Ships in the SKY - BAMM Forum 2020

Esther Johnson and Leigh Bird


SHIPS in the SKY is a social history arts project to create a poetic 360-degree portrait of a unique place throughout time. The core of the project is inspired by Alan Boyson’s 66x64ft Three Ships mosaic mural, that floats above the entrance to the post-war former Hull Co-operative, later a BHS department store. The building has had many lives – a market, a dance hall, a music venue and nightclubs. On closure in 2016, the building canopy acted as shelter for the homeless and became a site of debate for contemporary redevelopment. Evoking peoples’ navigation and memories of the public realm, the project connects visitors and local residents with the cities unique built environment.

SHIPS in the SKY aspires to activate discussion of how our surroundings can foster belonging and 'place-making’ and, stimulate new perspectives of the familiar. After a considerable campaign from Hull Heritage Action Groups and an open letter to the DCMS, Three Ships was granted Grade II Listing in November 2019. The building currently lays empty with plans for redevelopment to be confirmed. Phase 1 of SHIPS in the SKY has been funded by the James Reckitt Library Trust with the support of Untold Hull and Hull Libraries.

SHIPS in the SKY

Website and Socials  



Twitter: @shipsinthesky63 

Instagram: @shipsinthesky63 

Facebook: @shipsintheskyhull


Artist and Filmmaker Esther Johnson (MA, Royal College of Art) works at the intersection of artist moving image and documentary to create poetic portraits, focusing on alternative social histories and marginal worlds. The repositioning of archival material is explored as a way of looking at intangible cultural heritage and, of addressing the relationship between memory and storytelling. Films have been exhibited internationally in 40+ countries, and broadcast on BBC and Channel 4, with audio works aired on ABC Australia, BBC Radio 4, Resonance FM and RTÉ radio. Esther is former recipient of the prestigious Philip Leverhulme Research Prize in Performing & Visual Arts and, is Professor of Film and Media Arts in the Art and Design Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.


Twitter: @BlanchePictures 

Instagram: @Blanche_Pictures 


Leigh Bird has delivered marketing strategies to businesses and artists since 2003. Her research into artist Alan Boyson’s back-catalogue has given Leigh a unique perspective of his oeuvre. Working with Hull Heritage Action Group’s (HHAG) in campaigning to preserve Alan Boyson’s Hull artworks, Leigh helped increase petition signatures from 100+ to 6500+. She is a research assistant and PR for SHIPS in the SKY.

Twitter: @BHSMuralHull 


Instagram:  @leigh_v_bird