Ten new films by creative artists supported by Historic England explore the future of local high streets based upon their individuality and history. Made in collaboration with young people, they were commissioned as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme - a £95 million government-funded project led by Historic England. The Programme aims to stimulate economic, social and cultural recovery for England's high streets.
The films feature high streets from all over England, from Sheffield to Penzance, and Historic England says that the films 'pose hopeful provocations at a time when these communal spaces have been hit hardest'.
Each takes a different artistic view of the location and its past, present and future. Two films have been released per week throughout March, and six are now viewable.
'High Streets' by Beacon Films
Inspired by Leeds, Ouston, Wallsend, Hexham and Whitley Bay, 'High Streets' is a fun, kinetic exploration of what high streets are now and what they could be in the future.
The five filmmakers with autism and learning difficulties explore high streets from a unique perspective. They study the past and imagine the future using animation, voice-over and split screens.
'Future Stirchley' by Living Memory Project
After a steady decline through the 80s and 90s, the past couple of decades have seen a reverse in fortunes for Stirchley High Street as people brought fresh energy with new ideas and commitment that are making a positive impact.
In this short film, shop and business owners, residents and users are asked their thoughts on what this high street means to them and how they see its future. What it reflects is the deep connection this community feels to Stirchley, and to each other.
'About Us/Without Us' by Turf Projects
In this short film, youth group Art Press and actor/filmmaker Araba Aduah consider the changes they have seen in Croydon town centre surrounding the high street in recent years and what their vision for the future is.
'The Penalty of Our Paradox’ by Site Gallery
Filmed in Sheffield, this short film explores the high street as a character seen through the perspective of young people’s experiences of public spaces. The score for the film features an original poem made in collaboration between poet Otis Mensah and young people’s group, the Society of Explorers, as well as an original piano composition written and performed by Mensah. Using the score as a starting point for the film, filmmaker Smart Banda developed a comprehensive visual identity for Mensah’s work. This informed a series of 35 millimetre black and white images captured by photographer Peter Martin that Banda then sequenced and entwined with Mensah’s poem.
'S for Southend' by Focal Point Gallery
East of England
Bringing together voices, memories and the inventive ideas of a local community in Southend-on-Sea, this short film catalogues the public consciousness around how we can learn to adapt and build a better future in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exploring the importance for public space to be experienced and constructed collaboratively, the film takes as its subject the past and present condition of a high street in transition.
Collaging together imagery of architecture, tracking shots and a series of creative responses from participants, ‘S for Southend’ is a collective vision for reimagining the future of Southend High Street.
'The Street Never Lies' by New Art Exchange
This short film focuses on the cultural diversity of Nottingham and on its local businesses and traders, as well as familial relationships. The film was developed through working with local young people, and features a soundtrack by an up-and-coming young composer.
Films still to be released include:
‘Carrying Us’ by Lighthouse
Lighthouse Young Creatives have developed a short film inspired by their collective interest in The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, by author Ursula Le Guin.
Their film follows a journey into the high street via bus, and explores the experience of the high street in Brighton from different perspectives and features phone, camera and archive footage layered and collaged to represent different themes.
It aims to communicate that the essential aspects of people and community are at the core of the high street.
'Ode to Oxford Street' by The Photographers' Gallery
Filmmaker Abhi Arumbakkam’s 'Ode to Oxford Street' will explore London’s famous shopping street’s past, present and future.
Using photographs from Historic England’s archive, combined with contemporary footage of Oxford Street and interviews with those who shop there, this short film will traverse time with a nod to what a future Oxford Street might look like.
'From A to PZ' by Newlyn Art Gallery
A short film shaped by the memories and histories of the people of Penzance. Blending animation with the interlocking streets between Market Jew Street, Causeway Head and Chapel Street, Penzance.
'Running on Fumes' by Heart of Glass
'Running on Fumes' is a film that explores St Helen’s High Street through the voices of local young people – as they consider what their high street has to offer them, the needs of their community, and their hopes for a better future.