Stilt walkers stalk the pavement and a flashmob suddenly appears from behind a row of neon mannequin legs within a former department store: the high street in Keighley, West Yorkshire, may have lost some major retail players in recent years, but it’s anything but dead.
Visitors to Keighley were told to “expect the unexpected” via a series of free events as they browsed businesses and explored an arts trail during the ‘K-Town’ weekend at the end of March.
It was the latest project of Keighley CreativeThe former Sunwin House department shop in the town is home to, a volunteer-led art organization.
“A lot has been said recently about how art has the potential to save our high streets, so we feel immensely proud to be one of the first to be actually doing that,” says Emma Rochford from the project. “And not in a city, but in a northern town with real community values.”
The team purchased the former shop as an interim space in 2017 and has since opened a gallery and project space, several artist studios, and the Keighley Arts and Film Festival.
Following the success of the K-Town weekend, the team wants to develop their plans and has received funding (through the government’s Towns Fund) for a permanent home. On the wishlist is an exhibition space, a cafe, up to 50 studios, a mini-cinema and a “cluster of boutique retail and food spaces”.
As Keighley Creative’s manager and creative producer Gemma Hobbs puts it: “Creativity, community, collaboration. Together these can help save our high streets.”
This article is the latest in our ‘reinventing the high street’ series. Over the coming weeks Positive News will be shining a light on the people, places and projects that are breathing new life into the UK’s town and city centres as many retail giants abandon them.
Help us continue breaking the bad news bias
Positive News is helping more people than ever to get a balanced view of the world – one that supports their wellbeing and empowers them to make a difference towards a better future. And as our audience and impact grows, we’re showing the rest of the media that good news matters.
But the UK’s cost of living crisis is hitting us hard, with fewer people able to commit to a magazine subscription – which has traditionally been our main source of funding. Plus, printing and paper costs continue to rise.
We don’t want to put a paywall on our website, because we believe everyone should have the chance to benefit from good news. But we won’t be able to continue funding our online reporting without your help.
If you value the work we do and have the means to make a small contribution, please consider becoming a Positive News supporter. We need 1,000 readers to contribute just £3 per month to get us through this challenging time.
Remember that we are a not-for profit and work only for you. All funds go towards our journalism.
SUPPORT POSITIVE NEWS TODAY