England conjures up an image of village life where the High Street or Village Green is the hub of the community. They’ve always been a destination, somewhere you go daily or at the very least every weekend to shop, catch up with friends, and discover new things.
But over the years, walking up Sydenham High Street has become different; it’s no longer a destination, but somewhere you pass through on your way elsewhere. There’s no doubt that it’s a symptom of the economic times we’ve been through and the technology that now shapes our lives.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed and a group has been set up to take affirmative action, giving us the opportunity to reverse this trend and revive our High Street. There’s funding in place and work has begun to bring the space up to date.
SEE3 is an organisation made up of local councillors, residents, and business owners that are steering this pilot scheme. Throughout December, we saw a preview of what’s to come — pop up shops and pocket markets. It changed the atmosphere of the High Street for the better and created a buzz, making the street feel more like somewhere you want to be.
I like the pop-up shops with their gallery displays and artisan crafts for sale and I’m looking forward to having local food markets, but I’m not sure this goes far enough. Bringing cash and life back to the local economy means attracting people and then keeping them coming back for more. You do this by providing everything they need — so that there’s no need to venture elsewhere.
We’re drowning in charity shops, cheque cashing establishments, and convenience stores, but there are no family oriented eating or entertainment options. This notion of community life has been central to English society for thousands of years.
Is it something that we should strive to preserve or is it an out-dated way of life? I’d love to hear how your community is dealing with these issues.