This project, commissioned by Historic England, is a collaboration between Katy Hawkins, creative producer and evaluator, and myself, Ellie Shipman, participatory artist and designer. Our project Public Announcements (working title) aims to bring to light the hidden community-led activity, local heritage and shared histories of two Heritage Action Zones (aka HAZs) Keynsham and Bedford through playful, thought-provoking and creative public signage co-designed with residents. The project will consist of the following:

  1. Community conversations and local research in both areas.
  2. Co-designing High Street Observation Cards and local illustrated maps of each High Street with community groups.
  3. Delivering mapping workshops with community groups using the High Street Observation Cards as prompts for exploration.
  4. Hosting creative workshops to design banners / signs for a parade in Summer 2021 on each High Street.
  5. Sharing learning from the cards, mapping workshops and parade between each place - Keynsham and Bedford - and wider cultural programme across England.

Throughout this year high streets across England have been further impacted with COVID restrictions, compounding existing challenges for retailers known as ‘the death of the high street’ as shoppers prioritise online purchasing and even large chain stores go out of business (The Guardian, 2019). We know high streets are more than retail however (Historic England, 2020) - they provide sites for informal meetings, for exchange, for experiences to unfold and local pride to build. They are sites of heritage, stories, community, architecture and place. This project aims to put this hidden infrastructure to the fore, prompting new interpretations of high streets from the communities who know them best.

To get involved in the project or to find out more do get in touch: ellie@ellieshipman.com

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Here is the first walk around Keynsham, sign spotting. 

The signs on the High Street seem to fit in a few different categories. 

Wayfinding / directions

Selling / offers

Graffiti / independent 

Memorials / history / faith