Navigators Art & Performance launches Basement Sessions of music, spoken word & comedy at City Screen Picturehouse

Jess Gardham: York singer-songwriter playing Navigators Art & Performance’s inaugural Basement Sessions bill at City Screen Picturehouse, York

NAVIGATORS Art & Performance will launch the Basement Sessions series of Music, Spoken Word and Comedy – Live, Local and Loud! at City Screen Picturehouse, York, on November 25.

“Following our sold-out Punk/Jazz show at the Basement in October, we’re presenting an adventurous mixed bill of new music (bands and solo), comedy, spoken word and more, with a few surprises up our sleeve,” says Richard Kitchen, the York creative hub’s co-founder.

“All performers are from York or the surrounding area and are chosen for a spirit of experimentality and community – and of course for being excellent.”

In the line-up will be punk/post-punk/alt. rock/indie band What Fresh Hell, playing their last ever gig, and award-winning York pop, soul and acoustic singer-songwriter, actress and 2018 MasterChef quarter-finalist Jess Gardham.

So too will be comedian John Pease, sharing his experiences and observations of the world; performance artist Carrieanne Vivianette, exploring the legacies of radical women through voice, movement and improvisation, and energetic jazz-turned-punk Battle of the Bands finalists Attacker TV.

Tickets cost £8 through TicketSource at or £10 on the door from 7pm. “Please book ahead to avoid disappointment,” advises Richard. “We hope to see you there! Further Basement Sessions are planned for December 9 and January 27.”

The flyer for Navigators Art & Performance’s first Basement Sessions bill

‘Punk is an attitude, Jazz is a state of mind,’ say Navigators Art in bars exhibition and Basement gig of contrasts & connections

Dexter Enjoying A Well Earned Toke, by Steve Walmsley, from the Punk/Jazz Contrasts & Connections exhibition

YORK creative hub Navigators Art & Performance is exploring iconic genres – the punk era and the jazz age – in its autumn exhibition at Micklegate & Fossgate Socials and Saturday’s live event at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York.

Punk/Jazz: Contrasts and Connections asks: A Love Supreme or No Future? Are punk and jazz at odds or two sides of a coin?

The answer to a question with a nod to American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s 1964 album and the Sex Pistols’ nihilistic mantra from 1977 single God Save The Queen comes through a combination of painting, drawing, collage, print, words, sculpture, photography and music.

“Punk and jazz? Each can be controversial, uncompromising, confrontational,” says Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen. “The best of each is groundbreaking, pushing conventions to the limit. Both can hurt. Both can heal.”

The Palm Tree Jazz Club, by Ali Hunter

On show at the Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social bars is new work by a fresh line-up of artists from York and beyond. “We’re featuring a healthy mix of the known and the less familiar, including Ali Hunter, Carrianne Vivianette, George Willmore, Nick Walters, river smith, Sharon McDonagh, Steve Beadle and Steve Walmsley,” says Richard, who is among the exhibitors as ever.

“There’s a special treat too: the welcome return to the York art scene of entrepreneur and local legend Chalky the Yorkie.”

Saturday’s specially curated live performance at The Basement, Punk/Jazz: A Halloween Special, features York bands The Bricks, Teleost and Things Found And Made (Dunmada), the polemical words of activist poet Rose Drew and Saeth Wheeler delivering psychic-themed comedy.

Doors open at 7pm for this 7.30pm event, presented in association with The Random Cabaret and York Alternatives, and the Basement bar will be open throughout.

“Expect experiments, improvisation and noise! Some of the material will not be suitable for young children,” Richard forewarns.

Here, Richard Kitchen discusses punk, jazz and art, contrasts and connections with CharlesHutchPress

Punk Jazz, by Richard Kitchen

How can jazz and punk hurt, Richard?

“When we came up with the theme, many people said, ‘I don’t like jazz but I like punk’ or vice versa. We’re talking generalisations but not stereotypes here, and we’re interested in spiritual or free jazz, rather than more polite versions.

“They’re both polemical in terms of both sound and ideology. Many people feel threatened by them. Then, of course, they take aim at certain targets, political, social and cultural, and challenge them.”

How can jazz and punk heal?

“People can find themselves through music, whether as players or listeners. Both these forms of music offer a world, even a philosophy, that people develop a passionate relationship with.

“We’ve proposed that punk is an attitude, jazz is a state of mind. Freedom, independent creativity, social justice: they represent values systems that go beyond music in search of a better world. We as Navigators Art have followed those values in giving ourselves permission to achieve things that others have said we couldn’t – or even shouldn’t!”

How did dapper activist artist Chalky the Yorkie become involved in the exhibition?

“We met Chalky at a show last Christmas, chatted to him about art and music and his own history as an artist in York, and felt we’d like to get him involved in the scene again. He had some work that responds perfectly to the Punk/Jazz theme.”

Unnamed, by George Willmore

Names new to Navigators Art are among the Punk/Jazz artists: how were the exhibitors selected this time?

“We did a general call-out for the first time on social media and Curatorspace. We’ve had quite a constant presence over the past 18 months and it was time to freshen things up, to avoid the same people making the same kind of work each time. We’ve gone back to basics, with a core admin group and a network of wonderful new and emerging artists and performers.”

Are you a punk fan, a jazz fan, or both?

“Personaslly? A fan of both but they’re broad terms, aren’t they? Anything exploratory and exciting gets my vote. Sheer noise? No! Cocktail lounge tinkling? No! Extreme hardcore where there’s no space to let the music breathe? No! But others in the group have their own preferences of course.”

Punk gets things done in a rush with plenty to say; jazz just faffs around, taking forever to not make any point…Discuss!
“Two sides of a coin, as we say. But the coin itself is the same. They aren’t exclusive. Sometimes you want to shout and get things out of your system; sometimes you want to muse on things at length.

“Punk or jazz, the musicians are working out how best to express themselves, whether it’s protesting about something for two minutes or exploring their own state of mind for hours! The key factor in both is honesty, being true to yourself. I’d say that’s what attracts an audience too.”

John Coltrane, by Carrianne Vivianette

Punk had no future, nowhere to go. Jazz is always evolving…Discuss.

“Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten/John Lydon realised punk was imploding very early on, becoming formulaic. Once you get into the punk that led to what became a post-punk freedom to experiment, there’s an openness to many other forms of music, including jazz, dub, world music and so on that created a kaleidoscope of marvellous new forms.

“New jazz is emerging now, which similarly draws on other influences, especially electronics. Labelling music as one thing or another is a convenient shorthand but genuinely creative artists rarely think in those terms.”

What is the full line-up for Saturday’s live event?

“The musicians will be The Bricks, an energetic punk band fronted by Gemma from comics shop Travelling Man, in Goodramgate; Teleost, who are more intense and improvisatory; the Neo Borgia Trio who have formed especially for the occasion from a University of York big band; Mike Ambler, with some grunge-influenced solo songs,; and Things Found And Made (Dunmada), whose experimental set is a secret even from us. Then there’s firebrand poet Rose Drew and comedians Isobel Wilson and Saeth Wheeler.”

What is Navigators Art & Performance?

Punk/Jazz: Two sides of a coin or not?

THIS York creative collective brings a DIY ethos and punk belief in building from minimal resources to exhibitions, live events, projects and commissions.

“We’ve created events for StreetLife and York Festival of Ideas, and we’re now running live events at The Basement, City Screen,” says co-founder Richard Kitchen.

“We present original material for an audience to discover something fresh and exciting.

We encourage young artists, emerging talent and those who feel disadvantaged or underrepresented.”

Punk/Jazz: Contrasts and Connections runs at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York, until January, with the closing date yet to be confirmed. Free entry during opening hours. Tickets for Punk/Jazz: A Halloween Special are on sale at

Y Fronts, by Sharon McDonagh, from the Punk/Jazz: Contrasts & Connections exhibition

Wanted! York artists sought for Navigators Art’s Punk/Jazz show, plus musicians and poets for live events in The Basement

Navigators Art’s poster seeking artists for the Punk/Jazz exhibition

YORK community collective Navigators Art & Performance is inviting York artists to submit work for its next show, Punk/Jazz.

“We’ll select the pieces we think work best and they’ll be exhibited in two bar venues in York – one small, the other, average size –from August 16 until October 17, with an official launch night on August 18,” says co-founder Richard Kitchen.

Submissions must be made by 9am on Monday, July 17. Full details can be found on Navigators Art’s Facebook and Instagram pages, @navigatorsart, or send an email to

Maps, Some Heads, by Nick Walters, from Navigators Art’s newly extended Hidden Treasures exhibition at York Explore

Explaining the exhibition theme, Richard says: “Positive vibes or no future? Are Punk and Jazz at odds or two sides of a coin? Both can be controversial, uncompromising, confrontational. Both can be healing.

“The best of each is groundbreaking, seeking to push the limits of what’s possible. The differences are interesting too! How does the music channel your own feelings? Can your art reflect all or some of this?

“The show will be a creative exploration of the two genres, so be imaginative with your response. Whatever your experience in making art, we encourage submissions from all areas of society. No sculptures, installations or screen-based work this time, sorry.”

York Minster floorscape, by Richard Kitchen, from the Hidden Treasures exhibition

A related themed live event at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, on October 14 will complement the exhibition. “We’d like to hear from interested musicians, as well as visual artists for the exhibition, with the same deadline for submissions of 9am next Monday,” says Richard.

Updating on Navigators Art & Performance’s projects in 2023, Richard says: “At present we’re stripping down the Navigators engine and doing a bit of retuning. Our Hidden Treasures exhibition, which ran at York Explore library until July 6 as part of the York Festival  of Ideas, has  now expanded and will extend its run there  to early September.

“The Living Treasures performance event, featuring writers, musicians and performers in  an evening of original music and words at The Basement on June 10, was a big success, leading to us being offered a regular slot there. We’ll be able to do all kinds of music, spoken word and art events there and we’ll soon have some ideas in place.”

Hidden Treasures: Expanded and extended show at York Explore until early September

For this Basement project, Navigators Art & Performance is issuing a call-out to “team-spirited creatives”:  musicians (bands, solo, indie, jazz, punk, folk, world, hip-hop, electronica and more), plus poets/spoken-word performers, dancers and comedians.

“We’ll be organising a series of live events between now and December at The Basement,” says Richard. “We often link themed live events to our art exhibitions, but this is an additional showcase for emerging acts as well as for experienced artists who may want to try out some new material. Of course, you may just love an opportunity to play somewhere!”

Richard continues: “We’ve built a friendly, talented, enterprising team, and there’ll be opportunities for creative collaborations and other activities in the future.

Peter Roman Visualises York-born W H Auden’s Poetry, from the Hidden Treasures exhibition

“These events are like an open mic but with a prearranged line-up and costs to cover. Because of the nature of the occasion and our ethos, we try to keep prices down and affordable to all.

“We aren’t funded so we aren’t employers. We have to ticket events to pay for venue hire and a sound engineer’s fee. Anything over gets split between performers and group funds to subsidise future occasions.”

Outlining the performance strategy for these live events, Richard says: “We want to present original music rather than cover versions or tribute acts, plus new poetry, dance, etc. We’d like the audience to feel they’ve discovered something new and exciting.

Gillygate Deconstruction (detail), by Timothy Morrison, on show at York Explore

“If interested in taking part, please give us a follow and message us @navigatorsart (Facebook and Instagram) or email Tell us what you do and include a link to a performance of some kind, especially if we don’t know you already. And be sure to list your available Saturdays. We aim to kick things off in late-July and we’ve already had some interest, so don’t delay.”

Looking ahead, Richard says: “We’re planning a live show for the Christmas festive season, inspired by ancient traditions and folklore. Then, looking into 2024, we’ll be taking over York Barbican for an all-day festival, expanding on the Living Treasures show we did for York Festival of Ideas.

“This will feature musicians of all kinds, along with spoken-word artists, comedians and York stallholders, all celebrating aspects of York life and culture in fresh and creative ways.”

Navigators Art & Performance’s billboard for the Living Treasures line-up on June 10

Navigators Art & Performance: the back story

THIS York collective of artists, writers and performers engages in community activities.

A three-month residency at the StreetLife hub in Coney Street featured an exhibition and a live event.

This summer, the collective programmed three events – an exhibition, a live performance and a film screening – for the 2023 York Festival of Ideas.

The collective is keen to mentor young and emerging artists and offers a platform to those who are underrepresented for reasons of social and cultural background or health issues.

Crazy Kate, from a series by Navigators Art artist Katie Lewis, at York Explore

What artists need to do to apply to exhibit in the Punk/Jazz exhibition

SEND high-res images or scans of up to three original works to

Subject heading: your name, then ‘Punk’ or ‘Jazz’ or ‘Both’.

Give details of:

1. The medium and size of each piece plus its title and price (this doesn’t need to be exact).

2. A bit about yourself as a person and your experiences/achievements in making art.

3. How you relate to the exhibition theme and why Punk or why Jazz? If there is a crossover, explain how and why.

If selected, you must:

1. Transport your own work and instal and take down on the specified dates (times TBC) or arrange an alternative.

2. Commit to sharing promotional activities and responsibilities, such as online posts and physical flyer distribution.

3. Agree to share promo costs and necessary expenses: this should not be more than the price of a few pints each.

No submission fee applies. No commission will be charged on sales.

The venue will take 25 per cent commission, so factor that in when deciding prices.

Navigators Art & Performance will decide on selections by August 1. “If you’re in, we’ll tell you which of your submissions we’ve chosen,” says co-founder Richard Kitchen.

Navigators Art to participate in 2023 York Festival of Ideas with triple venture of art, music & words and film projects. UPDATED with Richard Kitchen interview 26/5/2023

Mapped Head 1, by Nick Walters, from Navigators Art’s Hidden Treasures exhibition for the 2023 York Festival of Ideas

YORK creative collective Navigators Art & Performance are contributing a three-part project to the 2023 York Festival of Ideas, inspired by the festival theme of Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild.

The trio of shows and events celebrates rarely seen works in York Art Gallery, books in the city library and intriguing aspects of York life and culture that people might not notice from day to day or even be aware of.

For Hidden Treasures, five artists have sought out unfamiliar but inspiring aspects of York, reinterpreting them in their own way for an exhibition to be hosted by York Explore Library and Archive, in Museum Street, from May 27 to July 6.

Katie Lewis uses textiles and other media to reflect the story behind Thomas Baker’s Crazy Kate in the Treasures from the Stores collection at York Art Gallery.

Nick Walters animates and illuminates on screen the textures of John Davies’s Mapped Head 1, as observed by fellow characters from other works in the collection.

Peter Roman explores the library’s treasures, using collage, paint and typography to delve into the world of books and finding lyrical inspiration from York wordsmiths along the way.

Richard Kitchen switches from his trademark collage format to the camera, pairing it with manual and digital tools to reveal jewel-like qualities in city streets, walls and other surfaces.

Timothy Morrison summons the spirits of Vladimir Tatlin and Greg Curnoe to reveal an artist’s perspective on everyday objects through a variety of materials.

Entry will be free during normal library opening hours. More information can be found at:

Navigators Art’s poster for the Living Treasures performance at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York

On June 10, Navigators Art writers, musicians and performers present Living Treasures, an evening of original music and words at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, Coney Street.

For this 7.30pm celebration of secrets of York life and culture, from folk, punk and poetry to fine art via the city streets, they have sought out “hidden treasures” to reinterpret in song and spoken word.

Musical performers include members of the White Sail alt. folk band, Navigators’ composer Dylan Thompson, singer-songwriters Miri Green and Cai Moriarty and up-and-coming York band The Corsairs.

For more information and bookings, head to:

The poster for Navigators Art’s screening of Martin Nichols’ film There’s Another Country at City Screen Picturehouse, York

In Navigators Art’s third festival event, Brighton director Martin Nichols’ film There’s Another Country will be shown at City Screen Picturehouse on Sunday, June 11 at 11am.

Nichols’ kaleidoscope of post-Brexit Britain unearths parallel traumas in public and private lives while simultaneously anticipating a rediscovery of the radical transforming spirit of 1945 in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

For more information and bookings, visit:

Here CharlesHutchPress discusses all things Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild with Navigators Art co-founder and artist Richard Kitchen

How did you hit on the tripartite format for this event, Richard?

“Originally, we envisaged an exhibition based on York Art Gallery’s Treasures From The Store collection of rarely seen art works, hence our title Hidden Treasures. Our artists would reinterpret some of those works in their own way to suit the festival theme of Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild. We also planned a performance art, music and movement event to take place in the gallery itself.

“We were very pleased that York Explore offered to host the exhibition as we’d been wanting to show something there for some time. As it happened, the gallery said they’d be in mid-changeover so we had to change tack. We expanded the brief beyond York Art Gallery to include works of literature and physical aspects of York itself.

“This will also be the basis for the performance event, which will now be on stage in The Basement at City Screen. Again, the performers have created new work based on a rediscovery of something unfamiliar about York that inspired them.

“The film came along a little later and although it isn’t based on York it is very much about rediscovering aspects of the past and how they inform the present both personally and politically.”

How did the partnership with York Festival of Ideas come to fruition?

“I’ve always enjoyed the festival and its range of events. I wanted Navigators to be involved to round off our first 15 months of activity. This year’s theme appealed, so I drafted a proposal for our involvement, which they accepted. We’re very proud to be part of it and they’ve been very accommodating of changes we’ve had to make as our plans developed.”

How does the festival theme of Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild resonate with the aims of Navigators Art & Performance?

“In all sorts of ways! Variously, our artists have rebuilt careers, reinvented themselves and how they work, and pursued new directions in life as well as art.

“As a group we’ve achieved extraordinary things from very little. Having no physical studio to work in and no funding, we’ve had to seek out places in which to show our work.

“The StreetLife project, in Coney Street, was a milestone for us and helped put us in the centre of artistic activity in York. I think we’ve shown people how much can be done with imagination and enterprise.

“It’s been about giving ourselves permission to do something when no-one else will. I’d say that has positive implications for society and how it might change for the better.”

York band The Corsairs: Playing the Living Treasures bill at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse on June 10

York is full of hidden treasures! Is that an inevitable problem for a city so rich in history or a joy when such a treasure is put on show and prompts an artistic response?

“Not a problem at all, unless the focus (and public funding) is always on the same high-profile things. Art and culture in this city are alive and well and there’s a lot going on, but it’s not all about tourist attractions and the well-heeled establishment.

“Anything that communicates beyond the heritage trail, makes an impact on the average resident and encourages all levels of society to engage with creative activity is a blessing. Our group seeks out and celebrates the less obvious and tries to make such things more accessible and better appreciated.”

Who put together the June 10 event. How were the Living Treasures acts chosen?

“Some of them appeared last November at our Coney St Live Jam event for StreetLife and impressed us enough to ask them back. We knew they’d be able to come up with new work based on the themes and we’ve given them more space this time to show what they can do.

“One of them actually chose themselves: The Corsairs cheekily advertised in our visitors’ book last December and I liked their attitude. They turned out to be a very exciting discovery. Then we reached out to a few writing and other creative groups to encourage under-represented performers to get involved.”

How did you discover the film There’s Another Country?

“It’s directed by one of my oldest friends, Martin Nichols. After many years exploring familial and social issues in writing and film, he’s found the perfect vehicle for his concerns. It’s highly original in style and while moving and beautiful, it’s also highly critical, irreverent and angry.”

What would a York version of that film look like?

“It’s not ‘about’ any particular place. Its range of reference encompasses a 1913 Welsh mining village, the Second World War, a suburban town in the 1970s and recent anti-government demonstrations in London. It’s pretty universal. A York version would just have the Minster in the background!”

What’s next for Navigators Art?

“We’ll be compiling our next collection of pictures and words for the York Zine Fest in July. We’ll have a spot at the York River Art Market in August and then a short and well-deserved rest before our next show at Micklegate and Fossgate Socials. Nothing concrete for next year as yet but we’re already getting involved in some major plans.”

Navigators Art & Performance: the back story

ESTABLISHED in 2019, this group of York creatives has expanded to a collective of 12 artists, writers, performers, musicians and a composer.

Their mission is to work with community groups and projects, to enhance and creatively interpret their activities for as wide an audience as possible.

In January 2023 they completed a three-month residency at the StreetLife hub in Coney Street, York, presenting a large-scale exhibition and a charity fundraising performance.

They encourage enquiries from potential collaborators, particularly those who are less established or underrepresented, via; likewise head that way for sales and commissions.

Keep an eye on Navigators Art on Instagram and Facebook at: @navigatorsart.

Detail of interior window, Huntington, by Richard Kitchen, from the Navigators Art exhibition at York Explore Library and Archive

UPDATE: 12/6/2023: What was the reaction to Living Treasures and There’s Another Country?

“WE have had the most extraordinary weekend,” says Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen. “Mark Nichols’ film, a kaleidoscope of post-Brexit Britain, generated a passionate discussion with the audience at City Screen Picturehouse.

“Saturday’s Living Treasures in The Basement at City Screen sold out. The performers were tremendous and the more experimental improvised pieces involving musicians from very different backgrounds, ages and experiences worked superbly well.

“The audience loved it and we’ve been offered a regular spot at The Basement. We actually have plans for a fluid Navigators ‘big band’ to work up some pieces for performance, such as ambient pieces, songs, spoken-word interactions and experimental collaborations.

“It felt very special and inspiring and perhaps the beginning of a unique venture in York.”

Navigators Art collective explores visions, surrealism and the subconscious mind in Dream Time exhibition at City Screen

Detail of textile art by Katie Lewis, from Navigators Art’s Dream Time exhibition at City Screen Picturehouse

YORK collective Navigators Art’s Dream Time exhibition at City Screen Picturehouse, York, takes inspiration from dreams, visions, surrealism and the mysteries and fantasies of the subconscious mind.

Part One is on show in the upstairs gallery from this week, joined by Part Two from March 19 in the café bar, where the official opening event with drinks will be held from 7.30pm to 9.30pm that night.

Dream Time’s mixed-media show features painting by Steve Beadle and Peter Roman; collage, prints and drawing by Richard Kitchen; photography and painting by Nick Walters and textiles by Katie Lewis.

Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen says: “We’re pleased to return to City Screen after our Moving Pictures show there this time last year.

“Since then, the group has quadrupled in number to cover our three-month residency at the StreetLife Hub, in Coney Street, and now includes musicians and other performers.”

Richard adds: “Not all of us are involved in this show as we have several other events to look forward to this year. A couple of us have individual exhibitions coming up too. There’s a limit to how much work anyone can make!

“All the artists taking part have interpreted the Dream Time theme in different ways and through different media.”

A selection of Navigators Art artworks on display at City Screen, York

Navigators Art & Performance is a 16-piece collective of York artists, writers, musicians and performers with a wide range of age, experience and practice. Founded in 2019, the collective’s mission is to work with community groups and projects, to enhance and creatively interpret their activities for as wide an audience as possible.

In 2022, Navigators Art curated the art for York Theatre Royal’s Takeover Festival, then took over the basement of the government-funded StreetLife Hub project for the Coney Street Jam exhibition from October 2022 to January 2023.

“We’ve just finished exhibiting our Moving Pictures 2 show at Helmsley Arts Centre, and we’ll be part of York Festival of Ideas in June, presenting art and performance events at York Explore Library and other venues,” says Richard.

“We’re always seeking interesting venues in which to show and sell work by our members to the public. Our shows feature drawing, painting, collage, projection, sculpture, 3D constructions, photography, prints, textiles and sound installations, as well as words by our writers and music by our resident composer, Dylan Thompson.

“Our artists have had work featured in exhibitions and publications both online and actual, and several have been selected for York Open Studios.”

Navigators Art has mentored several emerging young artists too. “We encourage enquiries from potential collaborators, particularly those who are less established or underrepresented, and who have no regular platform for displaying work,” says Richard, who can be contacted via

Navigators Art presents Dream Time at City Screen Picturehouse, St Martin’s Courtyard, Coney Street, York, until April 21. The exhibition is open daily from approximately 11am until the end of the day’s last film screening.

The poster for Navigators Art’s Dream Time show and launch night event

Navigators Art artists follow up Coney Street intervention with Helmsley Arts Centre and City Screen shows

Ana Alisia, Big Issue Seller, by Peter Roman, from the Navigators Art exhiibition at StreetLife

YORK collective Navigators Art will conclude the extended run of their mixed-media exhibition at StreetLife’s project hub in Coney Street, York, on Sunday.

The 13 artists taking part in Coney St Jam: An Art Intervention will hold a sale of works on Saturday, when artists will be on site to meet visitors from 11am to 5pm.

Meanwhile, seven Navigators Art artists are exhibiting at Helmsley Arts Centre from this week to March 4 in a follow-up to last spring’s City Screen Picturehouse exhibition, Moving Pictures, and a further exhibition is to be held at City Screen from March 19 to April 22.

Drawing inspiration from the city’s rich heritage and vibrant creative communities, the StreetLife project explores new ways to revitalise and diversify Coney Street, York’s premium shopping street but one blighted with multiple empty premises.

In a creative response to Coney Street’s past, present and future, Navigators Art have made new work designed to enhance and interpret StreetLife’s research for a project involving the University of York, City of York Council, Make It York, My City Centre, York Civic Trust, York Music Venues Network and Thin Ice Press.

On show are paintings, drawings, collages, photography, textiles, projections, music, poetry and 3D work. Entry to the exhibition space is accessible by one set of stairs. 

Taking part are Steve Beadle, figurative painting and drawing; Michael Dawson, mixed-media painting; Alfie Fox, creative photography; Alan Gillott, architectural and scenic photography; Oz Hardwick, creative photography, and Richard Kitchen, collage, abstract drawing, prints and poetry.

So too are Katie Lewis, textiles; Tim Morrison, painting and constructions; Peter Roman, figurative painting; Amy Elena Thompson, prints and tattoos; Dylan Thompson, composer; Simon AG Ellwood, sculptures, and Nick Walters, painting, video and sculpture.

“The arts are essential to public, cultural and personal wellbeing, despite efforts to ignore, undermine, underfund and generally devalue them to a shocking and highly unintelligent extent,” says Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen.

“The arts should be central to every decision-making process in government and to education at every level.

Artwork by Amy Elena Thompson at StreetLife, Coney Street, York

“In the times we’re living through, we need creative solutions on a gigantic scale, and we need the sheer energy of the arts to help us survive and adapt. Those things aren’t going to be provided by bureaucracy or petty squabbling between political parties.

“I’d say give artists the kudos they deserve and let us help to turn things around. Pay us. Give us space to work in: let us use those empty buildings! Art isn’t just about old monuments. There are many living artists in York who could successfully take on social responsibilities because of the nature of what they do. We’re an asset to the city and should be valued and promoted as such.”

Richard continues: “Make Coney Street a flagship enclave for creatives and independent small retailers and an affordable, inspiring resource for the public to enjoy.

“That’s something we provided when we were based at Piccadilly [Piccadilly Pop Up] and we came to realise more and more how much that environment meant to people and benefited them. Offer that on a much wider scale and we’ll see real change for the better in society.”

Mixed-media artist Michael Dawson’s work is an homage to “all the words that poured out of Coney Street”, conjured since his move from Edinburgh to York last January. “I generally make dense, vibrant paintings and images on paper, wood, and canvas with mixed media, mainly acrylic and oil paint sticks,” he says.

“They often combine expressionistic, graphic and romantic elements that may be considered ‘outsider’ in style. Some are simple in layout, and some are busy and complex, but all have an air of the confessional; they are deeply personal.

“However raw the composition, I do always strive to bring poetry and aesthetics to the mix. My connection to the theme of ‘printing’ is ‘words’; words that once sprang from the Yorkshire Herald newspaper and words that continue to help define a new era for the area.” 

Peter Roman likes to “use everything” in his works, not only oils, acrylics, pastels and charcoal, but even a repurposed cupboard door and a chipboard for his painting of Big Issue seller Ana Alisia.

“It features the issue I bought from her that day, using paper from that edition, the one with Alan Ayckbourn on the front,” says Peter.

“Ana is always on the corner of Coney Street and Market Street, and she’s there pretty much every day. I moved out to Elvington three years ago, but when I come into York, she’s still there, and she’s always smiling.

“When I talked to her, she told me she’s originally from Rumania and now lives in Leeds.”

Torrents Willow Herald Speak, by Mike Dawson

Amy Elena Thompson, who studied illustration at York St John University, is presenting prints and tattoo designs rooted in the history of the now-demolished George Inn at Number 19, Coney Street, where Charlotte and Anne Bronte once stayed.

“I was interested in seeing how I could use designs from there in my own practice, given how decorative they were and how similar they were to tattoos, which I’m hoping to get into as a career, starting with an apprenticeship, working with a tattooist as my mentor to pass on the necessary knowledge.”

Amy’s research led her to learning about an artist who provided illustrations for coaching inns, depicting both the buildings and the life on the street.

Favouring 3D designs in her work, Amy uses calligraphy pens. “You have to think about the pressure you apply with them, like you do with a tattoo, but it gives  a natural flow to each work.”

Participating in the Moving Pictures II show at Helmsley Arts Centre are Kai Amafé, prints and 3D work; Steve Beadle, paintings and drawings; Michael Dawson, paintings; Richard Kitchen, prints and collages; Katie Lewis, textiles and paintings; Timothy Morrison, constructions, and Peter Roman, paintings.

“The title Moving Pictures is deliberately open to interpretation by the audience as well as the artists,” says Richard.

“Looking ahead, we hope to be working with York Archaeology in 2023 and are planning a series of themed events in and around the city.”

Coney St Jam: An Art Intervention by Navigators Art, at StreetLife Project Hub, 29-31 Coney Street, York, is open 10am to 5pm, Thursday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm, Sunday. Free entry.

Navigators Art’s Moving Pictures II exhibition runs at Helmsley Arts Centre until March 3; open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10am to 3pm; Thursdays, 11am to 3pm, as well as during event opening times. Artist Richard Kitchen will be stewarding an 11am to 3pm opening on Sunday, January 15. Admission is free.

Navigators Art’s art intervention Coney St Jam goes on show at StreetLife project hub

A collage of artwork from Navigators Art’s Coney St Jam: An Art Intervention exhibition at StreetLife’s project hub in Coney Street, York

TWELVE artists from York collective Navigators Art are opening their mixed-media exhibition at StreetLife’s project hub in Coney Street, York, this evening (17/10/2022).

Drawing inspiration from the city’s rich heritage and vibrant creative communities, the project explores new ways to revitalise and diversify Coney Street, York’s premium shopping street but one blighted with multiple empty premises.

In a creative response to Coney Street’s past, present and future, Navigators Art have made new work for StreetLife, designed to enhance and interpret its research, under the title Coney St Jam: An Art Intervention.

On show from today to November 19 will be painting, drawing, collage, photography, textiles, projections, music, poetry and 3D work. Entry to the exhibition space is accessible by one set of stairs. 

Taking part are: Steve Beadle, figurative painting and drawing; Michael Dawson, mixed-media painting; Alfie Fox, creative photography; Alan Gillott, architectural and scenic photography; Oz Hardwick, creative photography, and Richard Kitchen, collage, abstract drawing, prints and poetry.

So too are: Katie Lewis, textiles; Tim Morrison, painting and constructions; Peter Roman, figurative painting; Amy Elena Thompson, prints and tattoos; Dylan Thompson, composer, and Nick Walters, painting, video and sculpture.

A painting by Nick Walters at Navigators Art’s Coney St Jam show

Here, CharlesHutchPress puts questions to Navigators Art co-founder, artist and poet Richard Kitchen.

How did the exhibition come about?

“I heard talk of this project rather belatedly in April this year. After our Moving Pictures show at City Screen and providing art for York Theatre Royal’s Takeover Festival, I was looking for a community project the group could really get to grips with and actively support.

“I rather cheekily offered our services to the StreetLife project leaders and, after a bit of convincing, they agreed to let us devise an exhibition for them.”

What relationship have you established with StreetLife?

“A very good one. They were a bit wary at first, as we hadn’t been part of the initial set-up, but we convinced them we were genuinely interested in the project and wanted to interpret and enhance their research and findings creatively for a wider audience. That’s one of our missions as Navigators Art. This isn’t just another art exhibition!

“They’ve been really helpful with practical arrangements, allocated us a budget and agreed to let us put on an evening of live performance in aid of the homeless to mark the end of the show on November 19. That’s going to be very exciting.”

Torrents (Willow Herald Speak), by Michael Dawson, from Coney St Jam

In turn, what relationship have you established with project participants University of York, City of York Council, Make It York, My City Centre, York Civic Trust, York Music Venues Network and Thin Ice Press?

“The project leaders are all from the university, so we’ve got to know them, and also Bethan [cultural development manager Bethan Gibb-Reid] at Make It York. We’re not directly involved with the other agents as such, but we’re all part of the same enterprise and hopefully we can continue to develop existing relationships and make new ones.

“Collaboration is what we’re all about, now and in the future. Making project-specific and even site-specific work has been a very positive creative challenge, from which we’ve all learnt something, and we’re looking forward to further opportunities.”

How do you foresee the future of Coney Street?

“It’s in an interesting state of flux. I can’t speak for the StreetLife project itself or even fellow artists, but personally I regret that a future seems securable only through the involvement of giant property developers.

“I wish a more grassroots solution could be sought and found. But the Helmsley Group’s plans are on show to all at the StreetLife hub in Coney Street and there are public feedback forms by way of consultation.

“It looks positive enough, with provision for new green spaces and so on; I just hope it’s not all about financial interest at the expense of those who live here, or about economics over culture and wellbeing. Naturally, I’d love to see a cheap, Bohemian cultural quarter there, but I doubt that’s top of the agenda!

“Whatever the plans, serious thought needs to be given to social issues such as the question of accessibility. If the street is to be traffic-free, it also has to be accessible to all. The present system of bollards means that some people are unable to use the street at all. That doesn’t make sense.”

An exhibit by Tim Morrison, purveyor of paintings and constructions

How much should the past of Coney Street feed into its future?

“Its past was very much involved with the river, and future plans include developing the river area as a public space and retying lost connections between the river and the street in general. The thriving, lively street of yore is a model for what it may become again. And no future is sustainable without a foundation in history.

“The past can be celebrated and kept alive. It doesn’t have to be enshrined as a museum piece; certainly not one that people have to pay to enjoy! That’s something artists can offer.

Who should be taking the lead in envisioning the future? Looking at that list of who’s involved already, how do you establish joined-up thinking?

“That’s a question for them rather than us, I think. We’re only putting up some pictures! But all walks of life and all sectors should be having an equal say. I don’t think any of those groups is acting independently of the others. There is consultation, including with the developers.”

Where do the arts and art fit into that future?

“The arts are essential to public, cultural and personal wellbeing, despite efforts to ignore, undermine, underfund and generally devalue them to a shocking and highly unintelligent extent. The arts should be central to every decision-making process in government and to education at every level.

“In the times we’re living through, we need creative solutions on a gigantic scale and we need the sheer energy of the arts to help us survive and adapt. Those things aren’t going to be provided by bureaucracy or petty squabbling between political parties.

Ana Alisia, Big Issue Seller, by Peter Roman

“I’d say give artists the kudos they deserve and let us help to turn things around. Pay us. Give us space to work in: let us use those empty buildings! Art isn’t just about old monuments. There are many living artists in York who could successfully take on social responsibilities because of the nature of what they do. We’re an asset to the city and should be valued and promoted as such.

“Make Coney Street a flagship enclave for creatives and independent small retailers and an affordable, inspiring resource for the public to enjoy. That’s something we provided when we were based at Piccadilly [Piccadilly Pop Up] and we came to realise more and more how much that environment meant to people and benefited them. Offer that on a much wider scale and we’ll see real change for the better in society.”

What else is coming up for Navigators Art? Are you any closer to finding a new home?

“From January to March next year, some of us will be exhibiting at Helmsley Arts Centre, and we’ll be at City Screen again in March and April. We may be involved with Archaeology York’s Roman dig next year too.

“We’re eager to take on future community projects and commissions. We’re all artists in our own right but collectively we’re about much more than making and selling. We want to make a difference to the city and its people.

“We’ve grown from being just Steve Beadle and myself in 2020 to a trio last spring with Tim Morrison, and now we’re 12, including writers and musicians, as well as visual artists. The group is fluid, though, and we won’t all be involved in every venture. Some will come and go, others will join.

“Many of us have jobs and families and we’ve all worked on this show voluntarily, but I think we can continue to match the size of the group to the size of the project. Clearly, we’re not going to find one home for all and that’s fine. It would be wonderful to have a studio identity but we don’t have the funds for it at the moment.

Cavern, by Richard Kitchen, from Navigatgors Art’s show in Coney Street, York

“Others are welcome to join us any time. Steve and I want to develop the other strand of Navigators Art’s mission statement, which we started at Piccadilly Pop Up last year: to mentor young and under-represented emerging artists. Not everyone at Piccadilly shared that vision but I think we’re better prepared to do it now.

“Apart from anything else, we’d like to shake things up a bit culturally for ourselves. The initial longlist for Coney St Jam artists was quite diverse, but for health-related and other reasons we’ve ended up with a bunch of mostly white males. We’re working on that!”

Coney St Jam: An Art Intervention by Navigators Art, at StreetLife Project Hub, 29-31 Coney Street, York, opening tonight, 6pm to 8pm; then 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, except Wednesdays; 11am to 4pm, Sundays. Free entry.

Free tickets for tonight can be booked via

A live performance event on November 19, from 7pm to 10pm, will mark the end of the show.

What is StreetLife?

FUNDED by the UK Government Community Renewal Fund, StreetLife explores new ways to revitalise and diversify Coney Street, drawing inspiration from York’s history, heritage and creative communities and involving businesses, the public and other stakeholders in shaping the future of the high street.

The project is led by the University of York, in partnership with City of York Council, including Make It York/My City Centre, York Civic Trust, York Music Venues Network and creative practitioners, such as Thin Ice Press.

The poster for Navigators Art’s art intervention at StreetLife

Exit Piccadilly Pop Up, but Navigators Art gains new momentum with Moving Pictures exhibition at City Screen. What next?

Cillian Murphy’s Thomas Shelby, from Peaky Blinders, by Steve Beadle in Navigators Art’s Moving Pictures exhibition at City Screen Picturehouse, York

WELCOME to the next chapter in the story of Navigators Art, the York group of artists that found a temporary home at the Piccadilly Pop Up Collective studios and gallery in the old York tax office.

Given notice to vacate the expansive HRMC building in Piccadilly by December 28, to enable redevelopment to start, they have ridden the blow they always knew was coming by mounting an exhibition in the café and on the first-floor corridor gallery at the City Screen Picturehouse in Coney Street until April 15.

For their first post-lockdown project, two founder Navigators, Steve Beadle and Richard Kitchen, have invited fellow artist and teacher Timothy Morrison to join them in the Moving Pictures: From Fan Art To Fine Art exhibition.

Presumably that show title is a nod to films being moving pictures, Richard? “Of course!” he says. “And that’s why we’re glad City Screen wanted us to show there. But the title is deliberately ambiguous, and we’ve responded to it accordingly. There are works that relate to cinema and other media but also many of them interpret ‘Moving’ in other ways.”

That Old Devil Moon, collage, by Richard Kitchen

“Moving” has always been part of Kitchen and Beadle’s artistic endeavours, first as part of a group of MA student artists at York St John University that set up Navigators Art in 2019. Then, as postgraduates, they worked at The Malthouse, the studios and social space set up in a derelict warehouse in The Crescent in November 2019, and latterly at Piccadilly Pop Up, where they exhibited as part of a team and initiated community engagements, such as mentoring young emerging artists from York College.

“Now, the redevelopment of Piccadilly has prompted us to look to resurrect Navigators as a channel for making and showing work,” says Richard, who has taught literature and theatre in Britain and Spain, as well as pursuing his cross-disciplinary artistic practice, fuelled by drawings, paintings, photography and poetry.

“My collage work is influenced by the impact of time, nature and people on the environment,” he says. “It finds value in the unloved and the discarded and suggests we can make sense of a world in crisis – and perhaps re-make it, better – by editing together fragments of experience that offer us hope.”

Richard should have been exhibiting elsewhere in April but the exit from the Piccadilly premises brought him an additional consequence. “I was selected for York Open Studios 2022 but I was later disqualified because we lost the studios in December and the York Open Studios admin team said it was too late to find me another space,” he says.

When it was beautiful: Marcelo Bielsa in his now-terminated days at Leeds United, by Steve Beadle

Nevertheless, the Moving Pictures show gives him an April window, alongside Hull artist Steve Beadle, who pursued a more abstract direction while studying Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan and York St John University but has returned to a more familiar portrait and figurative style, inspired by characters in the films and popular entertainment that inspired him to make art in the first place. 

Based in York, he works in oil, gouache, watercolour and pencil, creating framed originals and prints and framed originals, and he is always available for portrait commissions.

Moving Pictures’ third artist, Timothy Morrison, has exhibited widely across the UK and in Schleswig Holstein and his work is in the collection of the V&A Museum, London. In 2011-2012, he curated the ArchitekturalReinstallationestival festival at various sites in York. At City Screen, he is exhibiting two “Modern Altarpieces”.

“Art is the religion, and they are ideal for private devotion in the home,” he says, describing works that display a narrative of travel, enlightenment, longing, memory, central urban experiences, metro systems, Magnetic Fields (Champs Magnétiques) and constructivism. “The pictures can’t move, but our eyes and thoughts can,” he propounds.

Modern Altarpieces, by Timothy Morrison, inviting “private devotion” in the cafe at City Screen

Delighted to be exhibiting at City Screen, Steven says: “The café  wall is wonderful; that old brick. Very textural, very organic. Bigger works in particular benefit from being displayed there.

“The upstairs gallery is a more traditional white-wall area, ideal for smaller pieces as you can get right up close. Some of our work rewards a look at the details. We were lucky to be offered both spaces at the same time, which is quite unusual, especially as it coincides with the York Open Studios season.”

Looking ahead, Richard and Steven hope to open up the Navigators Art group to others and to establish a fluid collective of artists, writers and other creatives. 

“We encourage enquiries from potential collaborators, particularly those who are less established and have no regular platform for displaying work,” says Steven. “Navigators can be found on Instagram and Facebook as @navigatorsart.”

Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, by Steve Beadle, in the Navigators Art show at City Screen

Richard adds: “We’re trying hard to forge ahead as a working unit after the disappointments of losing the Piccadilly studios and consequently York Open Studios too. The group is growing, and we’ll be curating the visual art aspect of York Theatre Royal’s Takeover week from May 9.

“After that, we’re thinking about a series of themed exhibitions featuring a variety of artists and disciplines and we’ll be seeking appropriate venues. We’d welcome suggestions and offers.

“We also want to revive Wordhoard, an event celebrating art and the spoken word, which Steve and I started when we were at The Malthouse studios but went on hold when Covid struck.”

Is there any likelihood of a new home for the artists that gathered in Piccadilly? “There is no news yet,” updates Richard. “We’d love to hear out of the blue that there’s a brilliant empty building just waiting for us! Please email

Brave New World, by Richard Kitchen

“Steve and I became the main motivators at Piccadilly in terms of community outreach, events and promotion. Some of the others weren’t really involved beyond their own interests, which undermined the collective ideal.

“When it came to an end, however unfortunate it was, it felt like the right time. However, we’d like to host some of the younger artists again who miss their studio space and can’t afford normal rent rates in York.

“It’s a thousand pities that a building like the former HRMC tax office that housed us can’t be taken over and maintained as a vibrant arts centre and community resource. That’s really what we’re after; that’s our ideal. Resources for residents!”

Over the two years at Piccadilly, each week’s artworks, whether painting, drawing and sculpture, or collage, murals, graffiti, street art and photography, went on public view on Saturday afternoons as part of a scheme run by the charity Uthink P.D.P.

The poster for Navigators Art’s Moving Pictures exhibition

“What we miss most, aside from the working space, is the interaction with visitors to the gallery on Saturdays,” says Richard. “For us, it wasn’t just a chance to sell our work. We came to realise that the true value of 23 Piccadilly was in what you couldn’t put a price on.

“Namely, the joy we gave to people who didn’t know what to expect; the safe place of escape and motivation we represented for the unfortunate and the down at heart; the inspiration we gave to other artists; the proof we provided of what can be achieved without money or other good fortune.

“Almost without knowing it, we took it beyond its initial premise and turned it into a very special environment with a part to play in people’s wellbeing and motivation as well as its cultural impact. That’s what we hope to continue to represent in this city and encourage in other creatives here and elsewhere.”

Navigators Art’s Moving Pictures exhibition runs at City Screen Picturehouse, York, until April 15. Admission is free.

Uthink Pop Up Piccadilly studios & gallery to close with final art events this weekend

Art attack: Shark, mural by Replete, at Piccadilly Pop Up, Piccadilly, York

THE Uthink Piccadilly Pop Up art studios and gallery must vacate their temporary premises in York,by the end of the month after being served notice by the re-developers.

In 2019, the charity Uthink PDP (People Developing People) took over York’s former tax office headquarters at 23, Piccadilly, when it was sold by City of York Council and began renting out space to York artists.

“Since August 2020, we’ve opened to the public every Saturday to showcase our work, give or take a plague or two,” says Richard Kitchen, one of Piccadilly Pop Up’s founders and artists.

“We now comprise 15 artists, including some who have exhibited elsewhere, some who have been selected for York Open Studios, a handful of young artists, from York College, on our mentoring programme, and a nationally renowned graffiti artist and muralist.

“Our work ranges from painting and drawing through abstract art and collage to photography, sculpture and installation. There’s even some poetry.”

To mark the “suddenness of the circumstances” behind the closure, Pop Up Piccadilly’s final events will be held this weekend to “celebrate all we have achieved during our tenancy”. On Saturday, public opening will be as usual, from 12 noon to 6pm; on Sunday, a festive market and extended art exhibition will run from 11am. Admission is free.

A morning-till-evening special exhibition, “commemorating our beloved building” with photographs, art, spoken-word contributions and possibly a sound installation or musical performance, was under discussion for December 21 but will not go ahead.

“We’d be very happy to see you this weekend, especially if you haven’t visited us before,” says Richard. “We were gaining quite a reputation for enterprise and innovation and were much loved and admired by many of our visitors.”  

Can Piccadilly Pop Up find permanent home rather than be a snap, crackle and pop-up?

Art attack: Shark, mural by Replete, at Piccadilly Pop Up, Piccadilly, York

EACH Saturday, Piccadilly Pop Up’s artists and writers at the old Tax Office at 23, Piccadilly, York, open up their shared studio as a gallery.

From 12 noon to 6pm, the public can view and buy paintings, drawings, graffiti, murals, fine art, sculpture, prints, postcards, collage and poetry. Entry is free, no ticket or booking is required, and Covid safety precautions are in place.

Piccadilly Pop Up is operating as part of Uthink PDP (People Developing People), a charity that is borrowing the building from City of Council until its redevelopment.

Uthink does all kinds of social work up and down the country, not least renting such premises to artists at affordable rates to help fund its activities.

Halloweenery, mixed-media collage, by Richard Kitchen

“Eventually, however, we will be given one month’s notice and lose our studios,” says Richard Kitchen, one of the pop-up founders and artists. “Suitable premises are increasingly hard to fin​d, let alone afford, both despite and also because of the amount of redevelopment going on in the city.

“Many artists in York have private means, but what about those who don’t? Some of us at Piccadilly Pop Up work there full time, the complication being that we do not necessarily make ‘commercial’ work, yet depend on sales to make a living. 

“Our angle is that living artists are a vibrant part of the cultural attraction of York and should be valued and nurtured. We feel the council would benefit from providing for creatives who show initiative and enterprise as part of the city’s resources. Artists are an asset!”

Ey Tony, mural, by Patrick Dalton

After that rallying call, CharlesHutchPress felt compelled to pop down questions aplenty for Richard [@richardkitchenart] on the present and hopefully the future of Pop Up Piccadilly as he seeks to address what he calls “an imbalance in the council’s priorities”.

When did Piccadilly Pop Up start and who has been the driving force?

“The charity Uthink PDP moved into the vacant former Tax Office at 23 Piccadilly two years ago, putting on a photographic exhibition and some workshops and renting studio space in the building to artists until its redevelopment.

“Since then, quite a few artists have joined and some have gone, mainly due to Covid. Now there are four core artists working there, who have been running the Saturday open days off and on since August 2020.

Bare Bones, ink and watercolour, by Steve Beadle

“We’re a team. Steve Beadle and I look after promotion, publicity and networking; Terry Aaron takes on the upkeep of the building and Patrick Dalton designs our flyers and posters. Some tasks require more time than others, but it takes everyone to make it work.”

How long do you have left at the former Tax Office before needing to move elsewhere?

“All we know is that at some point we will be given one month’s notice to clear out. Uthink took over the premises from the council on a temporary basis but it has now been sold to developers.”

Despite being a pop-up, will the aim be to have a permanent base?

“We hope so. It’s as permanent as possible in Piccadilly although sadly it can’t be permanently permanent. The name was chosen because Uthink often do pop-ups in various cities and we weren’t sure how long we’d be there.

Will Whittington’s corridor mural at Piccadilly Pop Up

“It sounds a bit lightweight, but people know us by that name now, so it’s better not to change it until we have to move. We open the entire first floor as a public gallery every Saturday.”

How may an artist become involved in Piccadilly Pop-Up?

“Most of the display space is spoken for right now, certainly the walls. We make a lot of work and some of it’s quite big! We have a couple of students from York St John helping out on Saturdays and they also have some pieces on show. One will be renting studio space with us too.

“We do show work by guest artists sometimes and we like to encourage people and make new connections, so the best thing would be to get in touch and enquire via”

Portrait, from a photo series, by Gary Pate

How many artists are involved at present?

“Eight people work and/or exhibit there, including the four core members. Between us, we produce a wide range of work: painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, murals, graffiti, street art, photography, prints and even poetry and history books!!”

What is the mission statement of Piccadilly Pop Up?

“As well as supporting Uthink’s own practice, I’d say our mission is to enhance cultural life in the city, to promote art as a living, relevant force and to make it accessible to as wide a range of people as possible.

“By doing that, we’re not only providing entertainment and stimulus but also contributing to people’s wellbeing and positive outlook in terms of mental health and social values. We’re showing what can be achieved when a creative, community-minded enterprise takes over a space that is otherwise going to waste. We’re setting an example for others to follow.

The Natrix, oil painting, by The Medicine Man

Who is involved in the Uthink PDP charity? 

“PDP stands for People Developing People. Uthink started as a charity in 2012, giving opportunities to disadvantaged young people and the homeless to encourage and enable them to find their feet.

“Among other good works, it takes over buildings like ours and rents studio space to local artists at affordable rates. It started operating in York in July 2019.

“Gary Pate is the managing director and our main contact. We’re privileged to be part of such a generous, forward-thinking, grassroots organisation and proud to contribute to its work. We give Uthink a percentage of any sales we make.”

Clown Girls, monoprint, by Molly Owen

How will you make your case to City of York Council for premises for York artists?  Sadly, Bar Lane Studios have closed, but PICA Studios run from Grape Lane and Westside Artists have formed a collective, with Southlands Methodist Church as a fulcrum. What would suit you best to complement these studio spaces?

“These are our thoughts at the moment: Uthink rents out studio space at deliberately affordable rates, which means we can make the work we want to make without necessarily bowing to commercialism.

“The irony is that we tend to sell a lot less than other galleries, partly because our work differs from what one normally sees in York galleries and pop-ups, and partly because Piccadilly – at least beyond Spark: York – is slightly off the beaten track, unless you’re a Wetherspoons client!

“So, it’s all a bit ‘Catch 22’. We’re quite unique in that, unlike many artists in York and elsewhere, most of us do not have private means or other jobs and cannot afford the rents that other places charge. We aren’t ‘weekend artists’.

Tree, gouache and watercolour, by Steve Beadle

“Two of us do a dedicated 9-till-5 stint (or more) at the studio every day and one often works late at night, but it’s all unpaid. We either compromise and make stuff to sell – the production line of making variations on what you know is popular – or we stay true to ourselves, value our integrity and creativity, and risk getting nothing in return.

“It’s not that the work is weird or bad or ‘difficult’, far from it, but it isn’t mainstream. I’d say we’re a very interesting place to visit for that reason and we should appeal to a wider audience than regular gallery-goers, but because of our location it’s not that easy to attract visitors.”

The solution is…?

“Could City of York Council develop the mindset to see artists like us as assets to the city and its cultural appeal? We think we can contribute a lot to a positive experience of the city for both tourists and residents.

Needle, spray paint on board, by Replete at Piccadilly Pop Up

“With all the development going on and what many residents see as an emphasis on money-making and tourism at the expense of much else, could a few buildings be earmarked by the council for use by artists, at least temporarily?

“At the moment, organisations such as Uthink and Blank Canvas find such places when they can and charge what they feel is appropriate, but there are surely more opportunities out there.

“If it were an initiative on the part of the council to offer premises to genuinely needy and enterprising artists at rock-bottom rates, there would be so many vibrant things going on. Why not promote art as a living, thriving, meaningful cultural force in the city that can enhance being in York for residents as well as visitors?”

Over to you, City of York Council. Pass on the baton, not the buck.

In Memory Of Ken, detail from a collage by Richard Kitchen

Here are the key Instagram links for the Piccadilly Pop Up enterprise: