Film for Ships in the Sky project reveals incredible view of Boyson’s fish mural

SHIPS in the SKY · Alan Boyson’s Fish Mural from Esther Johnson on Vimeo.

“I’m working on a Ships in the Sky trailer for release later this autumn, but it feels a bit precious keeping something to ourselves that has been hidden from view since the 70’s. We’ve been working with Chris from OctoVision Media to get all kinds of drone footage before the building is demolished, but Boyson’s Fish are something really special, so I’ve made a teaser for the trailer, which we’ve now put on our website,” Hull filmmaker, Esther Johnson has said.

Close liaison with Hull City Council and plans to release a SHIPS in the SKY trailer later in the autumn resulted in Esther Johnson garnering another exclusive for the 2020 film, arts and exhibition project, along with insights into the way Alan Boyson’s Fish mural was originally intended to be sited in the building.

Johnson has had meetings with Hull City Council to set-up filming of the building and Alan Boyson’s three murals. The Council will set a date for that following completion of the asbestos removal – currently the second largest removal contract in the UK – and prior to demolition.

It was during these meetings that Hull City Council disclosed that severe rot of the wooden corridor structure – which spanned the length of the exterior of the concrete dome on the Jameson Street side – meant the corridor was unsafe. The corridor was demolished in August and the Fish mural carefully protected during the works. SHIPS in the SKY were told that the hand-made mural by Alan Boyson – comprising sixteen individually crafted ceramic fish swimming in a sea of reclaimed marble and terrazzo seaweed fronds – is in incredible condition.

Esther said of her working relationship with the Council: “They’ve been brilliant, as well as letting us know about the Fish mural so we could grab a unique opportunity to film it, Hull City Council have also provided us with unique materials which, just like the film footage, give us a one-off insight into the physical journey of this building. I’m very excited about getting into the building itself when asbestos removal is finally complete. It’s been a massive job.”

Further research by Esther and Christopher Marsden, the Alan Boyson expert, revealed that the Fish were originally envisaged as a decorative element for a rooftop balcony outside the Skyline Ballroom, and it was during the build which was somewhat organic in parts, that the balcony evolved into a corridor.

Alan Boyson’s Fish mural, revealed during demolition of the city centre building. OctoVision Drone for SHIPS in the SKY © SHIPS in the SKY/Blanche Pictures, September 2019.

Esther said: “The Fish were rediscovered by Chris Marsden in 2011 after being boxed in when the Skyline Ballroom became Bailey’s nightclub in the 70’s, but the nightclub was closed by then. It’s a privilege for this unique view to be part of the project after being hidden away for over 40 years.”

The ‘SHIPS in the SKY’ film trailer for the arts and oral history project will include a preview of Vicky Foster’s commissioned poetry for SHIPS in the SKY. Esther said: “Vicky is a true Hull voice, and we think people will be smitten with her work for the project; it’s a response to the building, murals and research we’ve gathered so far. She’s had unique access to our audio recordings and film footage, and we’re very excited about what she’s shown us so far.”

The www.shipsinthesky.weebly.com website will premiere the full trailer and other material later in 2019. An ever-evolving archive of the project, the project website is garnering an increasing national and local reputation. The British Library have selected the project’s online presence for the prestigious ‘UK Web Archive’.

“Archiving multimedia material is a relatively new means of capturing online libraries, as these collections are extremely vulnerable too,” Esther said. “We’re delighted the British Library have chosen SHIPS in the SKY to archive which means all the material we are amassing, both old and new, are secured for future generations and could potentially act as inspiration for future projects by other creatives and/or researchers.”

Johnson went on to say: “One of the reasons I’m making a trailer is to get across the scope of the project so that people understand how they can get involved. We’ve been working with Untold Hull to record people’s memories of the stores and nightclubs, and have well over seventy now, but we’d still like more and the trailer will be a great way of spreading the word. Anyone wanting to get in touch to share a memory or donate or loan memorabilia for our 2020 exhibition can get in touch via the website or our social media channels.”

[Leigh Bird – Ships in the Sky]