Once a thriving high street and nightlife area in the heart of Plymouth, Union Street has fallen into dilapidation in recent years. Changes to the way we shop has led to many high streets across the country facing a similar fate of decline.
But, Nudge Community Builders in Plymouth is leading a fight back. A community business set up to revive and regenerate Union Street, Nudge create and run activity in disused, underused or unusual urban spaces to bring about lasting, community-led change.
Recently shortlisted as one of the 2018 ‘New Radicals’ from Nesta and the Observers, Nudge use small ‘nudges’ to bring about change in their local community – things like art in unlikely places and a weekly street market which encourage people to engage with the high street.
Along with saving and repurposing a local pub (The Clipper) through a community share offer, Nudge has also renovated a derelict shop and café (Union Corner). Hannah Sloggett – Co Director of Nudge – shares with us her two top tips for breathing new life on to your local high street.
- Take risks
One of the first things Nudge did was set up a community gallery on the empty buildings along Union Street. There were fifteen buildings and we covered them with graphics, photos and poems of local people by local people. It was part of reclaiming the space as belonging to the community. We just went and did it, no one told us whether we could or not! And within that process we started to understand what was holding some of those spaces back. So take a risk – it will pay off in the end.
- Hold your own
Be confident about what you are planning to do and don’t budge too much from your vision when others tell you can’t do it. Planning departments and local authorities work with a lot of red tape but you can get through it especially with your community behind you. For our Union Corner Community Space and the Clipper Pub, they initially wanted to turn our plans down. By setting our proposals in their language or framework you can negotiate. Try and make them see that your plans support a wider vision they might have for an area or city and show that your plans will make a difference and can be delivered.
Find out more about the work of Nudge and Homebaked Bakery in Anfield on the latest episode of the Community Business Fix – out now.
If you’re a community organisation that is helping to revitalise your local high street, then we want to hear from you! Tell us your story to help us make the case for the role of community business in saving the high street. How do you #highstreetinnovate?