People power

I just wanted to write a few words about an event in my home city recently.

The Humber Street Sesh took place on Saturday, August 4, in an area near the city’s marina that has, of late, seen considerable decline since the traditional fruit market moved away. It is largely populated by derelict buildings and empty warehouses.

At this event, however, Humber Street was populated by thousands of happy festivalgoers and the deserted spaces transformed into stages, bars and performance areas right through from 10am until 1am.

The Humber Street Sesh is notable for the way it was organised and funded – almost entirely through the medium of social networking. It was the brainchild of Mark Page, who as DJ Mak is well known for running the weekly Sesh nights at the Linnet & Lark pub in Princes Avenue.

Barely a few weeks before the proposed day of the event, Mark posed the question on Facebook: was this festival something people wanted, and, if so, would they fund it? Well, to quote that Costner film, if you build it, they will come. Using the peoplefund.it site, over £7,000 was raised by local businesses and ordinary people in a matter of days. A range of sponsorship options from wristbands for a couple of quid to programme adverts ensured as many people as possible could afford to back the project.

A massive amount of organisation went into the event, with updates and pleas for funding constantly being posted on Facebook and Twitter – and when the day finally came, it went off without a hitch. The once-drab street was now full of people watching more than 100 bands on a variety of stages, and there were tents selling everything from posh chocolate to vintage clothing, and even decent real ale on the pumps. One warehouse was converted into a Beat The Keeper attraction, in aid of the Cosmo Foundation, which aims to raise money for young people interested in sport and music in Hull, in memory of young local DJ Jack Williamson, who died tragically last year.

Naturally the Fruit venue was at the heart of things; this is a converted warehouse  that doesn’t look much in daylight but comes into its own when hosting gigs, plays, cinema, markets, you name it. I’m proud to say I’ve played there once with Beggar’s Bridge and shall be doing so again in a couple of weeks. (Unfortunately we couldn’t be involved due to holidays but we would love to take part next year – as there will surely be a next year.)

Some people knock the city of Hull, which has an unenviable reputation for apathy and low achievement (created mainly by people who’ve never been there). This may in part be justified, and, I think, can be largely levelled at successive councils – but yesterday I think this apathy tag was blown out of the water. It shows there is not just a music scene in the city, but a burgeoning and united one. It may not be recognised on the national scene, but maybe that’s how we like it. Hull, by the nature of its end-of-the-line location, has tended to keep itself to itself, which need not be a bad thing. 

The Humber Street Sesh was one of the friendliest and well-organised events I’ve been to in a long time. It is a testament to people power and demonstrates that community spirit is alive and well, even in these testing times. Long may it continue.

 

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