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Preston Road - The Last Hurrah

Preston Road, Hull. A place where me and my wife set up our first home in 2001 and brought two of our kids in to the world. We lived 'on the front' i.e on Preston Road itself and at the time I was serving as a junior in the Royal Navy and money was tight. Preston Road didn't have a great reputation but it was cheap and available and it allowed us to have our first crack at independent living. I never grew up here and never had any allegiances or personal connections and when the time finally came to move away we did so with ease.

Fast forward 11 years and 3 house moves later and we still took our kids to see their first home, before they knocked it down anyways. Since they started flattening the area I've kept an eye on progression and developments and more or less pass through the estate each day as I head east to west and visa versa coming home from work. It was quite depressing seeing the houses slowly reduced to dirt and the created land somewhat left to nature to forge it's own landscape once again. The odd resident remained in-between the dereliction and I often wondered what they

thought of it all but never did stop and speak to the families that dared to stay put as long as they could. I think every house is now empty as the demolition works enter the final stages.

Back in January 2018 one of the worlds most well known street artists, Banksy graced the streets of Hull with his art. It created a real buzz around the town and people were driving from afar just to see Hull's very own 'Banksy' on the industrial Bankside area. Other artists began to create pieces in the vicinity and people weren't just enjoying the 'Draw The Raised Bridge' piece but also other tags and artwork by local artists. It started to pop up on walls around Humber street too and we even had a possible 'second Banksy' that went unclaimed by the artist himself but it still made the local news. Banksy had a positive effect on not just those who appreciate art but even those whom wouldn't bother before and the mentality of Hull people towards street art seemed to swing positively.

Banksy can't take full credit for the change in attitude however. There were already Hull's well bedded graffiti artists producing some classic street art but also having a hand in some of the huge murals that popped up over the 2017 City Of Culture year. Graffiti style guerrilla advertising seemed to be on trend over this period too, seeing construction developers choosing the medium to decorate their hoardings and site boundaries over traditional types to convey messages. Burger joints chose 30ft high gorillas on their gable ends and and even the BBC's One Show came to town and painted a heritage piece to the fishing industry.

One of the most positive things to come post Banksy however was the birth of Bankside Gallery Hull. The area has been transformed in to a vibrant array of street art, tags, paste ups and stencils. Businesses and landowners donate walls of their premises to the project for legal painting on. It seems to kerb the mindless vandalism that sometimes attaches itself to graffiti and is also bringing visitors in to a run down, tired industrial area just on the fringes of the City Centre. The project has been very successful seeing hundreds of pieces painted in it's very short duration so far and it's really made a difference to the area.

A side project of the gallery has been the birth of Preston Road takeover. A weekend in 2018 that saw artists from all over the UK come to Hull and paint the derelict houses earmarked for demolition. The project again transformed an area of the city in to something more pleasing on the eye as well as having a positive effect on vandalism. Preston Road had it's fair share of troubles with the houses being set on fire, broken in to for scrap and just general vandalism. The painted houses however were left untouched, like a huge invisible wall of respect was erected in front of each one as it was claimed by an artist or collaborative group. The council supported the project and provided secure bins for the empties. A move that may have seemed dubious by some looking in but in my opinion the whole project has been a touch of genius!

Yes some of the houses still get vandalised but in comparison to, lets say the Hawthorn avenue area when that was demolished it's minor. The street artists continue to refresh the walls of the last remaining houses even outside of the project timescales. It seems to have become Bankside gallery mk ii and is certainly treat as a gallery. I observe photographers, artists, art goers and locals alike, walking the streets of Preston Road Estate breathing new life in to the pavements and roadways once busy with community life and are now having one last flourish before the final goodbye when the last house drops. On 6th & 7th April 2019 the Preston Road takeover part two goes ahead and will see 22 houses painted over the weekend and UK artists will congregate in Hull's East end once again.

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