Artists handed keys to empty shops to draw visitors back to deserted West End

·2 min read
Pictured left to right: Renata Guerra, Joyce Fraser, Mark Williams, Councillor Matthew Green,  Haylea Asadi, Lito Apostolakou (westminster city council)
Pictured left to right: Renata Guerra, Joyce Fraser, Mark Williams, Councillor Matthew Green, Haylea Asadi, Lito Apostolakou (westminster city council)

Westminster city council is working on a campaign to fill vacant retail space, with temporary shops and art exhibitions coming to central London this summer.

The West End has been hit hard by the pandemic, with footfall weaker due to much fewer tourists and office workers being in town. Efforts are being made to help attract more visitors, and one option is looking at filling empty space.

Westminster city council has launched a scheme, in partnership with the Heart of London Business Alliance and The Crown Estate, providing up to 20 pop-up opportunities across the borough.

As well as artists and retailers receiving their own space, they also get up to a £5000 grant towards fitting out sites.

The first three pop-ups will be in St James’s and will feature Joyce Fraser (founder of Black Heroes Foundation), Lito Apostolakou (installation and mixed-media artist) and Sarah Porter (abstract painter).

Pictured left to right: Renata Guerra from Westminster city council; artist Joyce Fraser; Mark Williams (Heart of London Business Alliance); councillor  Matthew Green; Haylea Asadi (WCC); Lito Apostolakou (mixed media artist). (Picture from Westminster city council)
Pictured left to right: Renata Guerra from Westminster city council; artist Joyce Fraser; Mark Williams (Heart of London Business Alliance); councillor Matthew Green; Haylea Asadi (WCC); Lito Apostolakou (mixed media artist). (Picture from Westminster city council)

Apostolakou’s Clothes You’ll Never Wear installation started last week, with workshops on the creative use of waste materials and production of not-for-sale garments. It is based at 2 - 4 Princes Arcade.

Apostolakou said: “Clothes You’ll Never Wear is about recreating and recording memories of dress using waste and recyclable materials and storytelling.”

At 12 Waterloo Place Fraser will run a venue between June 22 (Windrush Day) and July 31.

Fraser said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been selected as an artist-in-residence as part of Westminster's voids activation & pop-up project. This is an important step in my journey and that of the Black Heroes Foundation. The installation, Black Heroes @ The Gallery opens on Windrush Day. .. Providing a space for participatory, conscious experiences, restaging the Black Heroes Soul Food Café in a Windrush Living Room: A celebration of our heroes, our life, and our times.”

Fraser also said it will house living exhibitions, interactive activities and events.

Fraser added: “It will provide rehearsal space for our new production the Story of John Archer which is part of our show at the Wandsworth Arts Fringe festival on 2 July.”

Artist Porter will be showcasing her work at 22 Bury Street on July 15. The space will be used as a performative studio, displaying completed abstract artwork for sale. Also, members of the public will be invited throughout the project to collaborate on a painting.

Councillor Matthew Green, cabinet member for business, licensing and planning at Westminster city council, said some sites will also be earmarked for retail, such as for fashion and wellness brands.

Green said: “Pop-ups help turn vacant into vibrant. By filling empty units with original attractions and unique shops, we can start attracting visitors back to the West End to enjoy its creativity and individuality.

“This project offers the next generation of creatives and retailers a unique opportunity to flourish in some of the world’s most sought-after retail space. “

The council is still taking applications for pop-ups.

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