As part of a successful team bid with Junction Arts and Zantium Studios, we were recently appointed to the Building Resilience Programme in the NG20 area. This programme is running a series of projects across the NG20 area that support public services to meet the needs of the community and improve cohesion. The project we are involved in is the Shirebrook Market Shops Enlivenment. We are working in close collaboration with Junction Arts, a community arts charity based in Chesterfield and Zantium Studios, a creative partnership specialising in mosaic and painted murals.

The project involves school and community workshops on a range of creative and distinctive ideas to create a more attractive and welcoming environment.

Zantium Studio’s have already visited the Shirebrook Academy and started a creative process to develop artwork that could be applied to shop shutters and windows facing the marketplace. Our work involves assessing the existing shop frontages and seeing what work could be done to make them more attractive and create a welcoming environment.

Our first step in this process was to ask the community that use the space what their current impressions are of the market square and see if they had any ideas for how the shop frontages could be improved. To do this, we set up ‘shop’ on a market stall at the busy Tuesday flea market.

Alongside our market stall, the project team set up a range of activities in the Demonstrator Shop that is being used to communicate the Building Resilience project to the wider community. In the shop visitors could make badges, sample local doughnuts and even view the marketplace in a warmer environment than the October chill outdoors through virtual reality. The University of Sheffield provided a virtual reality model of the market square to enable new discussions about the space and what it could become and see if the virtual reality model enables greater engagement with the community. It is believed that this project may be one of the first to use immersive technology for community consultation and co-creating art and design.

Outside on the market stall, we used drawings of the market place as existing to start conversations with passers by. Locals located their homes on a wide plan of Shirebrook and told us how they get to the market place, how often they use it and what their favourite shops were.

Simple leading questions often led to fascinating stories of how the market place used to be and we ended up speaking to people who used to live on the market place before the terraced houses were converted to shops, people who remember bare knuckle fights taking place with a pint for the winner at an old pub that is now converted into a card shop, and many recollections of the vibrancy of the market place with a sense of pride about its history and hope for its future.

Gathering this local information is vital to start to build a picture of the community and ensure the works we propose are relevant to their needs. Bringing the community along with the process also ensures that ownership of the project output is firmly with the community, hopefully ensuring its longevity and making the project become part of the history of the place for future generations.

We will be evaluating the information gathered and start to propose possibilities for the shop frontages, with the aim of working with the shop keepers in the coming year to enable some of the changes to be realised.

We’re really excited to be involved in this project with Junction Arts, and look forward to seeing the positive impact it could have on the community in Shirebrook.