Appetite’s Newcastle Common project brings empty shops to life
Appetite are launching Newcastle Common by commissioning two artists who will transform an empty town centre shop. Newcastle Common will look at the changing use of the town centre and will test and experiment with empty shops as spaces of culture and art.
Teaming up with Newcastle-under-Lyme BID on the project, Appetite already have their first artist-in residence, Holly Johnson, in place.
Holly is picking up on the long history of hat-making and millinery in Newcastle-under-Lyme by making three pieces of headwear – two classic styles inspired by the area’s history and one contemporary style embellished with designs inspired by the town. She is now appealing on social media for photos, stories or memories from local residents, business owners, and those whose families have grown up in the area to inspire her creations.
Holly’s process and results will be showcased in video tutorials and a live stream from a shop window in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Newcastle Common’s lead artist Dan Thompson will be mentoring Holly – and the yet-to-be-revealed second artist-in-residence – throughout the project, sharing his wealth of experience of working in empty shops. Dan is an artist and writer who has driven successful projects that have looked at repurposing shops as spaces for creating and communities, and published ‘Pop-up shops for Dummies’.
Appetite Director Gemma Thomas said
“The High Street is changing, it’s not new however the impact of COVID might have increased the speed. Over the years Appetite has trialled many ways of working to bring arts and culture to high streets to encourage visits by residents of the area and further afield and increase dwell time through our projects. Newcastle Common allows us to work with partners and the town centre more consistently and giving everyone opportunity to engage with the arts whenever you visit – giving more reason to visit. Our ambition is that Newcastle Common will grow and adapt over three years based on feedback and working directly with people in the town centre. Once we can we will welcome people, be a place where people can watch performances, get involved, be a meeting space to grow and develop partnerships. We’re thrilled to be working together to bring something new to the town, celebrating the rich and vibrant history of Newcastle-under-Lyme.”
Amy Williams, Newcastle-under-Lyme BID Manager said:
“The BID exists to help ensure Newcastle is a thriving town centre, is distinctive and has lots to offer and we are thrilled to partner with Appetite on Newcastle Common. Appetite have once again used their fresh creative eyes on a challenge that is facing many high streets up and down the country, that of the presence of empty shops. We cannot wait to see what develops through Newcastle Common, what artists produce and what new and exciting partnerships and activities may develop. Once restrictions allow, Newcastle Common is another fantastic reason to visit and spend time in the Town Centre. It’s absolutely wonderful to have this energy and enthusiasm focussed on supporting our Town Centre.’
The Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Simon Tagg, said:
“The way town centres are being used across the country has been changing for quite some time now and this has obviously been impacted by the pandemic.
“Much like we’re making great strides in making our historic market more vibrant by trying new things, and have exciting plans to redevelop the town centre thanks to more than £11 million from the Future High Streets Fund, we wholeheartedly support other plans to adapt and think outside the box when promoting the borough’s history.
“Appetite has an excellent record of providing high quality arts and cultural experiences for families in North Staffordshire. It’s testament to their brilliant creativity that they’re able to evolve and deliver another different, and accessible, project for people to enjoy at home while we’re currently in lockdown.”
Newcastle Common is part of Appetite’s programme in Newcastle-under-Lyme that now includes the Familiar Faces outdoor exhibition by Adina Lawrence in partnership with GRAIN, a Town Centre Map by Chloe Breeze Illustration, and Every Other Seat with Dust Rising CIC. It also follows the tour of the Three Counties Cubes outdoor exhibition being located in the town centre.
Appetite, led by the New Vic Theatre, is a Creative People and Places programme for Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme. Funded by Arts Council England it has been enticing people in the area with accessible, high energy, spectacular work for the past 8 years. This year, Appetite continue to expand their programme into Newcastle with Newcastle Common.