New travelogue documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Hull
Hull is once again highlighted as one of the worst places to live in a new travelogue by Tim Moore. Ian Midgley examines the evidence.
HULL is "the grand old man of sad old dumps, the dad of bad," according to author Tim Moore.
In his new travelogue book, You Are Awful (But I Like You) – Travels Through Unloved Britain, the writer sets out across the length and breadth of the country to seek out what he has been told are the worst places.
Perhaps inevitably, his journey brought him to Hull for a two-day stay last November, and the author does not hold back when he comes to his first impressions of the city.
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"It's been dubbed Britain's obesity capital," says Moore.
"And has seen both its police force and its education authority rated the worst in the land ... Hull is almost synonymous with unloveliness, deprivation and failure."
To be fair to the author, you cannot argue with some of his facts. Hull has featured in many of the surveys and tables he mentions – and the city gets off fairly lightly compared with some of the other destinations on his trek.
Visiting Goole, he says, is like "driving through a town-sized advert for the heroin marketing board".
But is the book an accurate reflection of Hull as it is today? And, perhaps more importantly, if we're being honest, is he right?
Talking to the Oxfordshire-born author, it's clear he has a soft spot for Hull, despite what he sees as its shortcomings.
"To be honest, I think my agent was a little bit disappointed that I didn't really go for the jugular," says the 47-year-old father-of-three, sounding a little sheepish.
"Hull was one of the first places on my list to visit because it came top of the first edition of the Crap Towns book and because it featured pretty highly on the Location, Location, Location survey, which although fronted by two gormless London idiots, wasn't based on personal prejudice, but on surveys and statistics about unemployment, deprivation, the weather, air quality and stuff like that.
"I didn't turn up wanting to run the place down. I just reported what I saw."
Moore, who lives with his Icelandic wife and three children in leafy Chiswick, west London, says a sense of humour allows people to poke fun at their home towns.
"I think one of the good things about the British is that we are always able to laugh at ourselves," he says.
"I think we're quite happy to look at where we live and take the Mickey out of it.
"I think it may be a slightly different tale if some poncey outsider from London comes along and says it. But I don't believe I've said anything the people of Hull haven't said themselves.
"Of course, you can find bad bits of any city or town. I know people have said to me, 'why don't you go and write something about the rubbish bits of London instead of coming and slagging us off?' But to be fair to me, I've already done a book on London."
Rather than slating the city and what he describes as its "hairy-chested, hard-bitten urban decay", he says his aim was always to explain how the loss of the fishing industry, the wartime blitz, and various ill-thought-out regeneration projects putting consumerism and leisure over industry have combined to create the Hull we know today.
The author says he hopes promising developments such as the arrival of green industries in Hull could help transform the region.
"The thing about Hull," he says. "Is that it's not on the way to anywhere. You have to make an effort to get there and it's almost been forgotten by the rest of the country. It's developed this mystique for its 'other-ness' that I do quite like.
"I'm not having a go at the city itself or its people – I found everyone was really friendly – but just looking at the knocks it has taken over the years, from the decline of the fishing industry to the recent recession, which seems to have affected it even more adversely than other places.
"I really hope Hull can reinvent itself. I know people have tried. It's got the history and the heritage but what I think it really needs is a return of industry."
You Are Awful (But I Like You) – Travels Through Unloved Britain is available in paperback from Random House, priced £11.99.