Creative High Streets Report Launch

Lili Lainé

02 February 2022

The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and Arts Council England commissioned We Made That and PRD to develop a better understanding of how cultural and creative organisations can be embedded in high streets and drive their reinvigoration and reinvention. The research has been informed by a series of high street case studies, exploring a range of innovative actions, strategies and methods that could better unlock positive and inclusive growth for the region and bring together the high street recovery and creative sector growth agendas.

“Enabling and developing strategies for High Street recovery has never been more important. In light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economies of our towns in the South East, the challenges facing our High Streets have accelerated. Yet we have seen new ways of working and innovative ideas led by the creative sector that have begun to change this story.”
Sarah Dance, Deputy Chair, South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP)

The region’s high streets and the creative sector are both emerging from the pandemic with great challenges to tackle, and with great uncertainties. There are also clear opportunities to be bold and imaginative when thinking and planning for the future. For example, new patterns of living and working could bolster new types of enterprise. More inclusive, localised economies and community-led regeneration efforts can also benefit from creative sector involvement. This changing context could point to the revival of high streets, and there is huge potential for the creative sector to contribute to a re-imagined model for them.

Across the region, high streets will have to be reconfigured to respond to a new reality and a different use of space. This will require a step change in the involvement between high streets and creative stakeholders – landowners, businesses, BIDs, public sector, third sector organisations – and communities. It will require all to be active agents of change, sources of information, and to come together in a way that complements and plugs into the other agencies and agendas at play, including the critical investments of Arts Council England, the historic and emerging agendas of local governments, and the strategies of the creative and cultural sector itself.

Now is the opportunity to join the dots between current high street issues, future cultural opportunities and potential solutions, including the way that cultural investment can act as a ‘glue’ in the mix, building a stronger, more sustainable and brighter future for the South East’s high streets and its creative sector.

Read more in the full report here.

“The role that the cultural sector is playing in High Street regeneration up and down the country is already significant. This report helps to highlight some exciting and inspiring examples in the South East and is also invaluable in setting out strategies and practical steps which can be used to help facilitate regeneration through cultural activity.”
Hazel Edwards, South East Area Director (Arts Council England)