Pop-up scheme gives creative new lease of life to empty shops
A ‘pop-up’ tea room is proving popular with shoppers in Brighton & Hove - and highlighting a scheme to put empty shops to good use.
Taj’s Tea Parlour in Brighton Square, which combines a café with creative workshops and events, is making temporary use of an empty property, which is due to be redeveloped shortly. It is one of a range of creative pop-ups which have opened in the city over the last year in a drive led by Brighton & Hove City Council, in partnership with an organisation called We Are Pop Up.
Others have included kollektiv, an award-winning gallery run by local artists; a temporary performance area for Brighton-based theatre group Pink Fringe; and a Hunt & Darton pop-up café which hosted interactive performances and art installations as part of Brighton’s SICK! Festival. Two more ventures are in the pipeline for Brighton Square this month – a photography exhibition from 6-8 September, plus an installation for Brighton Digital Festival .
The aim is to fill empty shops and give people with ideas for a new business or a creative project an opportunity to try out the market and flourish, without the commitment of a long term lease. The emphasis is specifically on the arts and creative industries that the city is renowned for – providing Brighton & Hove’s creative industry with a shopfront to showcase their work. For shoppers and visitors, it means new and fresh ventures popping up to check out. The council’s pop-up initiative is part of ReCreate, a European-funded partnership project to support and champion the city’s arts and creative industries sector. http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/press-release/drive-fill-empty-shops-pop-businesses.
Demand for pop-up space in Brighton & Hove is high and, to build on the success of the council project, We are Pop Up are keen to hear from any property owners with shops or gallery space available to let on a short term basis. They are also launching at ‘Shop Share’ initiative for the city – their first outside London - to enable entrepreneurs to rent a rail, a table, or even just a shelf, within an already established business or destination.
A ‘ Pop Up Meet Up’ meeting is being held on September 15 at 6pm at Taj’s Tea Parlour in Brighton Square for people interested in finding out more about pop-ups. Places are limited at the event – people interested in going along should contact Abigail Freeman at We Are Pop Up firstname.lastname@example.org or register at https://pumu-btn-shopshare.eventbrite.co.uk
Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chair of the city council’s Economic Development and Culture committee, said: “In Brighton & Hove the number of vacant shops is low compared with the rest of the country, and they don’t tend to stay empty for long, but there is still a turnover of properties, and that’s where the pop-up shops come in.
“Finding affordable premises for our small creative companies is a pressing need. Pop-ups can be for a few days or weeks and they can suit anyone from chefs to artists or retailers, and can be used to test ideas, hold promotional events or showcase their work. Brighton & Hove has a reputation as a vibrant, creative city and the scheme has fitted perfectly with that, giving creative entrepreneurs a chance to test the market and bringing together people with ideas and people with space available. We have had everything from galleries and performing arts spaces to creative cafes.”
Taj Noel-Cambridge opened Taj’s Tea Parlour in June and is organising a range of different events from flower workshops to vintage pattern cutting. Taj said: “It is going very well, passers-by and local people are helping to spread the word about us.” Artist Sophie Giblin opened a pop-up gallery, kollektiv, in Brighton Square in May this year to showcase the work of graduates from the University of Brighton. She is now hoping to find larger premises for another pop-up gallery later in the year and is also running workshops for other graduates interested in setting up their own pop-up businesses. Sophie, who graduated last summer, said: “People love walking around Brighton and seeing something new opening up, and pop-up is quite perfect for what I’m looking for. It is cheap and low risk and a great way of showing off the work of local and emerging artists. There is no way I could afford to commit to a long term lease on a gallery.”
Other ventures have included Brighton based theatre company, Pink Fringe, who transformed an empty shop in St James’ Street earlier this year to stage their latest production ‘New Ways of Living’ http://www.theloopbrighton.org/pink-fringe-and-the-pop-up-scheme/ ; Elephant Parade Gallery an exhibition by artist Louise Dear which raised awareness for an elephant conservation charity; and work by students at City College.
Ed Allison-Wright from the Centurion Group, the landlord of properties in Brighton Square which have been used for pop-ups, has worked closely with the council’s economic development team from the start of the project. He said: “It’s great to see the scheme evolve from its inception. Pop-ups put their own character on what would otherwise be an empty unit and they have benefits for everyone, they improve the look of the premises and surrounding tenants in turn improve their trade.”
Another pop-up, Chubby Chops canine café, is currently operating in Brighton Square, although it is not directly part of the council’s project. The owners came up with the idea for the café, which comes complete with its own ‘doggy’ and ‘human’ menus, after looking for places to go to with their own dog.
To offer or find pop-up premises: Contact Abigail Freeman Abigail@wearepopup.com