The UK’s City of Culture 2017 is going all medieval, to celebrate the first European Union forged way back in the 13th Century.
For 400 years The Hanseatic League thrived as a trading block of seafaring merchants across the North Sea and the Baltic, connecting around 200 towns and cities – including Hull – which, by the end of the 15th century, was second only to London as a trading port.
Stretching from England to Russia, the League played a major role in shaping economies, trade and politics before declining in the mid-seventeenth century, when most of the Hanseatic trade switched to London.
Hull’s historic Old Town – a highlight of any visit to the city – still retains its medieval footprint, with a surviving street plan around the original port area on the River Hull, which was contained within what was the once a walled city. At the height of the League Hull would welcome around a dozen ships daily – bringing with them imported timber, canvas, furs, iron, flax and pitch.
In 2012, Hull joined a new-look HANSE, reinvented for the modern era as a cultural partnership, and once again bringing together the 180 towns and cities across Northern Europe that were a part of the original League.
Hull is now the only English city, alongside towns Kings Lynn and Boston, to rejoin the League in a cultural capacity.
These towns and cities celebrate both the historic and cultural significance of the Hanse, but also provide a network which looks at contemporary issues such as developing trade, business links and tourism. Each year, the new grouping also celebrates a HANSE Day, in June, staging an annual festival in a host city that usually attracts over half a million visitors, as well as individual city events across the new-look League.
Six years after joining the new partnership, Hull will once again be marking its historic ties to other Hanseatic cities in May with its own HANSE DAY by transporting Trinity Square in the Old Town back to the 14th century, when the Hanseatic League was at its peak.
The free, family friendly one-day festival – scheduled for Saturday 12 May in 2018 – features everything from music and travelling minstrels to medieval market stalls and storytelling.
Re-enactors line the streets, including fletcher and arrow makers, spinners and weavers, paper makers and even ratcatchers – while visitors will also have the chance to listen to storytellers, and be entertained by a fire-breathing Jester.
2016 saw the first International Hanse Day, with 12,000 visitors attending the event in Hull Old Town. The day was a fully immersive experience with all the sights, sounds and smells of a medieval marketplace on the High Street. Reenactors and actors brought the area to life through their stories; and the modern HANSE connections were celebrated through craft and performance from Hull’s European communities within The Museum Quarter Gardens.
While visitor numbers rose to 21,000 in 2017, plans are already well under way to stage an even bigger and better event this May, when Hanse Day will be linked with a whole range of celebrations to mark one year of the Minster being redesignated “Hull Minster”.
For event details and more about the partnership, visit www.hansacityhull.com and follow @hansacityhull on Twitter.
For places to stay and visitor information, www.visit-hull.com.