Friday, 15 June 2012


I popped to a fashion event today, however, it wasn't the kind of fashion event that I usually attend. Firstly, there was no Champagne, just an urn of coffee. Secondly, there were were no models, just MPs. There were no clothes, ambient electronic music or 'mixologists', just a Power-point projector. 

Where on earth was I? I was at Band On The Wall in Manchester's Northern Quarter for the High Street Revival Conference. Paul Turner-Mitchel, of Rochdale's young fashion independent boutique 25Ten, hosted the discussion alongside Dan Thompson, the orchestrator of #riotcleanup in London and the other cities affected by the #riots. 

The panel also included Joe Barratt, the 19-year-old entrepreneur behind Stockport's successful Portas Pilot bid and Rochdale's Simon Danczuk MP who lead an independent response to the Portas Review earlier this year.

The talk was truly inspiring for so many reasons. Firstly, Thompson's attitude and approach to the British high street is refreshing and without a doubt the way of the future. He successfully mixes anarchism with aspiration, admits to being a Tesco shopper whilst openly supportive of community projects working out of empty shop units. This is revolutionary-ism I can get on board with. (I'm such a stinking capitalist aren't I?)

Thompson spoke of his travels throughout the UK and abroad and the many uses for empty shop units that enrich the high street whilst tackling the rising vacancy percentages nation-wide. No, he isn't advocating community centres, he isn't trumping 'arts 'n craft' bollocks, he's championing real, creative use of empty retail space that is either exciting and temporary or sustainable and enriching. Think dodgem cars in Allied Carpet units. Think markets in shopping malls. Think small, grow big. 

Dan's top tips for anyone and everyone wanting to change the course of retail history by utilising #emptyshops are:
  • Don't build community centres
  • Do close down shops
  • Don't think big, think small
  • Don't organise, just do it
Thompson isn't against failure, he isn't against closing shops which no longer serve a purpose, he isn't about the big picture, he's about the right here and the right know and this is where we all need to be about our high streets. We can't continue with depletion, with multiple dominance, with centres lacking choice, vitality, inspiring, a reason to be there.

Other talks and discussions came from Joe Barratt to introduced the Teenage Market initiative in Stockport and the new 7 Miles Out Festival on July 29th in Stockport town centre which have all contributed to the town's successful Portas Pilot bid.Turner-Mitchell spoke of his experience on the Rochdale town team and the need for committed support from government and local authorities with community lead redevelopment initiatives. 

A hot topic of discussion was Mary Portas and whether or not she is... well... good. The Marmite allegory was batted around whilst people praised her ability to shine a light on the issue of fashion business whilst others criticized her policies. I am personally always supportive of a women who understands the importance of big sunglasses.


PS. There was SO much to blog about that I'm going to post again soon on the Pop Up People Report that I've yet to read in full.

END (again)