Challenge location: not only what, but where?

Our shop in the Guildhall: pictures 30 May 2014

Our shop in the Guildhall: photo taken 30 May 2014

What’s important to our Challenge planning is not only what we do, but where we do it. So we’ll be working in Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping Centre, in this disused shop and in the Centre’s Square.

Have a look at this advice page (the first quote) and these local news stories (the others). They can help us to think about what difference it makes to our Challenge that we’re working here rather than on campus.

There is a well-established history of artists taking over empty shops for temporary exhibitions or community projects, and in the current economic downturn such activity is being actively supported both by local councils and artist networks.

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Almost one in 10 stores in the UK are vacant, according to a recent survey by property consultants Colliers International. In Leeds, arts, theatre and film-making groups have turned this in their favour by occupying around 18 vacant commercial properties. Old office blocks are used for photo displays, students’ exhibitions and life drawing classes, while there is a temporary film set in a disused 7,000 square foot warehouse. That will not give much comfort to those who used to work there, but for the artists, it is an unexpected bonus of the credit crunch. Ken Stratford, operations manager at Leeds-based East Street Arts, which runs the units, says the artists would not have otherwise had access to such large, well-located and cheap spaces. ‘The premises are being used for public benefit, we’re brightening up areas that are standing empty and helping to change the image, and we get the resource that we can give artists to use’, he says.

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An empty shop in the centre of Derby has been turned into a temporary drama workshop. The disused store, on St Peter’s Street, is being used by local theatre companies while Derby City Council searches for new tenants. For the next three weeks, shoppers can watch and take part in a variety of workshops at the former La Senza store. Derby City Council says it’s a novel way of dealing with difficult trading conditions during the recession.

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