Art in Empty Spaces

So far I have been unsuccessful in acquiring an empty space in the town, not quite sure why when there are so many lying unused.   Maybe it’s all about finding the right person and using the right language.   This proposal was submitted a few days ago, no answer as yet.



The following is taken from The Independent on 26 January 2012:

The pop-up paradigm: They may not last for long but temporary shops are here to stay

Pop-ups have become a key feature of the modern British high street.

A recent Government report called Understanding High Street Performance, which complements The Mary Portas report on high streets, points out the severe pressures that towns and retailers face. Shops have seen their rents, business rates and material costs rise significantly, while at the same time being squeezed by the supermarkets and online retailers. Add that to a crippling downturn and the result is that between 2000 and 2009 the UK lost 15,000 town centre stores. That means that one out of six shops lies vacant.

So what can be done with all this empty space? If retailers and other businesses aren’t able to commit to five or 10-year tenancies and entrepreneurs are unable to risk thousands of pounds in what could be seen as declining areas, then are our towns doomed? Well it’s unlikely to be that bad, but the British town centre requires major surgery. And one of the most effective ways of healing a town is also one of the most temporary.

One of the key messages in the Portas report is that town centre management teams should work to get a good retail mix and pop-ups, encouraged by discretionary business rates (as proposed in both the pop-up and Portas reports) are one way to tackle that. They’re a way to test coffee shops where there aren’t any, or to try out a craft shop.

The message from everyone from academics to artists to business is clear: empty shops are no good for anybody. Encouraging young people, budding entrepreneurs and local towns to offer theses spaces, whether public or private, on a temporary basis can be a key way to making our civic centres and other faded retail outlets healthy again. Anyone can fill these spaces, you only need one thing, says Dan Thompson; bloody-mindedness. “It’s knowing you’ve got an idea and you want to make it happen and going out and doing it.” The future of our shops might depend on it.

(Dan Thompson is founder of the empty shops network and a social media innovator.  For more on empty shops see

The Artists:

Carol is a mixed media artist and community artist; she started the Lincolnshire Artist Forum in September 2011 which already has approx. 60 members countywide.   The forum has received confirmation of funding and will shortly be formalised as a Social Enterprise.

Carol has over 15 years’ experience of facilitating and project managing workshops with all ages and abilities; INSET & training & mentoring.  Carol has worked with many different hard to reach groups and was lead artist on a Cultural Olympiad Igniting Ambitions Project for the Lincolnshire Showcase 2011.  Knit2getherlincs 2012 Touring has an active Arts Council application for funding to take the 200mtr knitted Olympic track to London 2012.

Carol has a City & Guilds teaching qualification, tutors for the CfBT after school arts programme and delivers workshops locally, regionally and nationally.   She was successful in negotiating an empty shop space for the Giles Visual Arts College in Boston.

Angela is a community textile artist and tutor.  She has over 15 years’ experience of teaching adults and children.   She is currently the National Young Quilters Officer for The Quilters Guild of the British Isles and also teaches textile and craft workshops for Lincolnshire County Council as part of the Family Learning Service.  Angela’s approach is to promote creativity through hands on, positive experiences which build confidence and pride in others as they see their work emerge.   Her website both showcases her work and promotes the workshops she teaches.  Angela has City and Guilds qualifications in Patchwork and Quilting.

Both artists have enhanced CRB checks and public liability insurance and child protection and health & safety experience & training.

The Big Idea:

To encourage Spalding and the surrounding area to get creating & making by running sewing, knitting and craft workshops in an empty shop in Spalding town centre for one month.

Workshops will be fully inclusive and accessible and encourage all ages and abilities to learn new practical skills as well as providing opportunities for volunteering as well as training and mentoring for emerging artists.

Work created will be exhibited alongside the artists own work; and other Lincolnshire Artist Forum members, which includes many emerging artists as well as established artists.  Work will be for sale but interested buyers will be asked to contact the artist direct to purchase, details will be made available.

We aim to strengthen the arts infrastructure in the county, raise awareness of Lincolnshire artists, regenerate local crafts while bringing life back into an empty space and encouraging more visitors to the town centre.

If successful with our proposal, we believe this model could be rolled out to other towns in Lincolnshire and the spaces could eventually become self-financing.

Support Required:

One month’s paid rent and £1,000 to spend on equipping the space

Suggested Schedule of Events:

A month of workshops and activities including:

Learn to sew taster workshops including patchwork and quilting

Easter holiday activities for children

Day of activities for local schools

Master classes with the artists

Regular coffee and knit drop in while you shop sessions

Regular coffee and craft drop in while you shop sessions

After school activities

Felt making

Curated exhibition


A small fee will be charged for workshops to cover the costs of materials, refreshments and any other overheads

Visitors will be welcome (unless a workshop is taking place), to drop in for coffee and a chat and watch the artists working.   We envisage that it will become a valuable social space as well as a craft one.


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