For years, Hull’s Thornton Estate has only ever really received bad press. Building work began in the area shortly after World War II and ended in the 1970s upon the completion of the final tower blocks. Historically home to Hull’s Jewish community dating back to the late 19th century, positive stories coming out of the West Hull estate have been a rarity.
However, thanks to the Goodwin Development Trust, an 180 strong community-led social enterprise group of Thornton’s 5000 residents, the council estate has been transformed into a stunning visual art installation standing tall on the edge of the city centre.
As part of the ‘I Wish To Communicate With You’ Programme of over 60 community events throughout 2017, two tower blocks (soon to be more) have received a colourful makeover designed by Italian artist Silvio Palladino. Taking inspiration from Hull’s connection with the sea and the international maritime flags used to communicate with ships, each home has chosen their own coloured filter to create a stunning wall of light.
The idea is so simple but turns an area which has usually been perceived as a fairly dangerous estate and blighted by bad press, into a warm and welcoming communal zone.
Personally, I wouldn’t usually choose to walk through the area by choice after dark. However, after getting some long camera shots from the top of Princess Quay, I felt I just had to get closer to get a true feel of what this meant to the community.
The area was pretty lively for the time of day. It was only the second night after the lights had been turned on, but residents were sat on their balconies in neighbouring buildings in the freezing cold amazed by the illuminated tower. There were seven or eight other photographers snapping away at the building, with residents high up in the blocks posing for the camera. Members of the Goodwin Development Trust showing members of the media around the area. Brilliant. Despite the physical cold, it was warming to see the area in a different light, quite literally.
Later in the year, neighbouring buildings such as William Booth House, Adelaide School, the Danish Church and the Hull Royal Infirmary will all follow suit, becoming technicolour all in the name of culture.
For me, the most impressive aspect isn’t the actual lighting, it’s the fact that almost every resident was willing to get involved. I couldn’t see any flats without pink, blue, yellow or green tints to them. But Hull being the UK City of Culture is all about inclusion, and not just events in the town centre. The Thornton Estate will gain a lasting legacy from this project, and the confidence of the area now will only grow throughout 2017 and onwards.
Words | Lewis Scott (lewisscott97) – Hull School of Art & Design Student
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