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Made in Hull: migrant research transformed into visual journey

A lifetime’s research by University of Hull historian Dr Nick Evans was brought to life in spectacular fashion as part of Hull’s City of Culture celebrations.

17th January 2017

What started as a book chapter capturing years of research into the history of Hull and migration became a cornerstone of Made in Hull, the stunning opening event which took place in the city centre earlier this month.

Curated by Bafta nominated documentary filmmaker Sean McAllister and written by Rupert Creed, Made in Hull saw international and local artists using large-scale projection, soundscapes, art installations, animation, archive material and interactive live performance to tell the city’s story is an innovative way.

Nick’s research underpinned ‘Arrivals and Departures’ which was projected onto The Deep, one of Hull’s most iconic tourist attractions, located at one of the former landing points for migrants arriving by sea. The show was created by celebrated arts company Imitating the Dog, with an original soundtrack by award-winning composer Terry Dunn.

“I have spent my whole academic life researching Hull’s migrant history and the impact those people have made on the city and further afield,” Nick said. “To see the product of that work beamed onto such an iconic landmark was one of the best moments of my life.”

“Usually historical research is about text, whether that’s poring over stacks of books, leafing through archive letters or writing journal articles. It was an amazing process to see how that was transformed by the Made in Hull producers into something so visually powerful.”

Nick added: “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of something truly amazing and I am hugely proud to have played a part. As a Hull lad, it was heart-rending to see my city’s story projected to the world in this medium.”

With the help of University of Hull PhD student Sam North, Nick also provided many of the archive images seen in the film, not only from his own files but from his contacts around the city.

The finished result was an emotive story showing how Hull’s population and prosperity grew as migrants arrived by sea, train and air since the 1800s.

As well as Nick and Sam’s work, University of Hull maritime historian Dr Robb Robinson also helped supply archive material and research expertise for Made in Hull.

Made in Hull captivated tens of thousands of visitors with its powerful content displayed in an innovative and moving way. It comprised a series of large scale projections and installations using some of the city centre’s best known spaces to tell Hull’s story.

“Usually historical research is about text, whether that’s poring over stacks of books, leafing through archive letters or writing journal articles. It was an amazing process to see how that was transformed by the Made in Hull producers into something so visually powerful.”