Reviving Rank in Hull housing regeneration project

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Hull will revive the golden days of Hollywood on Tuesday, May 26, when the sound of a giant gong will mark the completion of a unique renovation project at the birthplace of one of the city’s most famous sons, renowned film maker and industrialist, J. Arthur Rank.

After being derelict for over a decade, the property on Holderness Road in east Hull has been transformed under Probe’s Empty Homes Initiative into four apartments for local people, at affordable rent.

Many of the building’s original features have been restored, preserving the heritage of the building and the history behind it. The work has been carried by local businesses and apprentices of Probe (Hull) Limited, a not for profit company which contributes to the regeneration of Hull, by refurbishing derelict properties and providing vital skills and work experience to students of Hull College.

General manager of Probe, Steve Alltoft says:

It seems to me that we have been sitting on an uncut diamond. When the project began, few of the people we spoke to understood the importance of J. Arthur Rank, yet he is undoubtedly one of the city’s pioneers. From running the family business in flour mills and other industries, he went on to found Pinewood Studios and Odeon Cinemas before taking up the career-defining role of Hollywood movie mogul at the helm of the Rank Film Corporation.

This project has been a long-time coming but we are fortunate to have received huge support from the local media.

Dave Burns from BBC Radio Humberside in particular has helped us massively with his campaign to refurbish what was a derelict property that caused a blight on one of the major entrances to the city.

I feel that Probe is running a fantastic project and provides a win-win for local communities – refurbishing derelict properties for regeneration, up-skilling students and apprentices, giving them live building projects to work on and it also provides affordable housing for people who need it the most.

With full support of the Rank Foundation, Hull’s UK City of Culture team, Hull City Council and investment from the Homes and Communities Agency and The Charity Bank the grand opening of the Rank House will be a memorable occasion, recreating the Rank Film Corporation opening titles with the ‘gong-man’ who has been given a new lease of life by Probe’s Apprentice, Tom Binks.

Employed by Probe, Tom has studied at Hull College and played an active role in retaining the original features of the property. He will strike the gong which has been made at Hull College by engineering students Paul and Richard Marshall.

Probe Apprentice, Tom Binks said:

Probe has given me a fantastic opportunity to learn a trade, with the added experience of working on real-life properties with the full support of Hull College.

It’s a dream come true to be so involved with this project. One day I am just going to work to plaster a house and the next I’m involved with the City of Culture plans.

Probe’s Empty Homes Programme has been running for two years. In that time we have been fortunate to purchase a number of significant buildings in Hull. By working with local businesses and Hull College, they are giving young people like me the vital skills and training to start a career and make a life for ourselves.

I personally feel very proud to refurbish derelict properties that drag down the appearance of the local community. I love working with Probe and want continue working on the individual houses to improve and regenerate the streets of Hull.

Martin Green, Chief Executive of Hull 2017 added:

This fantastic project shines a light on a true pioneer of Hull and Hollywood. It seems fitting that the home of J. Arthur Rank has been restored at a time when the city’s cultural life and heritage have been recognised and are undergoing a renaissance.

As UK City of Culture, Hull’s reputation as a place that inspires and welcomes film-makers and artists of all kinds will continue to grow, helping to regenerate the city and, like this project, creating jobs and opportunities for young people.