High Street Cultural Programme

A summer of culture in Plymouth City Centre


More than £100,000 has been awarded to Plymouth to help reimagine our city centre through community-led cultural activities and a ‘summer of culture on the high street’.

The cash grant will be used over three years – starting with a project this summer working with the local skating community to design inspiring and striking artwork that will reflect how skating has long been a cultural staple of the city centre.

It will also be used to help bring empty shops back to life with artistic projects and bring new public art to the city centre through conversations with communities about what artworks Plymouth should celebrate.

The money has been given to Plymouth Culture, the organisation which leads on cultural activity and supports the sector in the city. It was awarded by Historic England as part of the Plymouth High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ).

Plymouth is one of more than 60 high streets to receive a share of £6 million for its cultural programme, to be used from now until March 2024.

The cultural programme in Plymouth has three strands: activation, vacancy spaces and public art.

Activation will involve using creative and cultural activities to help bring spaces in our historic city centre to life. These spaces include buildings, streets and the in-between places that provide opportunities for cultural encounters.

The activities will use both traditional and digital technologies and will involve lots of different art forms to revitalise the area.

In year one, the team worked with community-led arts organisation Take a Part and contemporary art gallery KARST to co-commission and co-design artwork with professional artists and the skating community. A similar process will be used in year two to work with a different community.

Watch: In 2020, KARST worked with the skating community and partners to redesign the hoardings around the Civic Centre


In the second part of the work, Plymouth Culture will make use of vacant spaces for cultural activity. Ultimately the goal is to drive a sustainable future and reimagined high street, and that needs to include a focus on creative social enterprise models, including community ownership.

Working alongside partners such as Plymouth City Council and the City Centre Company, organisers will launch a series of funded artistic commissions to test cultural, creative activity in empty shops. Vacancy Atlas, a team of experts in this area, will support this process from promotion, to lease negotiation and a long-term rolling programme.

This work will support the development of best practice tool kits and feasibility studies with creative collectives to help identify spaces on the high street which can be owned and run by the creative and cultural sector.

The role of public art is critical in shaping and manifesting the cultural identity of place. This includes ‘tradition’ public art such as sculpture but also temporary installations, design aesthetics and street furniture.

A public art steering group for the city will be established in partnership with The Box, which will take ownership of the Public Art Plan. This will focus on engaging experts and communities in the decision-making process and ensuring the city’s public art is valued and celebrated.

The four-year-long High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme is led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Cultural Programme aims to make our high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.

Hannah Harris, CEO of Plymouth Culture, says: “We are delighted that we have secured the HSHAZ cultural programme for Plymouth and that we can now launch the programme.

“While we understand the need for immediate action to support the revival of the high street, our programme focuses on linking short-term activity to long-term ambition.

“This means that we are working hard to align a number of high-street programmes and partners to make sure that we genuinely reimagine the high street with a focus on creative and cultural activity driving transformation.

“This is an opportunity to make a real difference and influence what our high street will look like in the future.”


This is an opportunity to make a real difference and influence what our high street will look like in the future

Hannah Harris

CEO Plymouth Culture

The funding builds on the success of a series of pilot cultural projects that have run since last August across 43 High Street Heritage Action Zones. They have not only helped high streets offer cultural activity during lockdown, but also discovered what local people would like to see happening on their high streets.

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage MP said:
“High streets are often the heart of our communities and should be places we all want to engage with and enjoy. These grants will help transform high streets into thriving cultural hubs, encouraging us to embrace all the joys our town centres have to offer.”

 Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, adds: “The High Streets Cultural Programme is an essential part of the way we are contributing to bringing high streets back from the brink.

“As we start to see these important historic spaces become regenerated through conservation and building work, the community-led cultural activity programme will bring people back to enjoy their high street again and have a say in its future.”



June 2021 – August 2021

Performance based community engagement commission designed to open discussion about the high street and its future with the public.

 May 2021 – March 2022

KARST and Take a Part will work with the skater community to co-commission artist work in the public realm.

Engagement events with skater community.

2 x artist commissions

April 2022 – March 2023

A producer will be commissioned to work with a community of interest (yet to be identified).

2 x artist commissions.

Vacant spaces

August 2021 – Dec 2022

Vacancy atlas commissioned to develop and host meanwhile use opportunities on a digital platform

2 x window commissions

3 x vacant shop commissions

1 x feasibility study and business planning to support communities to acquire permanent space on the high street for arts and cultural activity

Public art

June 2021 – March 2024  

Establishment of a public art steering group to implement the recommendations set out in the Public art plan 2017

Develop a framework for democratic decision making, involving the community in commissioning public art

Mapping our public art across the city to celebrate and maintain it

1 x public art commission linked to British Art Show (Oct 2022 – Dec 2022) as a test case



HSHAZ funding: £101,290
In-kind support from partners: £35,750
Cash contributions from partners: £5,500
Total project value: £142,540

How funding will be spent