19.02.17 — Journal

Cultural Capital Weekend

Tonight I write to you all with heavy eyelids and tired feet, as I’ve just returned from a fabulous and overwhelmingly busy weekend of discovery with the rest of the UGRL Scholars. This ‘Cultural Capital’ weekend looked to immerse us in cultural experience that we might not otherwise have the chance to gain access to, and with a timetable for the weekend planned down to the half hour, we were sure to enjoy a whirlwind tour of everything York and the surrounding areas had to offer.


We began our weekend bright and early on Saturday morning, where we convened for a briefing and full English breakfast at the Marriot in Leeds at 8am, during which we were split into teams and given GoPro cameras to film bits and bobs throughout our weekend.

From here we boarded a coach which soon had us dropped off at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where we were soon introduced to the  open-air gallery, and sent off with clipboards and a bag of clay for a tour around it’s various pieces. After I opted to sketch parodies of each sculpture (in order to make up for my total lack of artistic talent), we were soon entering a strange exhibition in which the artist Roger Hiorns filled an empty flat with copper sulphate, resulting in the complete coverage of every surface in menacing looking royal blue crystals.

A view over the park
Roger Hiorns, Seizure, 2008
Making sculptures

After more interactive workshops, including making a sculpture of ourselves using clay and building large-scale pieces representing the relationship between man/nature, we were soon back on the coach and on our way to the National Coal Mining Museum. Once here, we were soon handed a copper chip and suited and booted with a hard hat and miners lamp, and found ourselves in a cage descending over 140m into the abandoned coal mine!

Once in the cool tunnels of the mine, we experienced life as a miner in crawling through excavated coal seams and navigating the endless tunnel network, all whilst learning about the history and conditions mine workers faced – from an ex-miner from that very mine nonetheless! All too soon we resurfaced and, after waiting for the next group to remerge from the dusty depths, jumped back on our trusty coach and headed into York.

As it turned out, we were stopping in the Marriot in York, and so I took the opportunity to have a lovely bath (for which I had come prepared with a Lush bath bomb, naturally), before we all reconvened for a lovely dinner. After this we were picked up by a parade of taxis, who sped us through the city centre to the Grand Opera House where we had tickets to see The Commitments.

After enjoying the rousing performance peppered with soul music classics, we headed back into the cool air of the night and met our guide for what promised to be an experience – a guided ‘ghost tour’ of the ancient city. Our guide then proceeded to walk us along the riverside in the dead of night, telling stories of gory executions, torture, and apparent ghost sightings – but what I found most strange was the eerie abandoned city centre which seemed devoid of any human life except our tour group!

Once we’d finished up the tour and made a wish, we found ourselves back at a pub by the hotel, where it was time for a drink before heading to bed ready for the busy schedule which Sunday promised us all…


Up bright and early on Sunday morning, and after enjoying another lush breakfast buffet, back onto the coach we clambered to head off to the National Railway Museum to learn a little about the industrial history of England through an exploration of it’s rail network. Having visited many years ago (I think I may have been in primary school), it was very strange to be back in a strangely familiar place, but it was no less enjoyable to explore the amazing collection a second time.

The National Rail Museum

I particularly enjoyed an introductory presentation which taught us how a steam locomotive works, where the four of us who’d banded together were blown away by the consideration which had gone into the design of the surprisingly complex workings of the train. After wandering under a train, snooping through the museum’s archives, and learning about rail related disasters, we headed outside to wander across the city ready for lunch – in the Hilton no less!

After another delicious meal it was time to head across the road to the York Castle Museum, our fifth and final activity for the weekend, where we spent hours exploring the extensive collections ranging from World War II to a celebration of the 1960s – even descending into the cells in which prisoners of the city were once held. Me and Jamie also found this excellent interactive fashion exhibit, where we put on a fabulous performance…

Work that Victorian look

After a coffee and some delicious rocky road, we heaved our now very weary bodies back onto the coach, which set off to drop us all back off in Leeds. From there we had to run (the horror) to catch the train back to Hyde Park and I’m now sat at my desk occupying myself by writing this in order to stop myself from falling asleep, as I don’t want my already questionable sleep routine to be ruined any further.

Overall this weekend has been an absolute blast, with many thanks to be given to the UGRL team for organising such a jam-packed schedule of interesting things to do, see, and eat. I shall now head off and devour the blueberry muffin I just realised I have in my bag leftover from breakfast, with my next blog post probably going to give you all an update on the progress which I’m making on preparing my new site for launch. Exciting!