£7.4m to lift high streets with art

Historic England has unveiled a £7.4m arts programme for England’s high streets, including four major arts commissions for works “capturing the everyday magic of high streets”.

The scheme, part of the government-funded £92m High Streets Heritage Actions Zone, is in association with Arts Council England and National Heritage Lottery Fund (MHLF).

“Culture and creativity will be central to the future of our high streets – whether through theatre or music venues bringing in visitors and supporting the night-time economy, art exhibitions making use of empty retail space, or creative industries setting up workspace in converted heritage buildings” said ACE’s deputy CEO Laura Dyer, who said the programme  “will be a vital part of how we realise the ambition for culture to transform high streets and revitalise our historic town centres” 

The money is being offered to high streets to deliver culture and art activities as part of the action zone programme, which was created in 2018 to transform and restore disused and dilapidated  buildings, restoring local historic character.

The £7,4m will be distributed in two arms, the first to consortia to work with artists and the second as a set of national commissions, including a large-scale outdoor high streets event and a four-year photography commission. Storytellers will be asked to. Research and create short stories about high streets to be launched early in 2021, and five artists will be commissioned to do work that connects high streets, to be unveiled in November 2021. There will be art exhibitions in empty shop windows, art trails and poetry by local people displayed on pavements.

“Our high streets are a much-loved and important part of our heritage, but many are facing an uncertain future” said the NHLF’s director, Eilish McGuinness. “This not only threatens their preservation, but also their important role as the hub of our communities.  

“High Street Heritage Action Zones are a very welcome intervention by the Government and build on the work we have done over many years investing money from National Lottery players into town centres.  In the coming months, as one of the partners in this scheme, we will be investing a further £3m into a cultural programme which will engage local communities in celebrating the unique nature of each of the places funded through the scheme.  We very much look forward to seeing some creative and exciting proposals.”

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