Bombsquad collective to launch graffiti and street art show Rise Of The Vandals at disused office block in Low Ousegate

Inkie’s work Rise Of The Vandals, on show at 2, Low Ousegate, York

YORK art collective Bombsquad will launch Rise Of The Vandals, a celebration of the city’s street art scene, in a disused office block at 2, Low Ousegate, on Saturday.

Spread over four floors in one of the tallest buildings in the city, the exhibition will showcase retrospective and contemporary spray paint culture, graffiti, street art and public art and will feature three galleries, a cinema room, an art shop and live DJs.

Rise Of The Vandals is the fourth project by the not-for-profit Bombsquad, whose aim is to “cut through the pretensions of commercial galleries, which often cater for privilege and affluence”, instead creating an experience that “enriches the city and connects its communities, while supporting York charities”.

Keith Hopewell: York graffiti artist and archivist

On show will be work by Yorkshire and international contemporary artists, featuring film, artefacts, site-specific installations and sculpture, plus works painted directly on walls and canvas.

One floor will explore the largely unseen history of York’s graffiti scene from the 1980s to the present-day street art scene, showcasing photography, video and press clippings from the exclusive archives of York-born graffiti artist and music producer Keith Hopewell (alias Part2ism), alongside his new work. 

James Prigoff visiting Keith Hopewell in York in June 1991. Prigoff, who died in April 2021, was an American photographer, author and lecturer, who focused on public murals, graffiti and spraycan art. Copyright: Keith Hopewell

“Those early years were purely explorative and identity defining,” recalls Keith. “There was no template to move beyond the mass transit art from New York City and no ‘street art’ careers on the table.

“The grassroots spray paint practice in the UK was largely developed using standard automotive car spray and home-made nozzles. Growing up in York gave me distance from the bigger cities to develop my skill sets and explore the use of spray paint and my creativity’.”

Vultures: Lincoln Lightfoot’s staircase mural artwork

Alongside Keith’s carefully curated historic collection, the exhibition floors will display elements of the wider UK graffiti and street art scene. Every interior wall of the disused building will be full to bursting point with visual art, while a film room will show rare and previously unshown footage of the early 1980s’ graffiti scene in York.

Prominent too will be 18 substantial canvasses by James Jessop, covering three decades of his work from his personal archives.

Unleashing a whirlwind of colour, imagination and storytelling, the event will highlight the internationally acclaimed talent of Hopewell, Jessop, Chu, Rowdy, Kid Acne, Remi Rough, Prefab77, SODA, Replete and Jo Peel (creator of the new wall mural near Severus Hill, in Holgate, York, by the way).

A street mural by Remi Rough

“The event will show the merging of artistic brilliance as this diverse group of artists, each bringing their own unique style and creative vision, pushes the boundaries of creativity to elevate your senses,” says Bombsquad’s Sharon McDonagh, one of the York Open Studios regulars participating in the show, along with Lincoln Lightfoot and Boxxhead.    

“The inspiration for Rise Of The Vandals originated as many of the artists exhibiting are now reflecting back on their contribution to highly influencing the movement over the last three to four decades, which needs to be documented and shared.

“Our event will provide an interactive and engaging experience with opportunities for visitors to engage with artists, learn about an alternative history within our city and explore a wide selection of art and merchandise in our fourth-floor shop with proceeds going to SASH.”

Pigeons: Sharon McDonagh’s staircase mural artwork

After raising funds for York Food Bank and York Mind from past shows, this year’s chosen charity is SASH (Safe and Sound Homes), a youth homeless organisation that offers emergency and longer-term housing to young people aged 16 to 25 across York, North and East Yorkshire when they have nowhere else to go.

Young people who work with the charity have been invited to exhibit work, prompting SASH fundraising officer Aimee Harding to say: “We are delighted and honoured to have been selected as Bombsquad’s chosen charity. Being involved in this event is a life-changing opportunity for our young people.

“As part of our SASH Enhancement Service, they are creating work for the event that will be showcased alongside world-renowned artists. Not only is it a fantastic experience for them but the vital funds raised from the event means SASH can help more young people in need who are facing homelessness”.

Box Work, by Boxxhead, on the staircase at 2, Low Ousegate

Rise Of The Vandals, four floors of galleries, a cinema room, resident DJ, plus guest DJs, wall art, installations and an art shop, at 2, Low Ousegate York. Opening times: Weekend 1, June 22 and 23, 11am to 6pm; Weekend 2, June 28 to 30, 11am to 6pm; Weekend 3, July 5 to 7, 11am to 6pm. Free entry; donations are encouraged. Dog friendly.

Who is taking part in Bombsquad’s Rise Of The Vandals?

THE featured artists will be: Kid Acne; Remi Rough; James Jessop; Keith Hopewell;  Nikki Goldup; Jo Peel; Soda; KMG; Lincoln Lightfoot; Inkie; Boxxhead; Real State; Rizak; Anonymouse; Coloquix; Prefab 77; Replete; Rowdy; Chu; Sola: Dan Cimmermann; 3 Dom; Acerone; Mul; Sharon McDonagh; Steve Bottrill; Michael Dawson; Jim McElvaney and Listen04.

Two James Jessop works on show in Rise Of The Vandals

Bombsquad: modus operand

“WE believe that art has the power to unite and transform lives,” says the York art collective.  “The key objective for us as a group is to grow the non-conventional art movement, resonating with a wider audience outside of the art world and beyond. 

“We endeavour to grow as an organisation, supporting artists and improving the landscape by way of murals and exhibitions within our community and to raise funds for our local charities. 

“With our grassroots and authentic approach, our core members bring decades of experience in the art world. We go far beyond our non-profit organisation status in that we take nothing away from funds raised during our events and contribute our time and self-fund at our own personal risk to ensure that these events are possible. 

A Speck Of Dust In The Cosmos, print, by Kid Acne, featuring in Bombsquad’s Rise Of The Vandals

“We are not controlled by anyone; we are non-conformists whose authenticity brings in the support of local businesses and artists who champion our cause. One of our York artists would summarise this as ‘Another world is possible’.”

Past Events  

June 2021: Tempting Fete, in June 2021. Free family-friendly outdoor spray art event in York, raising £1,327 over eight hours for York Food Bank.  

October 2022: Totally Hammered, charity art auction held in collaboration with Tennents Auctioneers. Thirty-seven artists contributed artworks to a ticketed fundraising party, raising  £20,000 for York Food Bank.  

Works by Mul and KMG, on show in Bombsquad’s Rise Of The Vandals

July 2023: Educated Vandals, on top two floors of disused office block on Low Ousegate, where internationally renowned artists and York artists were invited to produce wall art and exhibit art. Raised £11,753 for York Mind.

What is SASH?

SASH works to prevent youth homelessness across North and East Yorkshire, providing the Nightstop emergency accommodation placement service, where young people are placed with hosts for up to two weeks. 

SASH also provides a longer-term placement service, Supported Lodgings, with hosts for young people who cannot return home and cannot yet live independently.  

Style Stars in York in 1988, from Keith Hopewell’s archives

Ordinary citizens who are concerned about young people and homelessness apply to SASH to become hosts. They are assessed, DBS checked, trained and supported by the charity’s placement co-ordinators.

SASH says: “The young people we work with are often vulnerable. Our placement co-ordinators support them throughout their placement. Loneliness, poor mental health and self-esteem are all issues that can affect young people who have faced homelessness.

“Our enhanced support service provides additional support to vulnerable young people, helping them to break the cycle of homelessness and build a bright future for themselves.” 

All the young people that SASH works with are referred through councils and other local organisations after presenting as homeless.

Bombsquad’s poster for Rise Of The Vandals