This is extraordinary. Very sad, but still extraordinary.
Once upon a time Northam Precinct, a housing estate in Southampton, Hampshire, had a thriving parade of local shops. Now only a newsagent and a fish and chip shop remain, the others unable to compete with the cheaper megastores. With the grey shutters down over the closed premises, the estate looked run-down. So, a collective of artists came up with a great way to commemorate the lost shops and brighten the estate up. They painted them back to life.
It's a wonderful project, such a great idea and a brilliant way of involving the community in improving their environment. Each of the painted shops is a recreation of the original shops, right down to the portraits of the people who worked there. The community provided the descriptions, school kids helped decide what the designs would look like and a team of four artists took four days and around £1,000 of spray paint to revive the drab precinct.
Chris Chalkley, who runs community regeneration projects, oversaw the makeover. He said: ‘On this housing estate most of the trading units were no longer trading, so what should have been the heart of the community had been knocked out. It's something we are seeing all over the country - the increasing growth of supermarkets is causing the closure of local shops and high street. This pattern is being repeated ad nauseum everywhere you look.’
He continues: 'The row of grey shutters was a pretty grim scene so we took a list of the types of shop that used to be there and recreated it. 'In some ways it's ironic that we painted murals of how the shops used to look - how they should be - on units that stand closed. I know that the council and residents were very pleased with the results. We made a huge change to the area for very little money. For me, the units really need to be let out at low rent to get the community back into them. Painting the units should be a precursor to action.'
It's a fantastic idea. Let's see it replicated all over the UK. Or, better still, how about affordable rentals so that these shops can open again?
To see all of the paintings visit the Southampton Council website.
Photos by Jamie Lorriman for the Solent News.