Kingston Upon Hull: A Reputation Deserved?

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Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t Hull that place that was voted the worst to live in the UK? Didn’t I hear that it’s one of the teen pregnancy capitals of Europe? Isn’t it the butt of most comedians’ jokes when it comes to lifestyle quality? Well, unfortunately, it is. In the 2012 survey, Hull was voted the most undesirable place to live in England.

If I’m being honest, I can see why. I’ve lived here in Hull for three years now, studying at the city’s university. For my first year I lived in university halls, situated in a place north-west of Hull called Cottingham; a lovely, rather wealthy village with a host of old, private shops and an extremely busy Christmas fair every year. For almost the entirety of my first year I had no idea why the area had the reputation it did. All I had seen of it was the relatively posh Cottingham, the borderline picturesque campus and the expensively revamped city centre. All looked rosy to my eyes. But, as I’m sure you are aware, rose tinted visors have a habit of being torn off in an instant. After shopping at the local Asda, four of us – all lads, not one of us under six feet tall – decided to take a detour through Bransholme, the estate largely responsible for the city’s reputation. How bad could it be?

At the time, in our moneyless first year, the only one of us with a car was my housemate Phil. Said car was a white Renault Clio with fewer features still functioning than broken. So the four of us drove rather hastily through the ordered lines of boarded up windows and shuttered, graffiti ridden shop fronts. It was mid evening, barely dark and yet for the first two main roads we encountered, we barely saw a soul. On the road that would take us back towards Cottingham, however, we saw why. The light turned red in front of us and Phil had to stop the car with haste. A large group of figures turned towards us, skinny and pale under their hoods. There was another group on the other pavement, directly opposite, with our little white car in the middle. Suffice to say, once the light turned green, we didn’t hang around.  Of course, the above could well be a story about any town or city in the United Kingdom. Everywhere has nice areas, and not so nice areas.

I am fully aware that by raising this point first I’m going to sound like a clichéd student, but alcohol is almost ridiculously cheap here. Those who come here from the south of England in particular are shocked by that fact that you can get pretty much any bottle of beer or vodka juice for under one pound fifty and more often than not pick up a double and mixer for two pounds or less. Stick to the student nights and you should never have to spend more than a tenner to get reasonably drunk. I tend to average closer to twenty, but I’m six foot three and, let’s say, chunky.

Aside from the alcoholic benefits, cost of living here is generally cheap. I pay less rent per week for my student house than any of my friends at other universities. Private butchers and bakers found here are very reasonably priced and willing to barter. I haven’t paid more than six pounds for a haircut since I came here and am very happy with the results. The new shopping complexes contain pretty much any shop you could wish for. The nightclubs and bars in the area are among the better I have been to and, as I have said, by far the best priced. The problem I face is that, despite our impression of Bransholme and the city’s reputation for violence, I have never experienced said conflict nor felt particularly threatened in all my time living here. The people are generally very nice and talkative, if a bit loud, and for the most part treat all as friends.

The only serious downside I can think of to life in Hull feels rather petty. Here goes. The internet here is poor. I said it. It’s privatised throughout Hull by a company called KC Communications and the connection quality throughout town is exceptionally poor. Not great if you’re a gamer or a streamer. Although, to be honest, if your internet is being poor you can always just go out and buy some cheap vodka.

An old school friend called me a few weeks ago and asked me to talk to his little sister. She was finishing college and considering applying to the University of Hull. She asked me if I would recommend living here. I couldn’t say yes quickly or emphatically enough.

Reputation deserved? Possibly. Does it matter? Not remotely. 

Tom Hitchen

I am a Creative Writing and Philosophy graduate having attained Upper Second Class Honours from the University of Hull. I aspire to make a living as a writer and to enjoy myself while doing so.

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