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Talking Shop: Exploring a More Inclusive Future for the High Street

Written by
Careers & Employability
Published date
01 September 2019

“I was inspired by the journeys, resilience and creativity which the individuals showed in tackling social issues through the power of the high street. This has empowered me even more to make a sustainable impact in our local communities.”

Luke Netherclift, Speaker

This day of talks and workshops examining the future of the high street, took place at Central Saint Martins (CSM) on 5 July 2019.

The event was attended by 60 people, including UAL staff and students plus representatives from social enterprises, businesses, charities, local organisations and Camden Council. The activities explored how empty retail spaces could be reimagined and used for social purpose.

The morning session comprised presentations from speakers who are utilising vacant high street premises in innovative ways. Roslyn Karamoko, the keynote speaker, described her journey in founding  Détroit Is The New Black, a concept store in downtown Detroit that showcases emerging local fashion designers and small businesses. It also serves as an exhibition space and community hub for Detroit’s African-American community.

Wayne Hemingway from Hemingway Design explained how his studio was working to reinvigorate Blackburn high street following the closure of shops. Their approach has seen Blackburn’s rich manufacturing heritage reinvigorated through The Making Rooms; a series of spaces with equipment that local designers can use to make their products, which are then sold on site. They have also launched the national Festival of Making, which showcases art, manufacturing, making and communities through a free annual festival in Blackburn.

Former gang member turned social entrepreneur Stephen Addison gave a particularly moving presentation on his social enterprise Box Up Crime. Operating from a converted high street retail space, the organisation uses sport - in particular boxing - as a tool to inspire, educate and develop young people who are at risk of having their lives blighted by crime. Other presentations came from Hattie Lamb at Boutique by Shelter, which sells a curated selection of vintage, designer and quality high-street clothing, and Caroline Gration from The Fashion School, which provides inspiring fashion design and sewing workshops in a transformed retail store in London’s Kings Road.

Designers Chanelle Joseph and Dorcas Magbadelo shared their experience of launching Ilé La Wà - a gift store inspired by African and Black British culture and featuring the work of black designers and makers. To close the morning session, Warwick University student Luke Netherclift shared his idea of a backpack that helps refugees through its sales.

Listen to some of the speakers’ presentations by clicking on the links below:

Détroit is the New Black (USA) - Roslyn Karamoko
Hemingway Design - Wayne Hemingway
Boutique by Shelter - Hattie Lamb
Box Up Crime - Stephen Addison

The afternoon session consisted of a workshop co-led by Roslyn Karamoko (Détroit is the New Black) and Dr Pamela Yeow (Course Director, MBA CSM/Birkbeck). It explored how individuals and organisations can establish creative retail spaces with a focus on social innovation, inclusive practice and sustainability. The workshop examined the politics of such ventures, including the privatisation of public space, local government zoning laws, and increased participation for under-represented groups.

The event was funded by CSM’s Knowledge Exchange Impact Fund in partnership with UAL’s Careers and Employability team. It was co-delivered by Val Palmer, Tessa Read and Sarah Rhodes.

Photos from the day