Window of opportunity in ‘black holes’ on high street

John Haswell adding art work to the windows of empty shops

John Haswell adding art work to the windows of empty shops

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Berwick Chamber of Trade is trying to improve the appearance of Marygate with the launch of a new scheme to brighten up the high street.

The Berwick Empty Shops Project aims to reduce the number of “black holes” along the high street, by revitalising uninhabited buildings until they are leased.

The idea is simply to display various forms of art in the windows of empty shops to improve their appearance.

John Haswell, chairman of Berwick Chamber of Trade, explained: “At present there is a growing problem of empty shops on the high street. They appear like black holes, giving a run down feeling.

“But with the goodwill of landlords, artists and other local groups, we could quickly brighten up the buildings and create a more vibrant feeling by placing displays in the windows.

“This will bring shops back to life for landlords, while giving exhibitors a presence on the high street.”

A bright and appealing collection of paintings by north Northumberland-based artist A D Johnson is already in situ in the old Shelter shop, with paintings displayed on easels and atop tables loaned by Berwick Parish Church and the YMCA shop.

John said: “I was working at the pottery in Tweedmouth, which is an arty place. I thought, what if we got some art and make the high street better?

“I wrote a letter and took it to Edwin Thompson which said that for relatively little cost we could fill the shop window with art. He agreed, so we cleaned the window inside and out, and set up the display.

“The work doesn’t have any prices on it and is not on sale at the premises, so it’s not competition for anybody else.

“The idea is that we will change the artist every month - we can have stained glass, pottery, textiles, sculptures. We could display work from the schools, there’s lots of art in this town.”

Posters advertising places and events in Berwick, such as the Lowry exhibition, the Barracks and the Main Guard have also been included.

“This initiative can brighten up the street and create a more vibrant feeling,” John added.

“With goodwill from other landlords we can expand it to good effect.

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