Street art celebrates York's aviation history on Piccadilly

The exterior of Spark:York has been given a makeover this week with renowned street artists, The Paintsmiths completing 2 murals which celebrate the history of the site, as well as the bright future of this once neglected part of town.

Jack Dones and Tom Sledmore both have degree's in fine art and are based in Bristol, the centre of the UK street art scene, although Tom is originally from York.

For Tom, returning to paint in York is a big step. While many cities around the world have embraced street art in their public spaces, York has so far resisted this increasingly popular art form. With the exception of a piece by Defer and Big Sleeps on Little Stonegate, and a handful of independent businesses with commissioned pieces by Miss Hazard, there are no public large-scale pieces in the city centre. 


The brief for the right hand mural was to celebrate the history of the site that many York residents know as the old Reynards Garage site. Many don't realise that well-known author Nevil Shute was also a talented aeronautical engineer who once had a business called Airspeed Ltd which designed and built aircraft on this site. Shute and his business partners took over the disused tram shed in 1931, producing gliders and then the Airspeed Ferry, a three-engined, ten passenger biplane. The mural celebrates this brief but important period of aviation history.

The left hand mural celebrates the future. It includes a starting gun and is bursting with colour and positivity.


Nevil Shute once described York's attitude to aviation as 'rather backward'. We strongly believe that attitudes in York are more visionary these days. Spark:York offers a place for modern entrepreneurs to start their businesses, flourish and expand. We like to think Nevil Shute would approve. And while street art isn't everyone's cup of Yorkshire tea - as the American artist Andres Serrano once said, “Any reaction is better than indifference”.

Video: Artist Tom Sledmore talks to us about the murals.

Sam Leach