‘There are so many strange places I’d like to be/ But none of them permanently’ – Ernie, Sesame Street
The pop-up people now feel like fully-fledged members of our urban community. They may not be as reliable a fixture as a Tesco, but what started as an underground approach to retail – giving a burst of excitement without the long term commitment – has now entered the entered the mainstream.
They’re rejuvenating the high street and quenching the urban junkies thirst for variety and ad hoc fun. The Empty Shops Network used fresh funding to give independent businesses a chance to experiment. And the pop-up movement is giving the surrounding community the freedom to explore its matrix, allowing people to be personally involved in invigorating their area and making a change.
In amongst the pop ups that have little long term effect – like Ebay in Soho and Orange in Shoreditch – there stands those that, in places like Brixton and Margate, are actively changing the shape of their community. Every day 20 shops close on Britain’s high streets and one in six premises now stands empty. The 2011 Portas Review heralded a resurgence of the local – creating town teams to install a future to high-streets. The pop-up space encourages us to try something different – to keep the area fresh, and to allow locals an affordable space to use. And it makes people view their community differently and to start to discuss how it can change for the better.
We’ve already seen the Peckham Rye Multi-storey car park – curated by Bold Tendencies – have a great effect on the community, invigorating and attracting visitors to the area. But it needs to be questioned what the long term benefits are? With this pop-up institution has followed the cool and creative classes who have set up camp in Peckham and its surrounding areas. Can this travelling salesman be the force that changes our retail approach or is it simply gentrifying the area, then moving on?
It can’t be denied that the pop-up forces us to question the structure of the high-street and see new ways that space can be used. We’ll be interested to watch how the pop-up holds itself over time. Yes ,the shops themselves move around sporadically ,but what role does the pop-up nation have in changing the shape of our high streets?
* this blog was contributed by our rather brilliant intern, Lyndsay Kelly