Empty Hull shops to be transformed in summer culture festival

Empty shop units are set to take centre stage in a three-day mini-festival of arts and culture in Hull.

City-based arts company Absolutely Cultured is commissioning eight local artists to create shop window designs in empty stores across the city centre.

It aims to bring redundant spaces temporarily back to life following the impact of lockdown restrictions on the high street as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shop closures linked to the pandemic have been particularly noticable in the city centre where several national names, including Topshop, Burton and Debenhams, have all been recent casualties.

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In a call-out to artists to take part in July’s Creative Hull festival, the company said: “The pandemic has highlighted how important creativity is for our health and wellbeing, it has also accelerated the closure of high street shops.

“Hull is a city which already recognises the important role for culture in regeneration and communities but never before has this been as important as it is now.

“This is an experiment in how some of these disused buildings might be used more permanently going forward as well as providing a reset moment in how creativity and culture can be part of shaping Hull’s future.”

As well as the window display project, the festival running between July 16-18 is also is expected to see other empty stores being used for one-off events.

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The programme will include shows by Hull-based theatre company Middle Child, exhibitions in the Humber Street Gallery and a pop-up hangout hosted by Pride in Hull.

Best known for a series of large-scale multi-coloured installations, artist Morag Myerscough has also been commissioned to create an interactive piece of outdoor public art in the city centre while Absolutely Cultured is offering seed funding of up to £1,000 for another eight artists or collectives who have a new project which could be tried out at the festival.

Middle Child Theatre's performance of Cinderella in 2017
Middle Child Theatre’s performance of Cinderella in 2017
(Image: Middle Child)

Chief executve and artistic director Stephen Munn said: “We had originally planned this event for 2020 and whilst it will be a little different than intended, it’s even more relevant now.

“We have worked hard to make sure it can still go ahead in a considered and socially distanced way and we are really excited to be able to bring some much-needed joy to the city this summer.”

In addition to activity in the city centre, there will also be community-based events in the Gipsyville and Peel Street neighbourhoods.

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