AG Interviews: ‘Open Bridges’ Interview with Rich and Lou Duffy Howard

Hey guys!! This is my third post that links in with the ‘Open Bridges’ event which happened originally back in September. Lou and Rich Duffy Howard, the creators of the event, have very kindly agreed to be interviewed for my blog so a massive thank you to both of them. Hopefully, after reading this post, you will have even more insight to the origin of the ‘Open Bridges’ event and you will have got to know Lou and Rich a bit better. You can read my previous posts about ‘Open Bridges’ event here and here and you can check out Rich and Lou’s blog here.


  • HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR THE ‘OPEN BRIDGES’ EVENT? Rich: Lou and I were having a conversation about freedom and the Freedom Festival, Brexit and freedom of movement and how you can’t understand it without experiencing it. I work for Streetscene and I’d just been working with the bridge operations and knew all of them moved. The idea just appeared that we could split the city into two by raising or swinging all of the bridges and deny the freedom of movement from every person in Hull at the same time. Lou: We chatted about how to make it into an event and talked about filming the bridges from a barge sailing down the river and having a flare shoot into the sky to represent each open bridge. We wanted to feature a new musical work and were trying to think of the right music, it had to be something special. A serendipitous meeting with our friend the composer John Stead led to a collaboration which was perfect. Rich and I started to work it out, met up with Mal Scott at Kardomah94 and we continued to get partners on board with the various elements, the bridges, music, film, vessels, workshops, photography, website and exhibition. Then came the difficult part – the operations, logistics and PR. It’s the most challenging project we’ve ever done. The whole team worked together to overcome hurdle after hurdle. Everyone in the team is from Hull and made something momentous happen, so for the first time in the city’s history all 13 of Hull’s bridges raised, swung or closed simultaneously splitting the city in two at 20:17 hours on the autumnal equinox 2017 during Hull City of Culture’s Freedom Season.
  • WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE BRIDGE IN HULL? Lou: Previously, I would’ve said Wilmington, it’s so memorable because of the little house on the top but we’ve learned so much about all the bridges now so I would say it’s all of them. They are all so individual, they all have fascinating history, engineering, nostalgia and stories for different people which we’ve absorbed during Open Bridges. Rich: I would’ve said Wilmington too but the view from Sculcoates as the new biomass station went up is amazing. As Lou says, they’re all special.
  • WHAT PROJECTS AND EVENTS HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED IN IN THE PAST? Lou: Most of the things we do involve music. We play regular gigs with our psychedelic electric band Loudhailer Electric Company and recently released a studio album, Cursus. Our monthly acoustic night Loudhailer Acoustic is always a good night. We run an independent record label DHM and release music we love. You can keep an eye on our website to find out what’s going on. Between 2000 and 2008, we ran a big free festival in Pearson Park and around Hull, Grassroots Free Festival of Music Art and Dance with our Full Flava friend Dave Okweisa. Rich and I still put on concerts and events but we keep it fun, and always work with friends. Rich: Lou was the community manager who was instrumental in and inspired the success of the celebrations for both Hull 700 and Wilberforce 2007, which laid the groundwork for Freedom Festival and City of Culture. Lou won’t say but I can.
  • NAME YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT – Rich: A moment? Then it’s the same as the highlight of Open Bridges, not proud though, when Hull split in two. It was a huge challenge but I knew we could do it and we did.
  • WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF ‘OPEN BRIDGES’ FOR YOU? Rich: When I heard Pete Curry, Event Control, radio HMS Pickle at 20:17 and say: “The city’s cut in two – fire your maroons.” Lou: We had some special guests on the night and had arranged for Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the East Riding of Yorkshire to spend the evening on HMS Pickle. We knew that it would be wet and wild on board and hoped she’d be ok. Rich and I were flat out all night and as we started to look around as the music premiere was coming to an end, it was a marvellous moment when we found out everything has worked, the city had been separated and reunited. We found the Lord Lieutenant enjoying the sights and sounds. She had a twinkle in her eye as she told us what a crazy adventure she had – she had loved it all. She stayed and chatted right until the end of the evening. Everybody was smiling and happy – John the composer, the vessel crews, bridge operators and guests, everyone. That was a moment I will remember forever.

        Thank you for reading this post!! Hope you enjoyed this insight to the crazy but amazing night when the city of Hull split in two for the first time. There’ll be another post out soon but until then bye for now!!

        Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull


        1. Reblogged this on Open Bridges and commented:
          Thanks to @ameliainhull for this write up of Open Bridges, ‘an insight to the crazy but amazing night when the city of Hull split in two for the first time’. Check out Amelia’s eloquent blog. She’s been to loads of events and I love reading her genuine and charming descriptions which tell the story as it is.

          Liked by 1 person

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