As a child this blogger used to attend a local church. It was called St Stephen's and was relatively small. Its much larger, nearby main church had been bombed during the Second World War and this small church and adjoining hall had taken over. With the decline of the church as a central figure to the local communities eventually St Stephens was closed and it became the home of Hull Truck Theatre. That was in 1983.
Visiting this theatre for the first time was a strange experience. Childhood memories of pantomimes in the church hall, singing in the church choir and ceremonies such as harvest festival all came flooding back. However the surroundings had changed beyond all recognition.
HULL TRUCK HISTORY
In 1971 Mike Bradwell set up his own theatre Company. Initially Hull Truck was a touring company and they would hold rehearsals at a cold, old house in Coltman street. This was not the best part of town and neither were the houses. Situated off Hessle Road, Coltman Street was in the heart of what had once been the local fishing industry's community.
Within a few years Hull Truck was having success around the country and playing at venues in cities such as Glasgow and London. However, they were still basically working from the back of a van, hence the name Hull Truck Theatre. Local entrepreneur Barry Nettleton joined Hull Truck as an administrator and was to lead this theatre company on to bigger and better things.
With funding arriving from the Arts Council things looked rosy for Hull Truck. However, around this time the original members of the company decided to go their separate ways. With the late 70s and early 80's more traditionally scripted plays were being performed. However Hull Truck never shied away from the weird, wacky, different or controversial productions.
1982 saw Mike Bradwell leave Hull Truck but within a short time Hull Truck had finally found a home. 1983 saw Hull Truck open in what had been St Stephen's Church and which was now often called Spring Street Theatre. Playwright John Godber joined the team and to this day has retained a prominent position in Hull Truck Theatre. In fact when you visit the theatre you may find that he is sat in the next seat to you in the audience.
Spring Street Theatre initially had a mere 200 seats. In the late 80s plans were drawn up to increase the seating and in 1994 the now 400 seat Hull Truck reopened. Its program of events would include obscure Jazz and Blues artists, plays, comedies and more. Hull Truck productions have still toured nationally and have produced shows, such as, local celebrity Roland Gift, from The Fine Young Cannibals, in Romeo and Juliet. In 1992 Hull Truck went to America with April in Paris.
Hull Truck, Spring Street always had a sort of homely feel. It felt very much part of Hull and its community. The seating was arranged in an open type of forum around the central stage. As a result the atmosphere was always compelling and personal. It is hard to decide if the new venue will have the same appeal.
Toward the end of its run the Spring Street theatre was looking a little like it was situated in a war zone. With the ongoing development work of the shopping centre all around it Hull Truck was left looking isolated and out of place. It is testament to its popularity that it still remained a sell out to audiences in spite of the no longer easy access to the theatre.
St Stephens shopping centre opened way before thew new Hull Truck was completed. This meant that if you left St Stephen's through the rear doors, to the car park, you could see this little, now sad looking building, surviving but only just.
THE NEW HOME OF HULL TRUCK
Hull Truck went from strength to strength and the Spring Street venue was always filled to capacity. It became quite a meeting place and had a friendly bar.
With regeneration of the city of Kingston-Upon-Hull a new complex was planned for the Ferensway. This was to be a shopping complex, or Mall, that would include Cinemas, a transport Interchange, a Hotel and a new venue for Hull Truck. It was to be called St Stephen's as its size meant that it would take the old site of the bombed church, part of the street and more.
The shopping Centre opened before Hull Truck which was not complete until 2009. It opened its doors on 25th April 2009. The first production to be seen on Hull Trucks new stage was fittingly John Godber's Funny Turns.
The old Hull Truck's swan song had been a production of John Godber's Bouncers. This has always been a popular production locally but everyone was amazed when £50,000 worth of tickets were sold in one day.
The new Hull Truck has tried to keep its tried and tested formula with the seating arrangement. However with this new shiny building and St Stephen's glass and metal construction it does look a little too clean and modern at the moment. Hull Truck now uses a passive ventilation system which is very environmentally friendly. So hopefully it will not get as warm as Spring Street theatre could at times.
Every time it rains
We visited the new Hull Truck Theatre a couple of years ago to see a production pertinent to many local people, namely Every Time It Rains. This play was by Rupert Creed and very poignant to Hull and its Citizens. Starring just five performers the play told just a few local resident's experiences of the 2007 floods. The title refers to the fact that Every Time It Rains nowadays many people's thoughts go back to 25th June 2007. Also many locals, myself included, now hate to hear heavy rain start lashing down. After all that is how the floods started.
This play was dedicated to the memory of Michael Barnett, aged 28, who was the only person locally to lose his life. The play features an actor playing the policeman who stayed with Michael for the full four hours that police and fire services attempted to free him, from a gully where his foot had become trapped. Every attempt was made to save Michael but it was all in vain. He finally succumbed to hypothermia after being in cold, filthy water, up to his neck for such a long time. Michael's father, also Michael Barnett was unfortunate enough to hear of his son's death on the TV.
The police officer who was with young Micael until the end had promised Michael that they would get him out and of course felt that he had failed him somehow. The officer had suffered depression and PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, after the event.
After being flood victims ourselves, and spending nine months in a caravan, relating to the characters and sentiments expressed in this play was easy. Many couples felt the strain and plenty split up as a result of the flooding. However although Every Time It Rains was very sad in parts it did have a lot of humour also.
EVERY TIME IT RAINS
Despite the audience being small the play was a success. There was a post play discussion available for those who wanted to stay behind, which included the cast. Every time it Rains was on in the main auditorium. Hull Truck now also has a smaller Studio auditorium. Tickets were £13 with reductions available for retired, unwaged and children. There is a cafe bar and you can pop into the premises for a snack or meal without actually visiting the theatre. However with such a good program of shows that would be a waste.
So just where Is Hull?
Kingston-Upon-Hull, or as it is more commonly called, Hull is on the North Bank of the River Humber, in the county of East Yorkshire, England.
If you are thinking of visiting Hull the nearby Humber bridge will give you easy access from the South. The local interchange bus and train station is close by.
Based in Yorkshire, in the middle of the UK, almost, this blogger offers her own unique perspective on life in GB
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