As well as their programme of grant-funded cultural activity taking place on high streets over the next three years, Historic England is also curating a programme of cultural commissions to get people back to high streets this summer.

Two schemes are being introduced:

  • High Street Sound Walks this September
  • Twin Towns from May to September

"The High Streets Cultural Programme is an essential part of the way we are contributing to bringing high streets back from the brink," said Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive Historic England. "As we start to see these important historic spaces become regenerated through conservation and building work, the community-led cultural activity programme will bring people back to enjoy their high street again and have a say in its future," he added.

High Street Sound Walks this September

Historic England, the National Trust and Heritage Open Days have commissioned Sound UK to create a series of new ‘High Street Sound Walks’ available on six High Streets Heritage Action Zones that will be launched as part of Heritage Open Days (10-19 September). The walks are each co-created with local artists – or artists with a connection to each place – and the community, in association with local arts organisations. The result will be distinctive, immersive soundscapes to inspire people to look again at their high streets.

1. Redruth

Anna Maria Murphy, Sue Hill and Ciaran Clarke will explore the layers of time to unlock the fascinating strata of sound, voice and story within Redruth high street. Their sound walk will represent the broad spectrum of people and experience of the town. Produced in association with Carn to Cove.

2. Reading

Aundre Goddard and Richard Bentley will combine music, audio drama and outdoor museum spaces. At its heart is London Street’s community, and its narrative will be interwoven throughout the piece. Listeners will be taken on a dream-like journey through time. Produced in association with CultureMix, Readipop and Reading Borough Council.

3. Barrow-in-Furness

Dan Fox will embrace the diversity of people in Barrow. He will explore the changes it has witnessed such as when Barrow’s high street had 12,000 ship workers descend on it at lunchtime. Listeners will explore the landmarks of work and play on the high street including iconic shops, businesses and the clubs of Cornwallis Street, alongside civic events like cycle races, and the centenary of the town hall. Produced in association with Full of Noises.

4. Hull

Jez Riley French will explore the positive sub-culture histories of Whitefriargate within living memory. This will include the hidden histories now often pushed to the outskirts of the city; the hopes and dreams of independent shop owners, landmarks connected to the LGBTQ communities, the musical hub around Hepworth Arcade, reflecting on sense of identity and belonging. Through microphones, Jez will also uncover the hidden sounds of the environment, including the invisible mesh of electronic signals and urban wildlife on the high street.Produced in association with Absolutely Cultured.

5. Great Yarmouth

Oliver Payne aims to capture the charm of enigmatic, contrasting and diverse Great Yarmouth. Creating an authentic portrait of the street, from stories of local people that have witnessed its changes or studied its rich history, alongside those who have recently made it their home or are not yet settled. These narratives are reflected in the sounds of the place itself, through the gentle resonance of a medieval row, to the loud and vibrant music heard from outside a barbershop. Produced in association with originalprojects and Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

6. Grantham

Sandra Kazlaukaite will incorporate a collage of aural histories, archives and local residents’ memories to tell a story about the histories of Grantham high street. It will explore this space of socialising and cultural exchange has transformed over time, and will question what has been forgotten during the process of change. Through conversations with local residents and historical research, the walk will aim to amplify the hidden, buried, the wonderful and the imagined - the local historical heritage that has and continues to serve as a (silent) symphony accompanying the sounds of the present.Produced in association with Emilie Nunn and South Kesteven District Council.

Head and shoulders photo of woman in a small white room looking up at the ceiling where people have written and drawn memories. A sign on the wall on the right reads: "Please feel free to draw your memories on the walls."
*Photograph from Sound UK's past project, titled "Reflect, What does th See Say". Sound UK will co-create a series of new ‘High Street Sound Walks’ with local artists for six High Streets Heritage Action Zones © Steve Haywood * 

Twin Towns (May–September)

Historic England is unofficially 'twinning' towns, through a programme of creative commissions that see artists working with local people to uncover what they have in common. The artworks will explore themes of identity as well as the communities’ collective hopes and challenges, culminating in a series of installations, performances and digital work.

Leicester and South Norwood

Quiet Down There - Life Through Laundry by Kaozara Oyalowo and Jessica Scott

Artists Kaozara Oyalowo (Leicester) and Jessica Scott (South Norwood) are connecting with communities around local launderettes. Their project 'Quiet Down There - Life Through Laundry' will result in a limited edition ‘zine’ published this July.

Ramsgate and Ryde

'Isle of Rydesgate' by Mooch

Artist practice Mooch are working with students at Broadstairs College, Ramsgate and local residents for their project, 'Isle of Rydesgate', a fantasy town that twins Ramsgate in Kent and Ryde on the Isle of Wight. In June, local people will be sent 'craft kits' to decorate scale models of historic high street buildings, and from July to August there will be exhibitions of the model high streets in town centre shops in Ryde and Ramsgate.

North Shields and Lancaster

'High Street Duets' by Unfolding Theatre

Artists from Unfolding Theatre are engaging with shopkeepers, local residents and high street visitors in North Shields and Lancaster for 'Unfolding Theatre – High Street Duets', to create five new songs that celebrate place, released later this summer.

Stoke-on-Trent and Poole

'All Fired Up!' by Freya Gabie

Artist Freya Gabie will be working with local people for her project 'All Fired Up!' Her artist residency will take place in Stoke this summer and in Poole in September, where she will conduct community ceramics workshops exploring both towns’ deep connection to the ceramics industry. Gabie will create a work for each town, which will respond to the stories she gathers. Each workshop participant will make a ceramic artwork, which will be exhibited on both high streets. After this, the artworks will be swapped between participants, so everyone will receive a unique ceramic to keep.

Wigan and Blackpool

'Street Dreams' by Louise Fazackerley

For her commission 'Street Dreams', artist Louise Fazackerley has already undertaken several creative writing workshops with communities in Wigan, and has more planned in Blackpool this May, with dance workshops planned for both towns this summer. The workshops will result in a dance-poetry film and animation underscored by a soundtrack of poetry and music to be released this July, and a documentary film of the project to be released in August.

Bedford and Keynsham

'Public Announcements' by Ellie Shipman and Katy Hawkins

For Ellie Shipman and Katy Hawkins’ project 'Public Announcements', the artists are conducting workshops in Bedford and Keynsham and working with residents to create High Street Observation Cards prompting local exploration and discussion of the High Streets alongside co-designed maps of each area. Banners will be created through community workshops of local knowledge of the High Streets, resulting in local parades this summer, and a shareable learning pack for others to benefit from.