A cultural manifesto to breathe new life into our dying high streets | Letter

Es Devlin’s provocation opens a fascinating debate on large, empty retail sites (‘Engage their curiosity’: immersive art can boost UK high streets, says artist, 28 January) . The deal breaker is, of course, about a funding model: the financial imperative of landlords and managing agents, and the demise of local authority support are critical blockages. We need to invent a new typology of what was known as the “community centre”, with self-funding and programmable spaces. The concept could include a flexible auditorium for music, standup and lectures, workshops where young and old may learn or even exchange skills, fitness facilities and business or education suites.

With suitable security, we could add a cultural component, where museums may even loan modest displays now locked away in reserve collections, attracting local personal collections or artistic activity. These proposals, and more, will attract cafes and bars that could thrive. The expensive LED installations Devlin suggests would, with sponsorship, be a powerful attractor to promote this valuable intervention to help sustain our troubled high streets.
Peter Higgins
Richmond, London


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