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The High Street Heist: Campaign to fill empty high streets with young talent

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There’s barely a high street in the entire country that you can walk down without passing an empty, abandoned shop.

Whether it was a Woolworths, GAME or HMV, there are derelict gaps in the lines of our increasingly less profitable high streets.

These spaces lie unused, unwanted, but bristling with potential. All of that free space is practically begging to be used.

Somewhereto_re:store, a big Lottery-funded campaign, is spending the next six weeks using these spaces, filling them with another of the country’s least utilised resources – youth.

Young people across the country are being asked to fill unused shops with their ideas and ambitions; musicians, dancers, artists and young entrepreneurs will all be displaying their talent in spaces that would otherwise lie empty.

At the launch event, on a beautiful July morning in Kennington, South London, the local community got a taste of what the campaign was all about. The shutters of an empty shop flew up to reveal the somewhereto_re:store space, filled with the campaign’s organisers, young talent and some damn tasty croissants.

Walking in, it’s hard not to be impressed; in just a week campaigners have turned an abandoned shop into a functioning, versatile space. It’s clean and bright, with wooden floors and white walls. It’s a lovely-looking space, but seems carefully designed to highlight the fact that it wouldn’t be anything special without the young people inside it.

Some of those young people provided the entertainment for the launch. With art being painted live behind the crowd, singers and dancers stepped up and brought the space to life. Nevaeh’s Angel, a rapper that uses her experience escaping life in a gang to motivate young people, opened proceedings. Cynikal, another London-based rapper that recently had his first play on Radio 1, performed his latest music, and TriN3rgy, a dance act that somewhereto_ recently took to Rio de Janeiro, finished the performance.

The acts were there as a preview for the potential use of the space over the next six weeks, and have all benefited from being involved with somewhereto_.

Cynikal, fresh from recording at the renowned Maida Vale studios for Radio 1, has a lot to be thankful to them for. “I played at Earl’s Court Wembley Arena thanks to somewhereto_”, he said. It might well have happened in the future, but they made it happen a lot sooner than it would have done! I think that’s the great thing about somewhereto_, that they provide opportunities for people. I think it’s good when you’re young to keep in mind that you have all these options, to experience as much as you can so you can decide where your life’s gonna go from there onwards. Somewhereto_ provide the options – you get to explore yourself out.”

As well as encouraging creativity, somewhereto_’s campaign wants to bring out the entrepreneurial streak in the young people filling their space. Visiting the space one day might result in being treated to a live performance; on the next day, it could be filled with stalls as young people sell their own products. 

It's not too late to get involved with the campaign. For more information on filling space with YOUR talent, head to http://somewhereto.com/restore




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