SHIPS in the SKY: connecting people to people, and people to place through untold social histories

JOHNSON, Esther (2021). SHIPS in the SKY: connecting people to people, and people to place through untold social histories. In: XXI IOHA International Oral History Association Conference, Online, 23-27 Aug 2021.

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This paper looks at the research methodology and findings of SHIPS in the SKY by Sheffield Hallam University Professor of Film and Media Arts Esther Johnson. Inspired by Alan Boyson’s (1930–2018) 66x64ft ‘Three Ships’ mural (the UKs 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. Two further Boyson murals rediscovered inside the building are ‘FISH’, and a ‘sponge-print’ mural. These murals are emblematic of Britain’s post-war rebuilding, and of the rich seam of Hull’s maritime heritage. The building has had many lives – market, dance hall, music venue and nightclubs. 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. As an extension of this, audiences are encouraged to look at and discover new aspects of their own surroundings that may have otherwise remained hidden or ignored. Activities have centred on the capturing of 100+ oral histories of memories of the building from staff, shoppers and night-clubbers, and individuals with an interest in local/national history, post-war public art, architecture and modernism. A series of public awareness events and exhibitions have taken place challenging participants to recognise their personal significance in making history and has encouraged decision makers to consider the power of the collective voice. Through the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns a successful charity initiative raised funds for UK food banks. Ongoing plans include larger-scale events, production of an artist film, community mosaic and poetry workshops, and final exhibition. This presentation will include audio/film clips to discuss: – engagement activities for uncovering and recording hidden social histories giving prominence to stories that may otherwise be lost – utilising archive and memorabilia to prompt fresh readings of history – the testing of novel methodologies to create an extended understanding of social histories Due to the conference being postponed for a year with CoViD and then taking place online, papers were pre-recorded videos.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2022 10:58
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2022 11:09

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