|Skipton High Street - success in a small town with three supermarkets|
The truth is that big business has failed us, twice. First, while distant high street landlords endlessly put up rents, the boom years saw the accelerated replacement of independent shops with the chains whose names – Game, Peacocks, JJB Sports – denoted the stereotypical clone town. Soon enough, the same firms became bywords for the aftershocks of the crash – and left behind the retail equivalent of scorched earth.
...a town centre that has the rare luxury of scores of independent shops.
The driver to the success of Main Street isn’t the shop – although to hear us talk about town centres you would think that – it is the relationship we have with that place and the space it provides for the events and activities of our lives. In Bradford, when Pakistan win at cricket, hundreds of fans head for the local centres. Not to shop but to share their happiness at victory.
Yet we distrust such a use for the spaces of our town centres. Many of us grumble about public drinking, about young people gathering together, about hen parties and stag dos. And we certainly dislike political campaigns and religious promotion (unless of course it’s an official and state-sanctioned occasion) – to the point of complaining about these activities.
To make town centres work we need to start thinking about them differently:
1. places of performance – planned or otherwise
2. centres of culture not temples to shopping
3. a locus for excitement and discovery rather than the workaday
4. as venues for communal celebration, sharing and festivity