Is Lancaster a Clone Town or a Home Town?

4 10 2010

The NEF (New Economics Foundation) have published a follow up to their 2005 Clone Town report, entitled Re-imaging the High Street: Escape From Clone Town Britain which makes for fascinating reading. It gives plenty of evidence for the need to support independent traders, something close to my heart as the Coordinator of the Talking Shop project at Mid Pennine Arts.

It highlights the prevalence of Clone Towns on high streets in Britain. A Clone Town is one which has the least variety of shops, and the highest number of chains. Home Towns, conversely, have a much clearer sense of identity, with greater variety in what the shops offer and a high number of independents rather than multiples. Surprisingly Cambridge scored as the worst Clone, with Whitstable in Kent as the highest scoring Home Town.

Lancaster wasn’t on the list, but the methodology was described in the report, so I’m planning to do my own research to find out where Lancaster will score on the Clone-to-Home Town scale. Having spent a fair amount of time there and seeing how many independents there are I’m guessing it will come out fairly high, but we shall see!

One last thought from the report – “the towns most dependent on the biggest chains and out of town stores have proven to be most vulnerable in the economic crisis.” Proof surely that we need to make sure towns keep their independence to ensure their future survival?

Lucy

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Human Scale

18 08 2010

As the project progresses I am thinking a lot about how the presence of local shops affects life in the community and the way informal things can happen around local shops and markets. Local shops sometimes foster a very human scale of vibrant life on streets and it is often the more personal, less regulated and more informal spaces like independent shops and markets that help connect people and communities together.

The issues of local distinctiveness and the idea of ‘creative city’ have recurred in my work across commissions in both the regeneration and art sectors. I’ve seen an important role for independent shopkeepers in shaping the notion of ‘creative city’ as a shared, flexible space; using the pavement a selling space, a meeting space, a space of exchange.

Projects I’ve been involved in Peterborough, Hertfordshire and rural Cambridgeshire all show that local shops encourage a very human scale of vibrant life on streets that have not been sucked dry by a shopping center. However this is changing alongside the implications of regeneration, new malls and the privatisation of public space and its going to be interesting to hear from Lancaster’s independent traders, both new and longstanding on their visions of the future.





Shoptalk

20 07 2010

I have been commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts to undertake a new commission in their Arts Talking Shop programme. The commission is to explore the issues and history surrounding independent shopkeepers and retail in Lancaster and it draws on my interest in markets, shops, common spaces and the way communities define the identity of a place.


The issues of local distinctiveness and the idea of ‘creative city’ have recurred in my work   across commissions in both the regeneration and art sectors.  Independent shopkeepers play an important role in shaping the notion of ‘creative city’ as a shared, flexible space; using the street and pavement a selling space, a meeting space, a space of exchange. The project will be exploring the inherent creativity of shopkeepers; how the presence of shops affects life on the street and the way informal things can happen around local shops and markets. Local shops sometimes foster a very human scale of vibrant life on streets that have not been sucked dry by a shopping centre and often its the less regulated more informal spaces like markets that draw their communities together.





Introducing Mid Pennine Arts: Talking Shop

23 06 2010

I’m Lucy Green, and I manage the Mid Pennine Arts (MPA) Talking Shop programme.

A bit about MPA first: the organisation has been around for 40 years and is a driving force for the arts. We create and deliver high quality artistic programmes which integrate Visual Arts, Creative Learning and Public Realm. MPA is based in Burnley and carries out a lot of work locally, but also works county-wide across Lancashire on several of its programmes.

Talking Shop is one of these county-wide programmes, and is a creative regeneration project which uses a diverse range of arts tools to engage small local shops and businesses in selected Lancashire neighbourhoods to research and promote their social and economic importance and to creatively investigate the impacts of regeneration on their sustainability.

We’ve partnered with Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce, Storey Gallery and Lancaster University to commission Alice Angus to develop a Talking Shop project for Lancaster and As It Comes is the result.

We’re excited to see the work Alice produces and hope that the project encourages people to visit Lancaster and see all that it has to be proud of.

Lucy