Historic England has announced (19th May) that over 60 High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZ) will receive grants totalling £6 million, under which local arts organisations will create and deliver community-led cultural activities on their high streets over the next three years.
With several hundred organisations involved through cultural consortia across over 60 high streets, the grant scheme is claimed to be one of the biggest-ever networks of cultural community organisations coming together under the same funding.
Each high street taking part in the Heritage Action Zones scheme has been awarded grants of up to £120,000 to fund cultural activity.
This is part of the four-year-long High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The Cultural Programme aims to make our high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.
Operating in over 60 high streets - including Wigan, Middlesbrough, Buxton, Great Yarmouth, Newport (Isle of Wight), Harlesden and Weston Super Mare - it is said by Historic England to be the widest-reaching, community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm that has ever been organised, and is the biggest ever community-led arts and heritage programme celebrating the high street.
The overall £95 million High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme has been described as the biggest ever single investment by government in the UK’s built heritage.
High streets are often the heart of our communities and should be places we all want to engage with and enjoy. These grants will help transform high streets into thriving cultural hubs, encouraging us to embrace all the joys our town centres have to offer.
Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage MP
Examples of successful schemes under the new £6 million announcement include the following:
'Streets Apart' is unearthing stories that bring Wigan's King Street’s diverse histories to life. Over three years, artists, local creative partners and community groups will come together to co-create unique dance, art and theatre, culminating in a celebratory festival for the whole community in 2023.
The cultural consortium consists of nine local organisations led by The Old Courts, Wigan, supported by Wigan Council.
The 'Celebrating Hidden Middlesbrough' programme will uncover how buildings, industries, people and communities have influenced the broader culture of the town and might offer alternative ways to think about the high street now.
The programme will include four public art commissions, two artist residencies and one further artist commission, resulting in a range of artworks, a film and research material.
The consortium is made up 21 local cultural and architectural organisations, led by Navigator North CIC.
In Buxton, members of local youth theatres and choirs, as well as students from the town’s secondary schools, will sit on a youth panel to advise on activity, with a quarter of funding reserved for young people’s programming. In the first year, the panel plan to create an exhibition of 'portraits of the high street past and present', using empty shop windows, street flags and digital displays.
This will run alongside a range of events and activities that will draw communities together and work from local, established and emerging artists will add to the programme.
The consortium is made up of 12 organisations led by Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust.
Artists and local communities will work together to explore the unique character and heritage of Great Yarmouth. As well as the history of the high street, the programme will also celebrate Great Yarmouth as a historic and nationally significant centre for circus and entertainment.
A year-round programme of creative workshops, heritage learning and skills development will feed into shop window exhibitions along King Street, and performances around the town’s historic Rows, St. Nicholas School and Market Place.
The consortium is made up of seven organisations led by arts organisation Out There Arts.
Newport, Isle of Wight
From a children’s festival, a public art project, art exhibitions, museum displays, heritage talks to a rolling programme of concerts and workshop, Renew Newport cultural programme will offer a transformative programme of culture-led regeneration in the Isle of Wight town.
The consortium is made up of eight organisations led by cultural charity Independent Arts.
The 'Harlesden Gateway Cultural Programme' reflects the high street’s diverse community. Harlesden’s local histories are on show in a programme that will capture the heritage and memories of community elders, as well as looking to more recent arrivals in the community.
A core youth group will work with creative facilitators to shape and deliver the programme, providing workshops and learning activities for community participants as well as hosting public and online events and activities.
The consortium is made up of 10 organisations led by the Young Brent Foundation.
Weston Super Mare
'21st Century super Shrines' is a programme co-created by professional artists in partnership with local emerging artists and communities for which a series of innovative contemporary ‘shrines’ will appear on the high street. These shrines may be permanent installations or live arts experiences.
Together, the shrines will create a sense of shared values, determining a new sense of ‘worth’ on the high street.
The consortium is made up of 11 organisations led by Culture Weston.
Building on the success of pilot cultural projects
The funding builds on the success of a series of pilot cultural projects that have run since last August across 43 High Streets Heritage Action Zones.
From Selby high street offering interactive workshops for young gamers to help ‘build’ Selby Abbey in Minecraft, to people in Weston-super-Mare gathering memories of the town, to an installation in Middlesbrough that shone a light on the town’s motorbiking culture, they have not only helped high streets offer cultural activity during lockdown, but also test what local people would like to see happening on their high streets.
Community members have taken part in pilot cultural projects running since last August across 43 High Streets Heritage Action Zones.
Picturing England’s High Streets (summer 2021 onwards)
As part of a major photography commission supported by Historic England, Picturing England’s High Streets, six socially engaged photographers-in-residence will be based with regional photography organisations over the coming years to chronicle our high streets.
Coordinated by the photography organisation Photoworks, the first artist residencies will be taking place in Chester, Prescot, Coventry, Stoke, Tower Hamlets and Leicester to open for applications this summer.
Heading picture above
A local grant funded an arts and community project in Chester High Street Heritage Action Zone called 'Reclaim the City'. Part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones' Cultural Programme. © Historic England