Humber Street Sesh (HSS) is an urban festival set in the heart of Hull’s thriving cultural quarter around the city’s Fruit Market and Hull Marina. The festival gives local musicians and artists a powerful platform to perform and helps to draw national attention to Hull’s creative brilliance.
The festival promotes and celebrates the excellence and diversity of Hull’s creative community and aims to inspire future generations to engage with and embrace music and the arts.
Having personally been involved in Hull’s Freedom Festival over a number of years, from compering to curating a stage, Humber Street Sesh Festival Director Mark Page (aka Mak), recognised an opportunity to provide a bigger platform for local musicians and decided to try and stage a street party on Humber Street with the help of David Mays, proprietor of Fruit. In 2012, the first Humber Street Sesh was a 10-year anniversary celebration of the weekly live music night, The Sesh, which is held at The Polar Bear public house on Spring Bank every Tuesday.
The main motivating factor for Humber Street Sesh was to expose the abundance of talent that was apparent to all working within the live music sector in the city. The aim was to showcase Hull's exceptional music scene, and give ownership of the event to the people, therefore installing great pride within the community, whilst drawing attention to a much-loved area of the city that had been neglected for years.
Humber Street Sesh has come a long way in the last 5 years, starting out with an initial budget of under £20,000, achieved through public crowdfunding, City Arts and Arts Council funding and three passionate directors running the festival part-time whilst holding full-time jobs.
In 2017, Humber Street Sesh will celebrate its 6th birthday as a flagship event during Hull’s reign as UK City of Culture, and the budget for the milestone celebration of home grown talent will be close to the quarter of a million mark, sustained through a mix of ticket sales, private sponsorships, public funding and concessions.
Festival footfall has substantially increased, the initial audience target of 1000 that was set for 2012 was smashed when 10-15,000 people attended. From then on, the success of the festival has snowballed and expectations were further exceeded in the second year when 40,920 attended and as a result capacity was capped to 32,000 in 2014.
For Humber Street Sesh success comes in many forms. From capturing the 'heart & soul of the city' as quoted by Martin Green (Hull UK City of Culture 2017), to creating a music festival that has helped put the city firmly on the cultural map and one which, along with annual events such as Freedom Festival, has helped act as a catalyst for investment whilst being a major contributor in recognising Hull’s Fruit Market and Marina area as a hub of art and culture. HSS engages the community, instils pride and creates an unfathomable sense of cultural well-being.
Since 2012, Humber Street has seen large scale development take place, with many independent traders looking towards the Marina as the place to be.
Mark Page, Festival Director said “We would like to think the festival is a major contributor to the local economy, especially around the Hull Marina area. We know of businesses within the area that covered their rates for the year off the back of one day of business at Humber Street Sesh. Apart from the riches of trading to 30,000 people, we feel we've helped give the area a lifeline that is hard to put a price on.
“The city centre and the old town of Hull enjoy a high footfall on the festival day, and many have reported it to be one of their strongest days of trading in the summer. We've also been made aware of high occupancy of hotels, and the tourist figures seem to increase year upon year with festival attendees travelling from the likes of Aberdeen and Brighton.”
To make Humber Street Sesh possible the festival production team of 80+, all from within the region, use as many local contractors as possible. From stage & marquee companies to the festival events security company, Prestige Support from Hull, who have nearly 20 years of experience at major events in the city and beyond. Bar and food concessions are also sourced locally where possible.
Many leading local businesses have shown belief in and supported HSS from the start and the festival organisers name these partnerships as the ones they are most proud of. HSS have an incredible relationship with the main festival sponsor, the University of Hull, who have supported the festival for 3 years, and also receive amazing support from BP, ABP Humber, KCOM, William Jackson Food Group, St Stephens, Princes Quay, Addison Green and HFR Solutions, to name a few.
The festival has captured the imagination of many within the city, and is delighted to have struck up in-kind partnerships with the likes of Hull Daily Mail, HSS media partner, and H&H who created the festival identity with the amazing artwork of Joseph Cox. Not to mention the close relationship with BBC Introducing Humberside, and the community organisation, Goodwin Trust, the all so important Warren in the city centre and Freedom Road Creative Arts, all of whom do some of the most honourable work in the city; supporting and nurturing the youth of Hull.
“Our biggest success is giving many young people in the city the opportunity to show their talent to big audiences whilst helping to bring the community together for one day each summer. With all ages welcomed on the day, and an exemplary health & safety record firmly in place, we aim each year to give the city the most perfect community day, and that, after 5 years must be our greatest success,” says Mark.
Humber Street Sesh has received an array of awards including winning the Yorkshire Grassroots Festival Award twice, along with a Best Promoter Award 2016, and to have been recognised by the prestigious UK Festival Awards who nominated HSS in the Best Metropolitan and Best Medium Sized Festival Categories for 2016.
Along with providing a platform for local bands & acts to grow in stature and confidence, picking up tour supports and gaining Radio One/ 6 Radio airtime HSS also gives the talented local production team the opportunity to gain invaluable experience. The festival has acted as a career springboard for two particular team members - Main Stage Manager of two years, Emily Dawson (20), from Hull College and The Warren, ended summer 2016 working on the main stage at Leeds Festival, whilst the festival’s first Graphic Designer, Jordan Donnelly’s portfolio of work includes the creation of Vivienne Westwood's website.
From 6 stages and 60 acts in 2012, to a target programme over 200 acts across 14 stages in 2017 with an all-encompassing arts programme all over the marina, the jewel of Hull's crown, Humber Street Sesh has firmly cemented itself as one of the region’s flagship cultural events for 2017 and beyond.
Photo credits: Neil Holmes and Ian Rook