With songs to belt out at the KCOM, jump about to on Welly’s sticky dancefloor or listen to misty-eyed on the train back to uni, Lydia Marchant’s mix is an ode to growing up in ‘ull.
Where we grow up can say a lot about us. It gives us our first experiences and sets the scene for the stories we tell at our most pivotal stages of life.
Here at Middle Child, we love to tell untold stories and pay homage to our beloved city in any way we can, and so this month we asked writer Lydia Marchant to tell us a story.
A story of roaring tigers, edgy tunes and sneaking into the local clubs just to hear them before it’s entirely legal. A story of what it means to grow up with a view of the Humber and the taste of chip spice ruining any chance of enjoying a takeaway that isn’t local ever again.
Lydia is a brilliant local writer, who was part of the BBC Writer’s Academy 2019/20 (and even wrote last night’s episode of Eastenders!) who has been sharing her talents with us at Middle Child over the past year on a pilot project of ours, Raise Your Voice.
Thanks to the amazing Creative Voice Youth Arts, who have generously funded this project, the work written by these young people will be performed after the school holidays to give them a chance to watch their stories come to life.
This Mixtape is a love letter to the youth of Hull – a soundtrack that will be familiar to so many of us – and a window into how art can inspire us from a young age and will continue to bring us back to a special moment in time, no matter how old we get.
What work are you doing currently with Middle Child?
I’m one of the mentors of Raise Your Voice, along with brilliant Hull writers Angelo Irving, Ellie Brammar, Tom Wells and Maureen Lennon. We’re working with extremely talented young people across Hull who have loads to say and great ideas but might never have written anything before, to give them the tools and platform to have their stories heard. Angelo and I have been at Archbishop Sentamu Academy on Preston Road, working with four incredibly smart and articulate sixth-formers and I’ve been so impressed by the quality of their work and how unique each piece is.
What inspired the theme of your Mixtape?
Working on Raise Your Voice, it’s been so interesting to chat to the young writers about how being from Hull had shaped the stories they want to tell, the characters they create, their dialogue (even their jokes). I wanted to put together a mixtape that summed up how being from Hull has shaped me. Some of the songs are more nostalgic, me looking back now like Elbow’s Jesus is a Rochdale Girl. Some, like the Hubbard’s Body Confident, are by my favourite Hull artists. And some conjure up a specific time and place, like U2 Beautiful Day which used to be played at the KC after a City win or Lizzo’s Good As Hell which was the final song in a really fun show I started working on during City of Culture with Hull theatre company The Roaring Girls.
What was the arts scene like growing up in the north?
I don’t know if I’d be writing plays now if I wasn’t from Hull. When I was 13, Hull Truck started a Young Writers’ Festival. 15 minute plays by writers in Hull aged 10-18 were performed by their Youth Theatre. It was so thrilling, and crazy nerve wracking, seeing my play in an actual theatre. And it was really huge for me because, even if I’d had the confidence to sit down and write a script, I’d have had no clue how to put it on – you learn so much from seeing your work in front of an audience. Then, as I got a bit older, this amazing art scene seemed to explode, with companies like Middle Child, Silent Uproar and Roaring Girls and Grow and Assemble festivals. It meant there was all these really exciting people to work with – when I was 18 managed to beg my teachers for a week off school to write a play with Middle Child – about a Newland Ave superhero. It’s a really friendly, supportive network of creatives who welcomed a sixth former from Hessle and made me feel like stories about Welly were worth telling. City of Culture was also incredible because it was a proper celebration of just how much the arts scene in Hull has to offer.
What is the importance of projects like Raise Your Voice in northern communities?
Without the opportunities I had, I’d never have become a writer so I’m so excited that Middle Child are giving a platform to the next generation. I think Hull has an extremely inclusive arts scene – you don’t have to afford London rent or do the right course at uni to make work here and Raise Your Voice is a really fantastic example of that.
How does music play into northern identity?
For me growing up, music summed up being from the North much better than representations of it on TV. I didn’t connect with the Shameless-inspired ‘grim up north’ vision of my part of the world, but really connected to indie bands with accents singing about sticky dancefloors, counting out coins to get a round in and all the brilliant and awful stuff about their hometowns.
How do you use this identity to inspire your work?
All the writers whose work I love – playwrights like Tom Wells to performance poets like Kae Tempest, and authors like Kate Atkinson and Anne Tyler – write really beautifully about place. Paradoxically I think the more place-specific a story is, the more universally people actually connect with it because they recognise bits of their own home in it. So I always set my plays in places I know really well – usually Hull!
What is your favourite track on this mix and why?
I showed a tonne of restraint only picking two Arctic Monkeys songs (yes, there’s also two Last Shadow Puppets – don’t come at me) because, for me, nothing sums up growing up northern like their early albums. But if I had to pick, I’d go Old Yellow Bricks. It’s about a girl desperate to run away from her hometown, even though she doesn’t know exactly what she’s running from, and then in the middle the song flips with the line ‘but Dorothy was right though’ and she suddenly realises there really is no place like home. I really connect with that because, even though I’ve lived in other places, Hull always feels like home.
The Middle Child Mixtape is a monthly Spotify playlist compiled by Middle Child artists, company members, staff and collaborators. Subscribe to the playlist to hear a fresh mix every month.