At the start of our year as City of culture I went to see the "We Are Hull" multimedia presentation in Victoria Square. I'm not the type to be swayed too easily by jingoism and I never allow myself to be overcome by mass hysteria but I definitely felt a swell of emotion as part of that crowd. When the air raid sirens sounded and the searchlights pierced the night sky, my mind turned to my grandparents and all the horrors endured by their generation. Both my grandfathers had served in the navy and witnessed terrible things and my grandmother had driven ambulances through the blitz.
When the show finished the projectors ran a short animation which told the story of "Dead Bod" - a piece of local folk art. After watching this I saw, in a flash of inspiration, an Undead Bod - dead bod resurrected as a vampire bat/bird sort of thing. When I returned home I sketched it out and subsequently had T-shirts printed with the design.
I am part of CreativeENRG, a programme which helps creative people market their work. This led to them offering me the amazing opportunity of an exhibition of my art. This show has one week remaining and it has been a fantastic experience for me. I've met so many amazing and fascinating people. Last week a lady named Helen Robinson came in for an Undead Bod T-shirt. She was working on her own Dead Bod-inspired art and we got talking about the whole mythos behind the story and I realised that I wasn't aware of some of the details. Apparently back in the sixties a ship's captain had nursed a sick bird in his cabin then, after a couple of weeks, attempted to set it free. Before it could fly away it was kicked and killed by a crew member. On seeing the "dead bod" the captain was understandably annoyed -- he'd nursed the poor little chap for three weeks in his cabin for nothing! Then, one Saturday afternoon, Pongo, also a crew member painted "A DEAD BOD" on the side of a shed at Alexandra Dock and over the years it became a well loved piece of local folk history.
While chatting with Helen in the gallery she mentioned that the boat was a tug named the Englishman. A tingle ran down my spine. I knew that my grandad had captained this boat and a quick google search revealed that the captain who nursed the bird had been my grandad, Captain William Valentine Hopper, nicknamed "Tulip".
My mind was blown. How had this fact eluded me? I'd been feeling a little uncomfortable about using the dead bod imagery in this slightly cynical way but this changed everything. It suddenly felt poetic and even significant, given the huge sacrifices made by my grandparents and their generation.
I've since spoken with my dad and aunt and uncle and they think the official story of my grandad's role in the whole affair could be questionable.
But it sounds legit to me. I just wish granddad was still around so we could ask him.
Go and see the original art, rescued and on display at the Humber Street Gallery here in Hull.