How Festival Place uses art to attract people

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It’s no secret the detrimental effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, and once bustling malls across the country, now suffering from many shortcomings, are showing the harsh reality.

He said this represents three years of steadily increasing vacancy rates.

All types of businesses recorded an increase in vacancies over the period, with a particularly strong increase in shopping centers.

At Basingstoke’s Festival Place, several outlets are empty, as a range of major brands have fallen victim to multiple lockdowns and forced closings.

Among them are TopShop, Zara, one of the units of H&M, Laura Ashley, Monsoon Accessorize and, more recently and significantly, the three-story Debenhams store in the city.

With so many empty units, people may feel put off going to the mall.

‘The main street under siege’

Although it is early since the retail business reopened in April, due to the off-putting factor of deserted business units coupled with reluctance to return to potentially occupied locations and the financial impact of the pandemic on individuals, the councils fear a drop in attendance.

Speaking previously to the Gazette, Basingstoke Council Chief Cllr Ken Rhatigan described the coming period as “retail reshaping”, adding that his administration “must take this into account for our strategies in order to keep us from looking at the retail sector. ensure that whatever we offer for Basingstoke is the right offer for the long haul ”.

And last week, the council announced that it was looking for talented people to participate in a new “Busk Stop” program, aimed at “creating a positive vibe as we welcome people back to the city.”

However, in the meantime, Festival Place has made the decision to brighten up its empty units with a number of arts and entertainment projects.

One example, unveiled earlier this month, is a striking image of novelist Jane Austen created using only snow spray, an ice scraper, and a paintbrush.

Festival Place has partnered with Hampshire Snow Windows Ltd in a bid to “bring some warmth and positivity back to struggling Main Street after a tough year,” the team told The Gazette.

“We wanted to give buyers a reason to come back”

Basingstoke Gazette:

Since its inception in 2015, Snow Windows has taken the country by storm, with artist Tom creating magical Christmas scenes in the windows of Harvey Nicholls, Costa, Audi and Gaggenau, as well as working its magic in celebrity homes. like Jamie Oliver, Kirstie Allsopp and Chris Moyles.

But with their busiest season behind them, Tom and his partner Keri Ackling decided to spend the warmer months working on a new project that would give Main Street something in return.

“The last few years have been very difficult for Main Street, and the retail industry has been hit hard by the pandemic,” Keri said.

“This year more than ever, we wanted to find ways to safely support communities against Covid.

“We wanted to give buyers a reason to come back and hopefully make them smile, so we asked malls if they wanted to turn their empty units into art spaces for free.

“We had worked in Basingstoke before, doing installations in stores around town, so we knew it would work well if we could do something with Festival Place.”

Keri and Tom had wanted to keep Snow Windows’ work anonymous, creating works of art that would appear mysteriously and take nothing away from what they hoped to achieve, but the distinctive nature of Tom’s work soon led to their discovery. .

“It wasn’t really about advertising for us as a company,” Keri said. “We’re doing it for free to hopefully create something positive, but we just couldn’t go under the radar. In the first installation we did in an empty unit, Tom signed his artwork Bob Sled, a tribute to artist Bob Ross and a nod to the snowy nature of the artwork – but as soon as she got there started appearing on social networks, people found out who was behind.

The artwork at Festival Place took Tom about four hours to create and portray novelist Jane Austen, who spent the first 25 years of her life in the borough, as her father was vicar in Steventon.

“All of our images carry a positive message and have a local connection, and we hope that in addition to enjoying the work, people will be inspired to learn more about the history and heritage of their cities,” said Keri .

“We wanted to give people a reason to smile and we hope our facilities will keep people coming back to malls and shopping streets – our retailers depend on it. ”

“A public arena”

Basingstoke Gazette:

Meanwhile, a neighboring window was decorated with work by students from the city’s Queen Mary College.

An empty commercial unit currently accommodates works created by students of fine arts, photography, graphic communication, textiles and art, and crafts and design in one of its units.

Tom Cops, professor of photography and graphic communications at QMC, said: “During the last lockdown, art students at Queen Mary’s College worked hard to develop their projects, creating the work that will be showcased at Festival Place.

“Deprived of access to resources and the classroom environment, their work naturally changed, but remained of an exceptional standard.

“Students in all of our disciplines have not only adapted but thrived.

“From images of deserted streets and portraits created on Zoom to shoes made from recycled materials, this work wouldn’t have existed in the same way without the lockdown.

“It’s exciting to be able to present this work created in isolation in such a public arena.”

“No one likes an empty unit”

Basingstoke Gazette:

The Gazette asked Festival Place if it sees these artistic efforts as a temporary solution to the problem of hesitant buyers, a method of attracting new retailers to the center, or a longer-term solution for empty units.

A spokesperson said, “We are very fortunate at Festival Place to have the ability to be creative with our empty units. We pride ourselves on being at the heart of the Basingstoke community and are always looking for innovative ways to attract our visitors – by offering them something they wouldn’t see anywhere else ”.

The team said that “no one likes to see an empty unit” and hope that as they work to fill them they can use what could have been a stain on the center as a positive opportunity to showcase talent and community spirit.

He is therefore limited in his resolution to bring businesses to Basingstoke but could have a domino effect: if the mall can bring people back, it is hoped that new traders will follow. In the meantime, using the otherwise unused space.

They continued, “Our vacant homes give us the opportunity to showcase some of the incredibly exciting projects that local groups, colleges and charities are working on – something they couldn’t do otherwise, certainly not in one. so great mall.

“Over the past two years we’ve brought libraries, virtual orchestras, pop-up car shows, art shows and pantos to some of our units and they’ve made a storm with our visitors.

“No one likes to see an empty unit so we love being able to turn on the lights and bring a fun and creative touch and generally show how fantastic our community in Basingstoke really is! ”



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