The British high street is transforming

The British high street is transforming

changing our communities for the better

It is said that 4 out of 10 high street shops will close down within the next five years… but is this a bad thing? Wayne Hemmingway from the Guardian was quoted as saying: ‘There is no reason to be downhearted – we should embrace change. This could be very positive. My hope is that the disappearance of large retailers will provide an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to set up in affordable rental shop fronts and market units’.

Indeed he may be right! In Wembley, north London, shops have closed on the high street and have been turned into multi-business outlets by the Asian community. In Gateshead, there are examples of creative communities getting together and attempting to reuse empty spaces such as the Shed project on Gateshead High Street. And in Stoke Newington, where i-genius is based, the village-like district is enveloped in only small shops and independent businesses (as shown in photo) with local residents now fighting off plans for the development of a new Sainsburys.

The truth is the majority of us want to live in places that give us everything we need to fulfil our lives. ‘Give us a town centre where we can live in an affordable home, walk, cycle or take easy public transport to employment, be able to go to the cinema, theatre, gallery, nightclub or gig, kick a ball in a park with our mates or our kids, read a book under a tree, maybe grow a bit of veg on an allotment, watch a bit of sport, while away the time at a cafe or a bar, shop at cool independent stores’.

The message is that we can’t always wait for government to deliver the infrastructure. We have to “have a go” ourselves at making small shops work. So, what are the vision’s for the new-style high street? If you’re in England why not check out the pop-up high street at the vintage festival at Boughton House, Northampton, this July. Or if you’re in London take a visit to Stoke Newington. ‘For our visions to become a reality in our towns and cities, we the consumers will have to frequent the galleries, cafes and new independent stores that rise out of the ashes of the tired old retail chains.’ We have to develop places that people want to see and be seen in.

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