Last week, I wrote a blog on the future of the high street as we ease out of lockdown and look to recovery. I’ve been thinking about some of the points raised in the discussion and one thing has stuck in my mind; the role that culture can play in post-lockdown regeneration.
The creative and cultural sector has been among the hardest hit, especially performance-based culture reliant on large audiences being able to gather together. Theatres, music venues, museums and galleries have all had to close their doors.
As we look to lockdown easing, adapting to social distancing and building confidence in physically accessing culture is going to take time. But after months of isolation, audiences will be looking for safe cultural interactions that will inspire, help them reflect, have fun. Opportunities may exist for towns and villages as tourists avoid cities in favour of places offering more open and green spaces, fresh air and less crowded places.
Arts and culture exist everywhere
Culture isn’t something that needs to be ‘brought in’ as a solution to regeneration – it exists everywhere.
A good starting point in cultural placemaking is understanding what’s there already, being inclusive and listening to a diverse range of views – homegrown, new and emerging talent as well as established and traditional. Encouraging what is already there, promoting it and nurturing its growth will help stimulate cultural awareness of a place.
A blueprint for success
There are plenty of excellent road maps for cultural regeneration. Just take a look at cities such as Liverpool, the 2008 Capital of Culture, to Folkestone, now a renowned creative destination and home to the celebrated Triennial.
Performance and art in a brave new world
Right now, places outside of London have something of an edge. With the dual benefits of space and a manageable-sized location to work with, social distancing measures, green spaces and countryside mean less chance for crowding; open-air theatre and outdoor art are an alternative to indoor exhibitions.
Places can explore being brave and mould-breaking in their use of space on the high-street. Pop-ups and short-term leases for creative, experiential and retail enterprises are ideal both for creatives and for visitors, who value a cultural experience who can be assured of something different every time they return to their favourite spot.
We may have mentioned this before, but don’t stop telling your story, even in a crisis. From publicising which shops are open and trading, which landmarks, art pieces and performances can be seen locally (and even online) and what cultural offerings are on the horizon, it’s essential for keeping up awareness and interest.
This could be the perfect time to embrace the culture of the place you live and work in and support an industry that has faced unprecedented difficulties this year. It’s true, that supporting the arts has long-term benefits beyond attracting visitors and investment. Whatever the future holds, I think it’s likely we could all benefit from the joy, catharsis and conversation that starts with great art.