Historic England has launched a programme of cultural activities designed to help reinvigorate the country’s high streets.
The £7.4m Cultural Programme is being run in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The four-year initiative will feature digital and physical artworks that aim to make high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.
Commissioned artists will work with local communities on high streets to co-produce artworks that respond to, document and reflect the changing high street.
The Cultural Programme has been launched with High Street Tales – a podcast series and ebook. Historic England and Photoworks have also launched an open call for artists for a three-year photographic commission to explore the changing face of the high streets.
“The Cultural Programme is part of wider efforts to regenerate England’s high streets.” said Ellen Harrison, the head of creative programmes and campaigns at Historic England. “We started planning the cultural programme back in 2019 and no one could have foreseen the impact that Covid would have on our high streets. It does feel really timely and we have been able to adapt to the changes created by the pandemic.”
“All of the work we have been doing is about artists communicating with communities, so as a result we have not been too prescriptive about what we want. But what is coming through is that there is real concern about the future of high streets. And while we want to celebrate the history of high streets, we also want to look to the future to the places that they might become.”
The £7.4m Cultural Programme is part of the £95m High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative, which is working across 68 English high streets. This is funded with £40m from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport’s Heritage High Street Fund, £52m from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Future High Streets Fund, and £3m from the Heritage Fund.
Alongside the national Cultural Programme, the 68 High Streets Heritage Action Zones will each receive grants from Historic England for “cultural consortia” of local arts organisations to curate and create locally-developed cultural offerings for their high streets over the coming three years.
A more detailed analysis of the future of high streets and the role of museums and other cultural organisations within them will be published soon.