My Vigil

“Every day for a year, at sunrise and sunset, a vigil will keep watch over Hull from a bespoke structure located on top of the Hull College building.” So reads the description of this project on it’s website The Hull Vigil.

Over the past eight years, The Vigil has been running continuously in cities in France, Germany, Netherlands and Austria. Now, in 2021, it is Hull’s turn.

The vigil box – photo from thehullvigil.co.uk

As soon as I read about this extraordinary, year long event I knew I had to be a participant. I decided straight away that I wanted to do a sunrise vigil, to see my city awaken and get ready for the day ahead. The date I chose was Wednesday 29th September, purely for the reason of it not being too early a start. I wish I’d given it a bit more thought and chosen maybe Mason or Michael’s birthday. I just know that the date I chose hasn’t and won’t stick in my mind.

The sunrise part of the experience today was a bit of a disappointment because heavy cloud cover in the east obscured the sunrise, which was hinted at in the pink fluffy clouds in the otherwise clear skies to the west. The Humber Bridge looked magnificent in that early morning light framed by those pink clouds but mostly my focus at the beginning was towards the east, just hoping that the sun might break through and give me the spectacular sunrise that I’d hoped to see.  It was not to be, instead I found myself mesmerised by the steam rising off some trees and a flat roof of a building in the distance.  The early morning dew being burned off by the rising sun which to be honest, was not very warm!  It was a chilly morning today and I was grateful for the heater in the vigil box at 7am.

It took me a few moments to get my bearings, the most obvious landmark being the beautifully painted Drypool Bridge in green and white interlocking circles, a tribute to Hull’s own John Venn of Venn diagram fame.  From there I followed Great Union Street with my eyes, pinpointed Witham, further to the north and could see the high-rise flats at the top of Barnsley Street, the street I was born and grew up in.  The view to the west was of Queen’s Gardens with the former warehouses around it, the maritime building and across to West and North Hull, with the Humber Bridge in the distance. 

The traffic had started to build up, almost without me noticing. Sirens of emergency vehicles punctuated the morning sounds. I felt detached, watching people and traffic busying about on their way to work, college, school or whatever it was they needed to be out and about for at that time, whilst I stood high above, alone in my vigil.

As I always am, I was drawn to the mighty river Humber, with the landmarks of the Humber Bridge to the west and the Siemens wind turbine factory to the east.  The river was glistening in the sunlight that couldn’t yet find its way through the cloud to show itself, and I found it oddly comforting to see how it seemed to wrap around the southern boundary of our city. I spent a lot of my hour in the vigil box just gazing at the river with no particular thoughts at all, just being there.

Although at first, I felt disappointed that the sunrise was obviously not going to be what I’d hoped for, that feeling disappeared rapidly as I enjoyed the views and the feeling of solitude.  When the hour was over and my companion Lyn came to collect me, I felt very much at peace.  I guess that was what it was all about in the end.

I couldn’t take any photographs as we were not allowed to take any belongings like phone, watch etc., into the vigil with us, it was after all meant to be a peaceful, mindful hour without distraction from material things. Lyn took a picture of me afterwards, which like the pictures of all the other participant, will feature on the official blog. It was refreshing and peaceful to just enjoy the experience without feeling the need to keep snapping pictures, something I am very guilty of.

Huge thank you to Freedom Festival for bringing this amazing event to Hull and to Hull College for allowing the use of their rooftop for the vigil box, the volunteer companions and everyone else involved in the whole the event, from a very grateful participant.

One comment

  1. Sounds like a very fulfilling experience, cities always seem to look more impressive from above. Glad you enjoyed it

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