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Pride, shame, and the civic imaginary : Hull as UK City of Culture and Brexit

Howcroft, Michael


Michael Howcroft


Franco, 1959 Bianchini


This thesis investigates how civic pride and shame have shaped the political cultures and cultural behaviours of Kingston Upon Hull between 2010-2020. In 2016, Hull voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to leave the European Union - a decision interpreted by many as inward looking and protectionist (eg. Bevington, 2018). In 2017, Hull hosted the UK City of Culture (UKCoC), an event promoted by policy makers as signifying the openness and cosmopolitanism of the host city. For some, a ‘Brexit’ city hosting UKCoC was paradoxical (Clavane, 2017), and that Hull’s political and cultural behaviours have been somehow contradictory. Through the conceptual and methodological framework of the civic imaginary, this study investigates that assumed paradox to develop multi-perspective views of Hull and its changing sense of self in response to Brexit and UKCoC.

Taking a multidimensional, mixed methods – though primarily ethnographic - approach, this interdisciplinary project analyses Hull’s civic imaginaries in relation to the wider political cultures and cultural behaviours locally and nationally. Discussion is also drawn from the critical analysis of key Hull2017 events and the critical discourse analysis of materials such as speeches, interviews and reports produced by Hull2017 decision makers and by key local and national figures in the Brexit debates. It examines how civic pride and civic shame are entwined within the Hull civic imaginary, furthering understandings of how these feelings, key to our sense of place and belonging, are felt, mobilised and put to work through multiple policy realms, modes and levels of governance, and ultimately, how they are lived and enacted through everyday political cultures.

I argue that Hull’s recent history has been marked by diverse, and diversely formulated modes of emotional governance that have influenced, and at times exploited local political cultures and feelings. Such strategies have contributed to the sometimes problematic re-imagining of residents’ senses of place and belonging. The thesis makes new observations about the role of civic pride and shame in the contemporary political culture and cultural behaviours of Hull, a relatively unresearched and under-represented city. It develops new understandings of Brexit at the scale of the city and nuances existing understandings of localised identities and political behaviours in ‘left-behind’ places. It presents new insights into the processes of production and reception of a UKCoC in a dynamic period of political change – finding that Hull’s status as both ‘Brexit’ city and UK City of Culture were not so paradoxical at all.


Howcroft, M. (2021). Pride, shame, and the civic imaginary : Hull as UK City of Culture and Brexit. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Dec 24, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 24, 2023
Keywords Geography
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Geography, Geology and Environment, The University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2021


Thesis (6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2021 Howcroft, Michael. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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