This year we're running a special project exploring Newland’s heritage entitled Our Street Our Stage. It will celebrate the history of the area and the diverse community in which the festival has found its home. From Newland's beginnings as green fields, right through to the vibrant traders and residents it now serves, Our Street Our Stage will see a collaboration between local historians and researchers, artists, volunteers and residents of Hull. The research is currently being turned into a free accessible evening event, taking place on Saturday 3rd June.
Assemble Fest gives communities opportunities to engage with locally made events, and Our Street Our Stage allows us to create a moment of cohesion between communities, residents, traders, and visitors. Newland Avenue is a special street with a unique heritage and cultural standing within Hull. Its spirit can be seen through the variety of independent businesses, from Egyptian cafes to the Adelphi Club, and the Residents Association’s floral displays and planters. However, its heritage is not well documented, nor publicly known either within the city or in its locality.
In a year where Hull is taking the spotlight, we see an opportunity through Assemble Fest to explore, celebrate and inspire. It's a moment to celebrate together with the people of Newland an area that has existed since the 12th century.
Threats to Newland’s heritage and culture can be seen in the conversion of local historic landmarks such as the Newland School to flats, despite the protestations of community groups, and the loss of events like the Christmas lights switch-on that brought a community together.
So what have we been up to so far? Our Heritage Research Coordinator, Dan Dearing, has been getting stuck in over the past few weeks, collecting research and more:
I've been trundling up and down the avenue talking to shopkeepers and traders, going to residents meetings and community groups, and tapping into the best source there is to learn about the history and present of a place - the people themselves.
We ran a training session for volunteers to learn oral history skills, so that they could feel confident going out into the community and interviewing people. This was a very relaxed and informal afternoon with a minimum of theory and a maximum of open discussion.
Our volunteers have already been out interviewing, helping to preserve precious memories of the past for future generations to enjoy. Oral history is a wonderful way to meet and find out about people, and a very approachable way for anyone to engage with heritage without needing to have some kind of PhD in research. I love doing it and hopefully I’ve passed that bug onto a few others now!
On this note, it’s been wonderful for me personally to be involved with this project. As a resident of the area (on Little Siddy, apparently - you learn something new every day). I’ve had the opportunity to discover much more about my community and now see the avenue though different eyes.
It’s gone from a place where I simply live to somewhere I really feel part of. People remember an avenue with no bars, cafes or restaurants, stuffed full of independent shops where you could literally get anything, very much an old-fashioned family-orientated neighbourhood.
It’s seen massive changes in recent years and it’d be wrong to ignore the concerns we keep hearing about noise, litter and the shifting demographics. But we’ve also been repeatedly told it’s this mix of people and uses that makes the avenue feel so vibrant and alive.
One of our interviewees put it best: "It is a village atmosphere, in the city. I can’t think of anywhere else that has that character. No one feels out of place on Newland Avenue."