The Chester Cultural Consortium is delighted to have been awarded an £80,000 grant from Historic England as part of the Chester High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) to create and deliver community-led cultural activities on the high street over the next three years.
Chester’s HSHAZ is one of more than 60 high streets to receive a share of £6 million for their cultural programme. Grants of up to £120,000 have been awarded to local arts organisations for cultural activity on each high street.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “This is brilliant news for our new Cultural Consortium.
“They are proposing a three-year programme engaging with communities and artists that will reflect the history and stories of Chester and bring culture into the heart of the city. The Cultural Programme complements the main HSHAZ programme to test and explore creative uses for vacant shop units through engagement projects, micro-commissions, training and mentoring opportunities.”
The Chester Cultural Consortium includes: Storyhouse, University of Chester, St Mary’s Creative Space, Theatre in the Quarter, Chester Pride, Cheshire Dance plus The Council’s Arts Development.
This is part of the four-year-long High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Cultural Programme aims to make our high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England, said: “The high street cultural programme is a step change in the way we think about bringing high streets back from the brink. As we start to see these important historic spaces become regenerated through building work, it is the community-led cultural work that helps people to enjoy their high street again and also have a say in what the future of their high street might be.”
The funding builds on the success of a series of pilot cultural projects that have run since last August across 43 High Street Heritage Action Zones. They have not only helped high streets offer cultural activity during lockdown, but also discovered what local people would like to see happening on their high streets.
In Chester, ‘Reclaim the City’ included three artists residency projects that were developed with local communities to explore their views, experience and sense of belonging to the city. The projects gave a voice to some residents who can feel invisible. The engagement projects and resulting artworks asked for consideration how inclusion, empathy and understanding can define Chester as a compassionate city.
Stephanie Taylor, Vice-Captain of the Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball team is one of the participants who worked with socially engaged photographer, Suzanne St Clare.
Stephanie said: “Being involved in this project has been an honour, it has given me a platform to make people aware of the access issues around Chester but to also show my love for the place. Chester to me has been the place where many of my first-time memories have happened, such as my first ever Pride, my university and many fun events. It has been a privilege to work with Suzanne and be given this opportunity to show everyone my wonderful basketball team and let people into a small section of my world, my life and how I see Chester through my eyes.”
Suzanne’s project was developed with Chester Pride and the LGBTQ+ community and supported by Open Eye Gallery.
This weekend, (22 May) participants for the ‘Reclaim the City’ pilot activities will share their experiences and their views of the city, particularly during lockdown, on social media. To follow events and see project outcomes over the day visit: @CreateChester on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
As well as the grant-funded cultural activity taking place over the next three years, Historic England is also curating a programme of cultural commissions to get people back to high streets.
Picturing England’s high streets (Summer 2021 onwards)
As part of a major photography commission, Picturing England’s High Streets, six socially engaged photographers-in-residence will be based with regional photography organisations over the coming years to chronicle our high streets. Coordinated by the photography organisation Photoworks, applications for the artist residencies are now open for Chester, Prescot, Coventry and Stoke (closing 26 May). To apply, please visit: https://photoworks.org.uk/opportunities/