Street Stories: The Interactive Art Trail to Save the High Street

How do you rejuvenate the city centre?

Street Stories is Arch Creative’s solution to improving the bleak-looking and struggling high streets across the UK with a positive and innovative approach. Find out how all of the benefits of Street Stories can help your town or city. 

What is Street Stories?

Street Stories was originally created by Arch Creative in partnership with BID Leicester in 2020 as a response to a vacant units brief. The task was to bring life back to the high street and turn empty shops into vibrant spaces.

Our solution was Street Stories, an innovative project package for towns and cities, which creates a more attractive high street, engages arts communities, and delivers an immersive augmented-reality (AR) experience for residents and visitors. 

The initial round of 10 window installations was a great success, bringing in local artists across a range of mediums, and we partnered up with Arts who created a dedicated Street Stories app to view our AR animations. 

These artworks are installed in empty shop windows, changing the high street from a dull grey-and-brown landscape into an interactive art trail full of bright-coloured installations. Each has its own theme and thought-provoking ideas for passersby to either stop and experience through animation, or even just walk past and appreciate.

Street Stories Leicester artwork tribute to Alice Hawkins

Street Stories Leicester

Leicester was the flagship city, unveiling Street Stories in 2020. Artworks included children’s-book illustrations, pieces inspired by local playwright Joe Orton and the LGBTQ+ movement, tributes to the study of space, and honouring Alice Hawkins, Leicester’s most famous suffragette. The campaign resulted in the majority of vacant units along the trail being taken over by new businesses and was a solid success and proof of concept to expand into other cities. 

“Beyond just getting people out of their houses into the city centre, it actually connects people and makes people proud of where they’re from.”

—Simon Jenner, BID Director – BID Leicester

Artist Michael Corr and his loved one standing in front of his painting in a vacant shop unit

Street Stories Stirling 

After a great initial launch, we then partnered with Go Forth Stirling to help rejuvenate their city centre. The artworks featured tributes to the local performing arts scene, pieces in solidarity with those suffering from mental health issues, and an exploration of Stirling’s deep archaeological connections, including the discovery of someone buried 4000 years ago. Stirling has now introduced another AR experience allowing the gamification of local history and sights. 

“. . . down to the suppliers for print and installation, the artists themselves, the fact that it’s all local, I think that’s the key to its success—I think that’s the magic behind it.”

—Danielle McRorie-Smith, Project Director – Go Forth Stirling

An artist smiling with her painting of Damon Albarn as part of Street Stories

Street Stories Colchester 

We recently partnered with Our Colchester for another round of Street Stories. Seven artists were selected to showcase pioneers from the city through a range of art forms. These pieces included a tribute to Colchester-born Damon Albarn, an exploration of the city’s history, and its involvement in current social issues.

“What I love about this project, it’s a way to support and celebrate our local artists . . . there’s multiple benefits to both the creatives . . . but also the beauty of the town.”

—Sam Good, BID Manager – Our Colchester

How Does This Help Towns and Cities?

Everyone benefits from Street Stories. It attracts local footfall, national attention, and even tourism to a town or city centre, and the project engages the local art community, giving them an opportunity to showcase their work and be paid to do so. 

People in the local area gain security, the shop spaces get highlighted with inspirational visuals, attracting new businesses to take them over. And finally, the city’s morale is boosted, as people are given a sense of civic pride in the place they live and will be less inclined to vandalise. Why smash a window or graffiti a storefront that’s already a work of art? 

Someone reading information on an art installation through an augmented reality app

Technology and Art Saving the High Street

The incorporation of technology and design in public spaces is crucial to bringing people back to the high street, adding an extra layer of experience you can’t have online. The British Retail Consortium released some further information regarding the amount of ‘void’ units across the UK—or empty stores to us non-industry folk. The expected results would be 3% unoccupied spaces. However, it was actually close to 14% in the last quarter of 2022, highlighting a serious problem for the retail industry. 

With an average of 47 stores closing a day and only 19 opening, the experience of the retail market needs upgrading. Our third installation for Colchester showed a great application of this, having a strong trail spread around the city in the sparse empty units, removing the look of an unloved street from view. Each installation adds to the trail and environment without taking anything away from the retailers around them.

Big things are coming for Street Stories. We can’t wait to share our plans and upcoming projects to really bring a positive change to the high street.

Get Involved in Street Stories

If you’d like to make a difference to your high street, take action now and Street Stories could help your town or city get started on a positive new journey.

Get in touch today