‘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 https://bit.ly/nav-punkjazz

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

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 richkitch99@hotmail.com.

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’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 https://streetlifeyork.uk/events/coney-st-jam-navigators-art-exhibition-launch-and-press-night

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 navigatorsart@gmail.com.

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.

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 facebook.com/piccadillypopupart.”

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: