High Streets Cultural Programme launches with High Street Tales

Boishaki Mela parade 2019. Organisers Emergency Exit Arts have been selected to lead the High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme's Outdoor Arts Commission, to take place in 2023. © Emergency Exit Arts

Boishaki Mela parade 2019. © Emergency Exit Arts

The High Streets Cultural Programme is part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative.

The initiative is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The £95 million initiative is currently working across 68 English high streets, and aims to bring the high streets back to life and encourage “people to reconnect with the heritage we have on our doorsteps”.

“Our historic high streets sit at the heart of our communities and form an important part of our local identity. I am pleased that the Cultural Programme, starting with this exciting ‘High Street Tales’ project, will play a part in bringing our high streets to life, encouraging people to reconnect with the heritage we have on our doorsteps as we look to build back better from the pandemic.” Nigel Huddleston, Heritage Minister.

Writers Ellie McKinlay-Khojinian and Ligia Macedo have co-written a short story on Great Yarmouth for High Street Tales. They consulted with members of the local community as part of this. © Ruben Cruz and Davide Almeida from Reprezent Project

Writers Ellie McKinlay-Khojinian and Ligia Macedo © Ruben Cruz and Davide Almeida from Reprezent Project

The cultural programme, set across 2020 to 2024, comprises of:

High Street Tales, Available now: 

An eBook and podcast where storytellers have captured the everyday magic of our local high streets. Working with and recording ‘local legends’ to create a series of seven new short stories, or “High Street Tales”, about today’s high street.

High Street Tales has been published as an ebook, featuring an introduction by writer Andy Miller (author of ‘The Year of Reading Books Dangerously’), and is available to view now via the Historic England website. 

The podcast series will have the eight writers narrate each of their own stories, and will be released over the next few weeks on the Historic England website as well as all major podcast platforms. 

Writer Merrie Joy Williams talks to a Venezuelan Street Food Trader with Arsenal Fan, Powis Street, Woolwich High Street. Woolwich High Street is a High Street Heritage Action Zone and the subject of writer Merrie Joy Williams' short story for 'High Street Tales'. © Hayley Madden

Writer Merrie Joy Williams talks to a Venezuelan Street Food Trader with Arsenal Fan, Powis Street, Woolwich High Street. © Hayley Madden

Future of the High Streets: 

A series of 10 short films by contemporary filmmakers exploring our high streets. Each film explores the potential future of the high street, the films have been organised by a range of major regional UK arts organisations and created by filmmakers in collaboration with young creatives.

The films will be released on YouTube from March 2021 onwards, you can find out more about the films and filmmakers on the Historic England website. 

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we believe that culture can play a crucial role in reanimating the high street and bringing life back to our historic town centres.” Laura Dyer, Deputy CEO, Places & Engagement, Arts Council England.

Twin Towns, from summer 2021: 

Historic England has planned to unofficially ‘twin’ towns and connect high streets that may be far apart geographically but close in experiences and spirit. 

This project will see contemporary artists work with local communities to uncover what they have in common. The artwork explores themes of identity as well as the communities’ collective hopes and challenges, concluding with a series of installations, performances and digital work.

Picturing England’s High Streets

Picturing England’s High Streets is a major commission that will see six artists undertaking residencies at various high street locations across England. 

  • Prescot and Chester (with Open Eye Gallery)
  • Coventry and Stoke-on-Trent (with GRAIN Projects)
  • Leicester (with QUAD/ FORMAT)
  • London (with Photofusion) 

The selected photographers will work with these local communities to create a contemporary portrait of England’s high streets between now and 2024.

Photographers will be selected via a free open call, find out how to apply here.

Photoworks’ past work has included staging outdoor exhibitions including the one shown here in Worthing 2020 © Rosie Powell

Worthing 2020 © Rosie Powell

High Street ‘Sound Walks’: 

Historic England has worked with the National Trust to create six immersive Sound Walks during the Heritage Open Days from 10th – 19th September 2021.

The project will see artists working with local High Streets Heritage Action Zones communities to create unique soundscapes that aim to inspire people to experience their local surroundings in a new way. 

For more information on all the upcoming projects with Historic England, and chances for you to get involved, visit the Historic England website. 


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