Monday 21 February 2011

Recent Commission @ RetailStoreWindows.Com

Over the last two years the UK's high streets have seen a sharp rise in the number of shop vacancies particularly within town and city centres – circumstances that of course have been widely reported both in trade journals and national and local newspapers.  Stockport (near Manchester, England) has not been immune to this trend.  Therefore, in response to these issues Stockport Council has been working with a number of partners on a wide range of measures to help both reduce both the impact and amount of vacant units and prevent existing occupied units from becoming vacant.
As part of an overall business programme the Council introduced several new schemes that they hope will be attractive to both landlords and agents of existing vacant units and those who may be interested in occupying vacant premises. The schemes include grants to encourage and assist owners of vacant properties, new businesses and not for profit community groups/organisations to improve and occupy vacant units.  Stockport Art Gallery has been collaborating with the Town Centre Management Team and Merseyway shopping centre to develop and roll out a multi faceted project which will simultaneously deliver on all partner aims, which were for this project:
1. To improve the appearance of vacant shop units in the Stockport Town Centre with the intention of improving its appearance by reducing the blight created by vacant and frequently neglected retail units
2. To increase interest and awareness in empty units through the process of visual animation and indirectly impact on interest in potential lettings- “create a sense of what might be”
3. Create an interest through the project activity itself in the Town Centre and drive up footfall in the Town Centre by either effective project promotion through networking and /or satellite activity.
The project is also intended to:
4. Increase awareness of the Town Centre cultural venues by developing a platform to promote and raise the profile of the Stockport cultural offer and by taking forward the council’s commitment to increase access to the Stockport collection through increased display
5. Deliver a dissemination activity which will share learning and demonstrate best practice to provide a clear project legacy
6. Work in partnership with the council visual arts and curatorial team.

The team at were involved in this regeneration with the recording of the existing vacant sites and development of potential aspirational concepts through to completion.  The existing vacant sites included 7 window sites as follows:
Former River Island Site

Former Burtons Site

Former Blacks Site

Concepts for each unit needed to link vacant units to a series of over arching themes, and create a trail and a critical mass to enhance the visitor experience as well as encouraging potential new retail tenants.  Each installation also had to include objects / artefact's from the local museum collections and art work from the gallery which reflect the borough's cultural offer and the kinds of opportunity available to Stockport residents across Town Centre. The intention of this was to enhance understanding of the Town Centre offer- both retail and cultural therapy side by side. (Town Central Cultural Venues include Stockport Art Gallery, Staircase House, Stockport Story Museum, The Air Raid Shelters and Hat Works)
Ultimately, the project ambition was to drive visitors/shoppers across and around the main shopping areas; whilst increasing the over all time spent in the Town Centre, and therefore increasing the propensity to indulge in retail, through encouraging a cross over from cultural venues to the Town Centre and vice versa.  Having visited the enormous store of artefact's available we selected some of the below:

Plaster Bust Forms from 1800's

Early Hair Dryer

Wash board, buckets, dolly, trunks
 After a marathon week of implementation, this is some of what we produced.......


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