Creative Dalston pals overcome odds by organising art exhibition

PUBLISHED: 17:53 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 17:53 12 July 2013

Tim Smits and

Tim Smits and "Flash" Gordon Shaw


A pair of graphic designers – one a bus hero stabbed protecting grannies from gangsters and the other still reeling from a tumour diagnosis – have staged an art exhibition to help them overcome their ordeals.

Tim Smits, 34, an Australian who lives off Kingsland Road, was knifed twice in 2011 standing up to three thugs threatening passengers on a bus and spent five days in hospital, followed by a long spell of rehabilitation.


Meanwhile, his best friend “Flash” Gordon Shaw, who lives off Stoke Newington High Street, has spent the last few weeks coming to terms with the devastating news that he has brain cancer.

In a bid to have something positive to concentrate on, they organised Not For Rental; an exhibition of movie-inspired creations from more than 240 artists.

Mr Smits said; “This week has been incredible. It’s been so crazy. When the show opened on the weekend we had a massive queue outside and it’s been non-stop since.

“There’s quite a story behind it – it’s been a pretty terrible year-and-a-half for the two of us. We’re trying to turn the negatives into something positive.

“Flash would have been a lot worse without this exhibition. We were on the bus to hospital for his MRI scan when we started discussing it. At the hospital he was diagnosed with the tumour He’d had some crappy news, so I started asking around.

“I found a gallery that was up for it, so I turned to him and said, ‘you remember that idea we talked about? Well it’s happening’. It totally cheered him up and gave him something to focus on.

“As for me, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and I still have bad weeks, but for the first time I can see what happened to me drifting into the distance.”

Each artist had to pick a film. Mr Smits chose Predator, to inspire their artwork and the whole exhibition is set up to look like an old VHS rental shop.

It culminates in a sale day at the Shoreditch gallery on Saturday, when people can purchase exclusive artwork – with all the cash going to either Art Against Knives or McMillan Cancer Support.

Mr Smits said: “We wanted to combine the two things we were going through.”

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