Big Burton Carousel art installation

Art could be the key to saving Britain’s high streets

As Britain’s high streets continue to decline and interest rates rising, East Staffordshire Borough Council is embracing interactive art trails to encourage footfall into the town.

The Big Burton Carousel is East Staffordshire Borough Council’ second bespoke art trail and is currently running in the town of Burton on Trent. Using local artists and school children and made from recycled compressed plastic and comprising 30 pieces of art dotted about in key locations, the art is designed to evoke a feeling of civic pride through the celebration of the world-renowned fairground makers, Orton and Spooner, to whom Burton on Trent was home.

The first trail, Burton Swans, was held at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and increased footfall by over 10,000 during the 10-week period that it was held, whilst helping to bring in an additional £40,000 for local businesses.

Chloe Brown, Brewhouse Arts Centre Manager from East Staffordshire Borough Council, said:

“The difference the art trails are making to the town is amazing. Covid 19 has brought many challenges, with unfortunately many still remaining, even though shops have reopened.  Getting people back into town centres is going to take a different approach and we have seen first-hand how using art in outdoor spaces can create a sense of pride within communities.”

“When people start to come to the High Street for more than just shopping, I think we will start to see footfall increase.”

Following the House of Commons’ report titled Supporting our High Street after Covid-19, it was concluded that new ways of bringing people into towns that are struggling is key. One of these ways was by basing footfall on social interactions, rather than just financial transactions.

High streets declined by 15.4% in March 2020 compared to pre-pandemic numbers, according to the British Retail Consortium, and this new project comes after the UK saw nearly 50 stores a day closing. Much of this has left stores still left unoccupied and high streets declining by the week.

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