Posted: 22nd June 2020
My name is Simon Braithwaite and I’m the Assistant Curator Registrar for Hull Museums. Along with my colleague Caroline Rhodes, I have been looking at how museums around the word have been responding to the pandemic and more locally how Hull has been responding.
As our government slowly begins to ease the lockdown measures ‘normal’ life is slowly starting to return to Hull City Centre. And it is encouraging to see all the shop fitting work and scaffolding in the centre as businesses prepare to reopen. I even managed to get an excellent cup of coffee from my favourite cafe in Trinity Market! Small steps to be sure but hope for a future ‘new normal’.
Less welcome comes news is the cancellation of a number of events planned for Hull over the coming months notably the news that Hull Fair will not go ahead this year. The fair may be cancelled and Hull Museums may currently be closed but we still have plans for an on-line exhibition to celebrate the rich history of Hull Fair. Hull Museums have many items relating to Hull Fair in our collection such as these black and white lantern slides taken by an unknown photographer about 1895.
But we also want your help in staging this exhibition. If you have memories or stories of attending the fair we would love to hear from you. Please see this video for more information
The last time that Hull Fair was cancelled was during the second world war. This made me think of the evocation of a ‘wartime spirit’ currently seen in the language used today by politicians and the media when talking about the current pandemic.
During the second world war civilians were indeed on the ‘front line’ of aerial bombardment. German bombing saw some 43,000 British civilians killed and another 139,000 wounded between 1940 and 1945. Hull suffered particularly heavily from this ‘blitz’ with major destruction to the town and around 1,200 people killed. As with today’s ‘lockdown’ the wartime government introduced a number of measures to counteract the threat to the civilian population. These measures included black out regulations aimed at limiting the effectiveness of enemy bombing by making it harder for enemy aircraft to identify targets. From 1 September 1939 lighting restrictions were introduced across the country requiring all windows and doors to be covered and external lights to be switched off after nightfall. These restrictions mostly continued in place until 2 May 1945.
Pair of black out lamps from Hull Museums’ collection
These black out regulations, limiting personal freedom and causing considerable inconvenience, have for me interesting parallels with today’s lockdown. The act of ‘blacking out’ became an established part of everyone’s daily routine for almost six years. Despite frequent grumbling (and occasional rule-breaking) this suggests to me that people are willing to make sacrifices and act collectively when called upon to do so. Despite the current uncertainty around how we can all maintain the social and physical distancing rules as we all begin the transition from lockdown we will not totally abandon our commitment to them.
To get involved and help us collect your experiences, please go to the following link and tell us your story: http://hullhistorycentre.org.uk/whats-on/activities/Living-Through-the-Lockdown.aspx