Professor Esther Johnson to present SHIPS in the SKY at ‘Changing Places’ Space & Place seminar – Wednesday 27th April 2022

Ships in the Sky

Professor Esther Johnson will present research from her ongoing social history arts project SHIPS in the SKY at the next ‘Changing Places‘ Space & Place group seminar convened by Dr Luke Bennett. This will take place on Wednesday 27 April between 2-4pm. You can sign up for this on Eventbrite.


SHIPS in the SKY is a social history arts project recording the many lives of the majestic Hull & East Riding Co-operative Society store (later a BHS) in Hull City Centre. The building has had many lives – a department store, an indoor market, a dance hall, a music venue and nightclub. The project also looks at the trio of murals in the building by Alan Boyson, including the 1963 ‘Three Ships’ adorning the store entrance, reputed to be the largest mosaic in the UK. The mural was grade II listed in Nov 2019 after a long campaign. Demolition of the surrounding building commences in spring 2022.

Through the lens of one building, the research emphasises how buildings and associated public art can be crucial for civic place and memory-making, and geographical and historical local identity. Research themes include the effects of public art on peoples’ navigation and memories of the public realm; cooperatism; retail; labour; club-culture; postwar regeneration and local identity. For instance, the ‘Three Ships’ mural has an explicit connection to Hull’s fishing and maritime heritage.

Approximately 100 oral history recordings from many perspectives have been completed to date, from store shoppers and employees, to construction workers, and recollections of gigs in the buildings ‘Skyline Ballroom’, later ‘Bailey’s’ nightclub and then ‘Romeo’s & Juliet’s’. Community engagement workshops and exhibitions in Hull libraries, plus publications and presentations have also taken place as part of the project. The research will culminate in a series of public events, workshops, and a large-scale exhibition including a multi-screen artist moving-image work, donated ephemera connected to the building, and art inspired by the Boyson’s murals. .


See detailed project elements HERE and HERE. Further information on work by Esther can be found via the various links HERE.


Changing Places #2: change and the material fate of place

The Sheffield Hallam University Space & Place Group’s second interdisciplinary seminar on the theme of ‘changing places’, Changing Places #2: change and the material fate of place will be running 2PM-4PM on Wednesday 27 April 2022. This online session will look at how (and why) people change places. Change of place, whether as regeneration, ruination, redevelopment or altered forms of use is a materialised expression of a complex amalgam of social/cultural, economic and political factors playing themselves out across a variety of scales. But rather than looking outward to frame instances of change of place within wider structural processes, our presenters will each in their own way ask how the material manifestations of that localised change can be foregrounded, in order to restore the local connection/disconnection that is often lost via analysis that is more concerned with the wider – and more abstract – narratives and interpretations of change.

Presenters for this session will be:

Eve Stirling (Art & Design, SHU)

Stories Home Tell: Thinking Net Zero through speculative property particulars

Joanne Lee (Art & Design, SHU) & Rosemary Shirley (University of Leicester, School of Museum Studies)

Staying Local

Esther Johnson (ADMRC/Media, SHU)

SHIPS in the SKY: civic place and memory-making