In researching my recent essay for Plaza Protocol, “The Geology of Malls”, I ended up thinking quite a bit about Hull’s strange post-war nihilism. It is a city that has a very peculiar relationship to its own destruction. There, I wrote that “Hull’s creativity is inextricably tied to the history of its own destruction”, highlighting how the Adelphi Club, with its infamous bombed-out car park, has even lampooned its own brush with annihilation. A “culture bomb”, installed over the club’s entrance, is tongue in cheek, but it also speaks to a persistent feeling that has long defined the city — that its culture is a direct byproduct of its historical pummelings.
I think this is broadly true. I don’t think a group like COUM Transmissions, for instance, or a mind like Philip Larkin’s, could have thrived anywhere else. How that has been used in more recent years is another matter, however. It is a sentiment that has no doubt helped it in the twenty-first century, when cultural opportunities have made its own phoenix narrative an easy play for PR firms looking to sell an easy redemption story. But there’s still a blackened and burnt underbelly that I genuinely miss. There’s a charred and hardened humour to Hull’s sense of itself that I miss whenever I live anywhere else.
Anyway, I could have gone on a whole other detour about this in my essay but decided against it. However, I did come across this pamphlet at the time that I’ve had pinned to my blog drafts ever since. Produced by Hull City Council, this pamphlet was an attempt to educate the public about the reality of an impeding nuclear war but also explain what it’s impact would be locally.
It’s part PSA, part bomb porn — at least in hindsight. And whilst it’s a fun little novelty, I actually found loads of examples of Hull’s particular pamphlet online in various places. This is to say that, whilst various UK cities produced these sorts of things at the height of the Cold War, it is Hull’s that seems to continually be brought up in various local contexts, not just as a historical novelty but as some sort of relic that speaks to its very core.
I wanted to post this back in November 2020 when I first came across it, but I’ve been holding off on it until “Geology of Malls” was out in the world. Now you have the context, it feels a good time to post this fascinating little bonus. So here you go.