Professor Esther Johnson presenting at the International Oral History Association, 23-29th August 2021

Professor Esther Johnson will present her research SHIPS in the SKY and a ROLE to PLAY at the International Oral History Association Virtual Conference taking place from 23—29 August. Esther was all set to attend this conference in 2020 at the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) which was unfortunately postponed due to the pandemic. The International Oral History Association (IOHA) is a professional association of oral history practitioners that exists to provide a forum for oral historians around the world, and a means for cooperation among those concerned with the documentation of human experience.
Esther will present a paper on her current SHIPS in the SKY social history arts research. Inspired by Alan Boyson’s (1930–2018) 66x64ft Three Ships mural (the UK’s largest mosaic), this project uncovers alternative histories of an iconic Hull landmark. The post-war mural floats above the entrance to the former Hull & East Riding Co-operative Society department store, later a British Home Stores. Following closure in 2016, the building is boarded-up ahead of demolition and redevelopment. Three Ships has since been Grade II Listed, leading to further debate as to the value of the building to the local and wider community.
The heart of SHIPS in the SKY is about connecting people to people, and people to place. By creating a memory mosaic of lived experiences this research explores the role of public art and civic identity. Through oral testimonies and film, the research evokes peoples’ navigation and memories of the public realm to connect residents with the unique built environment of Hull, stimulating new perspectives of the familiar.
In late 2021, Esther will publish a booklet titled SHIPS in the SKY: the Co-op Connection which will be distributed by The Modernist Society.


Esther will also present her 2019 film a ROLE to PLAY.