Opening today (22 March), a major new outdoor exhibition called Picturing High Streets tells the stories behind our shopfronts. It celebrates our high street heroes, captures familiar scenes and invites audiences to consider the value and role of their local high street. The exhibition is part of a three-year project by Historic England and Photoworks, in partnership with national and regional photography organisations, to create a contemporary portrait of England’s high streets.
The winning 65 photographs have been chosen from more than 1,000 public entries and will tour towns and cities across England from today, 22 March. The collection can be seen on Historic England’s website and have been officially added to the Historic England Archive for posterity.
In Hastings, a selection of the winning images can be seen for free in the windows of Holden & Co (32-33 Robertson Street) and Rock House (49-51 Cambridge Road) between 22nd March and 23rd April. Holden & Co is a derelict shopfront that has recently been purchased by Holy Trinity Hastings Church to be used as a community space and Rock House is a busy space for work and living that was the first building acquired by Hastings Commons.
These buildings are located in the Trinity Triangle, which forms part of Historic England’s £95 million government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme, breathing new life into high streets across England. In Hastings, the Heritage Action Zone focused on the Trinity Triangle area is run in partnership with us (Hastings Commons). Jess Steele, CEO of Hastings Commons, says, “We’re pleased to host these great photographs of high streets from all over the country, and we hope it will inspire the many talented photographers of Hastings to submit their local entries over the next few months.”
At a time when our high streets are continuing to change rapidly, this exhibition invites the public to reflect on the purpose of the high street. It also considers the history and experiences of the people and places that make up an often-overlooked fixture in all our lives. From lively market traders to reflective coffee drinkers, friends meeting up in favourite shops to individuals taking walks, light festivals to nights out -the winning images show the stories behind the shopfronts.
The winning 65 images can be viewed online here. They were judged by designer and retail expert Wayne Hemingway MBE, artist Camille Walala, Clear Channel UK’s Marketing Director Ben Hope, Director of Photoworks Jonathan May, and Historic England Chief Executive, Duncan Wilson.
Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, said: “It was a joy to judge the images submitted by the public, each of which reflected its own way the true importance and spirit of England’s high streets today. The range and volume of images submitted shows just how much the high street still means to us all, and this exhibition captures a moment in the everyday life of the high street. We’re thrilled to be bringing these images to high streets across England in different forms in our largest outdoor exhibition to date.”
Picturing High Streets Photo challenge continues
Since September 2022, people across England have been responding to themed fortnightly challenges, from “high street hang outs” to “bright lights to dark nights” and submitting their photographs on Instagram under the hashtag #PicturingHighStreets. All entries create an unofficial archive documenting a year in the life of the English high street on Instagram, and the winning photographs will also enter the Historic England Archive, the nation’s archive for England’s historic buildings, archaeology and social history.
The public can continue to submit their photographs to respond to a fortnightly challenge that uncovers the secret life of the high street, posting their own photographs on Instagram using #PicturingHighStreets until 30 September 2023.
The high streets cultural programme is the widest-reaching, community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm that has ever been organised, led by Historic England in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Follow @PicturingHighStreets on Instagram and post your pictures using #PicturingHighStreets. We would love to see how you engage with the Hastings high street through photography.
All photos of windows by John Cole Photography.
High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative: Taking place in more than 60 high streets across England, and receiving £7.4 million from UK Treasury, Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, it’s the largest ever community-led arts and heritage programme. By restoring local pride and attracting people back to their local town centres, the High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme is playing an important role in Levelling Up and acting as a powerful catalyst for increasing opportunities and prosperity. To find out more visit here.
About Historic England
Historic England are the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. They protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. They care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists that share HE’s passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.
Find out more about how the historic environment can help our wellbeing.
This year Historic England is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the National Heritage Act, which established the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, as Historic England was then known. The Act sets out the organisation’s duty to protect historic buildings and archaeological sites, as well as to enhance the public’s enjoyment and knowledge of the historic places that surround us all.