or to put it another way, creative arty types will be going to Hull on a handcart, booking their holidays to take advantage of the city’s award-winning chip shops.

Nothing wrong with that. Many a holiday has been booked on lesser recommendations. Chips can be heritage too.

Bitter? Moi? Yes, a little. See, I well remember how Carlisle was once laughed at, heartily and loudly, when this fair city bid to be the UK’s City of Culture.

How rudely they all did scoff. How cruelly they mocked. Shortsightedly they assumed with blatant sniggers that Carlisle’s culture amounted to 15 pints of strong lager down Botchergate and a kebab at the late-night taxi rank.

Hardly fair. That was always only part of our celebration of cultural life. We also have an arty side. Daniel O’Donnell’s coming back next May – I do believe appreciative music-lovers have started queuing already with thick socks, sleeping bags and flasks of soup.

Then there’s the castle. Sure, there’s not a lot in it but that’s not the point. Minimalist, see? All art lovers know the value of minimalism is err... priceless.

It has its own dual carriageway and boasts, as part of its environs, the ugliest bridge in Christendom. If that’s not a cultural first, what is?

And for now at least, we have the Crosby Garrett Helmet, on show at our lovely Tullie House Museum.

I have to be careful here, lest I slip inadvertently into innuendo – the kind some of the men in this newsroom find raucously rude and yet more hilarious because of my total failure to understand what the heck they’re laughing at.

But our impressive helmet is now world famous. Awesome Roman artefact no less, having been found in the Eden hamlet of Crosby Garrett by a bloke with a metal detector.

It is therefore a hamlet helmet – which must be unique – and it’s worth a mint. The purchaser of this spectacular treasure paid more than £2 million for it. Imagine that!

His identity has always been a closely guarded secret – but it’s obviously a man. The clues are staring you in the face.

No self-respecting woman would have given the thing house-room without first setting about it with a soft cloth and a tin of Brasso. Nail brush and Fairy Liquid if all else failed. As for letting it out for public scrutiny without a good spruce-up – well you just wouldn’t, would you?

It’s doubtful whether the first careful owner of said helmet, the Roman cavalryman, would have been seen dead in it in that state. But, on second thoughts, perhaps he was. Anyway, that’s all as maybe. It’s clear Carlisle’s cultural credentials are second to none – except perhaps for Rome, Madrid, New York, Workington – so why did Hull succeed where we failed?

I’d cry “Fix!” but that might be churlish.

Nevertheless there is a sadness about these cut-throat competitions. Quite why cities obviously needing help in their efforts to make the most of their cultural assets have to compete like Victorian urchins for the last bowl of gruel is quite beyond me.

Who has the right to decide one place is more worthy of an injection of funds than any other? And as for setting all against each other, to wrestle in sawdust for limited pickings – well, what are we paying our taxes for?

It’s too harshly painful to watch money flying into Hull while arts in Carlisle are being squeezed dry, so better descend into naysaying and backbiting to express distress.

Look on the realistic side. In the final analysis Hull had to prove its superiority over Leicester to take its pride. Hmm...

And teachers be grateful for your new classroom tool. Next time you’re asked: “Please Miss, what’s an oxymoron?” you can reply with conviction.

“Contradiction in juxtaposition. Like seriously funny, deafening silence... cultural Hull.”

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