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Empty spaces in Plymouth about to undergo inspiring creative transformation in summer of culture

Unused spaces in Plymouth are about to undergo a cultural transformation as creatives bring empty buildings and urban areas to life with vibrant exhibitions, interactive experiences and inspiring installations that celebrate our city and heritage.

From this Spring, spaces in the city centre lying empty will be reborn as powerful light installations, welcoming social spaces, fledgling experimental businesses and inspiring learning centres.

One of the first units to be reimagined is 107 Cornwall Street, in the heart of the city centre. It will become a pop-up shop managed by Vacancy Atlas, specialists in unlocking the potential of empty spaces for use by local businesses, new start ups, community and cultural organisations.

Plymouth Culture in partnership with Vacancy Atlas are leading on the ‘Meanwhile Use’ project and guiding creative organisations through the process of refitting shops for their cultural transformation. 107 Cornwall Street will be a beacon of information for the Meanwhile Use project as it develops through 2022, with a rolling programme of pop-up initiatives and online information platform.

The scheme aims to make use of empty spaces until they are commercially occupied and will give a platform to cultural initiatives by the city’s creative community and bring more exciting innovative projects to the city centre.

People visiting the city centre can expect to see:

  • Light installations created by the renowned Still/Moving in collaboration with community groups, who created the globally-recognised ‘No New Worlds’ sculpture on Mount Batten Pier in 2020.
  • Inspiring art works by Plymouth’s skating community
  • A giant chalk map of Plymouth that people can get involved in ‘renaming’
  • A Climate Hub led by polar explorer and environmental educator Antony Jinman
  • A civic skater centre celebrating Plymouth’s skate culture
  • Artist retail and workshop space
  • Projects by IGNITE festival of creativity run by University of Plymouth and Plymouth College of Art
  • A new zero emissions cargo bike initiative led by Plymouth’s BikeSpace in partnership with Zedify

The scheme will start with a series of events and workshops involving local people and creative groups in shaping what the different projects will look like with opportunities to take part and learn new design skills.

The first projects were chosen following an open call to the creative community in Plymouth and will take place in unused spaces thanks to partnerships with city landlords and property managers.

The chosen projects have also been able to develop their plans within a programme supported by organisations including Outset Plymouth business startup advice service.

The Meanwhile Use scheme is being spearheaded by Plymouth Culture, Plymouth City Council and Plymouth City Centre Company.

Hannah Harris, CEO of Plymouth Culture – the organisation dedicated to creating opportunities for the creative and cultural sector in the city, said: “There’s a need to diversify away from relying on retail in our city centre that’s backed up by multiple reports and studies.

Meanwhile Use gives us a chance to use empty shops to give our cultural community a platform to display their talents and spark everyday cultural encounters for everyone who comes to the city centre.

The response to our call for proposals was inspiring with an extraordinary array of creativity on show. We’re extremely excited to see the results and the project take shape from this spring and through the year. We very much see this as a first phase and will be inviting further proposals when other property has been identified.”

The ‘meanwhile use’ programme is funded through Historic England (Heritage Action Zone Culture Programme), Interreg (C-Care), Plymouth City Council and City Centre Company.

The programme’s launch comes after the adoption of the Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan (CAAMP) earlier this month, which has highlighted the opportunity for ‘meanwhile use’ to play a valuable role in reviving the high street.

The plan sets out what makes Plymouth city centre special, its specific character and setting and, crucially, what can be done to manage change and inform decision-making in the future.

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