1 April – 8 October 2023   at Firstsite Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester, Essex.

Famed for his collaborations with prominent street artists from across the world, young artist Noah – AKA @background_bob – returns to Firstsite with a sensational new exhibition featuring not just amazing but some very famous friends…

Showcasing brand new works produced in collaboration with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Sir Grayson Perry, Joe Lycett and Phill Jupitus, this will be Noah’s third and final exhibition in the series. @background_bob and his amazing friends…back again! also features contributions from leading international street and graffiti artists, such as Mr Doodle, Shepard Fairey and Wrdsmith.

Ed Sheeran & Lyra

There are over 270 artworks on display, each with a background by Noah. Subjects include vibrant fantastical landscapes, intricate studies of animals and wildlife, portraits of legendary musicians, including Dave Grohl and David Bowie, plus several abstract pieces and portraits of @background_bob himself.

Alongside Noah’s trademark cardboard artworks, there are also sculptures, including a small robot-like figure created from household objects by Rust Bucket Workshop and aluminium can pieces created by Me Lata.

As ever, Noah aims to raise funds for Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity by auctioning his artworks after the show has closed. The inspiring Dedham youngster has already raised nearly £150,000 in total from his two previous exhibitions at Firstsite, in 2020 and 2021 respectively. 

Grayson Perry

The project began during the first COVID-19 lockdown, when Noah and his stepdad Nathan Jones began to amuse themselves at home with a selection of materials they had to hand, with Noah painting on A4-sized pieces of cardboard and Nathan using social media to invite artists and keyworkers to add their own design over one of the backgrounds Noah had created.

With the cardboard sheets easy and affordable to send and receive in the post, their ingenious idea became a hit, with over 240 artists from countries including the UK, Colombia, Italy, Spain, France, Sweden, Germany, the USA and Australia taking part in 2020 alone. The subsequent exhibition and auction raised close to £100,000; allowing Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity to build a new sensory garden at Colchester hospital.

Heath Kane

An astounding 700 artists then responded to Noah and Nathan’s 2021 invitation to collaborate with the scheme, with tattooists, sculptors and fine artists, creating a broad variety of exciting new pieces for the second Firstsite show.

To compliment @background_bob and his amazing friends…back again!, a catalogue featuring all the new artworks is available to purchase from the Firstsite shop, with proceeds from its sales to be equally shared between Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals Charity and Firstsite.

Nathan says: This project has been a total delight from start to finish. The love and support shown for Background Bob has been absolutely incredible and deeply heart-warming. As well as raising a huge sum of money for charity it has brought together the artistic community, now known as The Background Bob Family. Who would have known that such a simple idea would blossom so much and turn into a worldwide phenomenon, with our little boy in the driving seat! It has left a beautiful legacy for our family and friends.

Firstsite Director Sally Shaw MBE is delighted to welcome Noah back to the gallery: “We are very happy to be part of the project once again and present another incredible selection of artworks. Each time we have been inspired by the range of styles and subjects in Background Bob’s exhibitions, and once again we’re not disappointed! There really is something for everyone, and it’s a delight to see people choosing and discussing their favourites. Background Bob’s shows always create fascinating conversations and have a real sense of fun, which is what art is all about.

Jessica Iwaszkiewicz

“The Background Bob project epitomises Firstsite‘s vision and values. It’s about people from all around world, with many different backgrounds, circumstances, and points of view, connecting through creativity and celebrating the joy of making art. Artworks by international artists and internationally known figures like Ed Sheeran are alongside pieces by artists and contributors who have never exhibited publicly before. All creativity is equally valuable and should be celebrated. 

“Through this project, Noah and Nathan have changed lives – not only by inspiring anyone who experiences their exhibitions, but also through their fundraising. The sensory garden, and other projects the money raised have supported and will fund in the future, really do make a difference to people. It shows the power art has to make a positive change in our society, ultimately helping people to lead healthier and happier lives.”

Joe Lycett

Firstsite is a public contemporary art gallery in Colchester, making and showing exceptional art and culture that celebrates the diverse and radical people of East Anglia in order to empower all communities to be creative together and lead healthier and happier lives. In 2021, Firstsite celebrated the 10th anniversary of its spectacular crescent-shaped building, designed by award-winning Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, with a year of celebration projects and commissions which kicked off with The Great Big Art Exhibition.

Over the last ten years Firstsite has gained a strong, critical reputation, presenting ambitious work to be enjoyed by all in a fun and inclusive environment – culminating in it being named the prestigious ‘Art Fund Museum of the Year’ in 2021. Firstsite is a partner of Plus Tate, which uses Tate’s resources to contribute to a network of art organisations across the country, and to increase public access. Firstsite’s exhibitions are free and open to anyone.

Rust Bucket Workshop

Follow them on Twitter & Facebook @firstsite and Instagram @firstsitecolchester and subscribe to their YouTube channel ‘Firstsite gallery’ Access information: They may request sensitivity around timings and the provision of access support such as captions or different interview options for interviewees supplied by Firstsite, please contact them for more information. Please note they believe in and follow the social model of understanding disability and the language they use is aligned with the social model of disability.

For more information about the auction and when it will take place, follow @background_bob on Instagram. For more information follow @firstsite on Twitter, @firstsitecolchester on Instagram, like the Firstsite Colchester Facebook page or visit firstsite.uk 

Phillip Jupitus