West End launches new-gen creatives pop-up programme
As they work to drive shopper traffic back to London’s West End, the New West End Company, local authority Westminster City Council and landlord Crown Estate have announced the launch of a pop-up programme.
The aim is to “give a new generation of local talent and start-ups the chance to open their doors in the iconic West End and bring variety to the district that will help to shape the future of the high street”. And the council is supporting the programme with grants of up to £5,000 to “enhance brand profiles and help fund installations”.
But what about that “shape the future of the high street” comment? Well, the trio “will test innovative concepts through a programme of events, services, and activities in available spaces to encourage people to use spaces in different ways — focusing on engagement and interaction over sales”.
It’s all happening on and around Oxford Street, Regent Street and in Mayfair, with 10 vacant units that “aim to give forward-thinking, sustainable and innovative companies the opportunity to showcase their work” for a three-month period.
The group is looking for “pioneering businesses” that fall into four categories. One of these is Fashion Laboratories. That means giving “a new generation of designers the opportunity to reimagine retail and challenge the way we consume fashion under business models that support sustainability whilst connecting local distinctiveness and global trends”.
Then there’s Wellness and Wellbeing, Dreamscapes (seasonal immersive spaces), and Mixed Reality Spaces that use mixed media and digital art to create immersive installations.
It’s an interesting set of ideas and in addition to to the hundreds of millions of pounds that are being invested in the reopened West End shows a determination on the part of the interested parties to ensure the neighbourhood regains its former status. Oxford Street, for instance, was Europe’s busiest shopping street pre-pandemic and was also expecting a footfall surge due to the opening of new transport links.
But the pandemic saw the West End suffering more than any other retail district and with the addition of Brexit, it has a big hill to climb to get back to where it once was.
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