Are artists' pop-ups the solution to our fading high streets?

Gillian Darley index

Gillian Darley on what happens to much-loved buildings when their occupants fold

There are plenty of foreboding signs at the moment but the emptying of the high street – a speeding mismatch between empty premises and those still hanging on – is the most overt. Put that alongside the armies of rough sleepers and the knowledge that hundreds of thousands, if not more, are inadequately housed and we must wonder how much worse it can get.

The scene is so fast-moving that entire high street chains are evaporating or, at least, shrinking to vanishing point. Recently I fished put on a long-forgotten coat from the back of the cupboard, only to notice it was a well-made classic from British Home Stores. What has become of all those BHSes in cities across Britain? Only the one in Hull has any claim on our attention and that’s because of its eye-catching mosaic mural, itself once ornamenting the Cooperative Store on the site. But at least those BHS ships have become the generator of a spirited campaign for its future, and a continuous, if inadvertent, reminder of the demise of a major high street player in a city which took the limelight in 2017 but now must fight on a level playing field with dozens of other economically troubled cities.

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