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January 12, 2011

Pop up shop art

Everyone knows that the appearance of charity shops in the high street is a sign of the slippery slope, but to see completely empty shops is much worse. Boarded up, neglected shop fronts and a forest of To Let signs sends out all the wrong messages to local business and shoppers while landlords still have to pay empty property business rates.  That’s why ideas like those of the development trust in Banff and MacDuff are such a no-brainer

A Thompson, Press and Journal

A campaign to tackle the blight of boarded-up, empty shop fronts at twin north-east towns is being revived. A public-spirited group at Banff and Macduff wants to carry out a shop art project similar to one completed more than a year ago. The aim is to fit suitable artwork to unused commercial or retail buildings and help lift the air of dereliction.

In December 2009, a photographic montage of scenes from Macduff harbour brightened up the windows of an empty shop at the town’s Duff Street. The initiative was steered by the Banff and Macduff Community Trust which hoped it would signal a picturesque assault on other properties.

Trust director Nick Dolphin said: “It was always our intention to repeat the exercise in 2010 on another shop front but, due to other commitments, that didn’t happen. Now, however, we are at the early planning stages for another ‘shop art’ project and we are considering a number of boarded-up and neglected buildings that could benefit.”

He said the most simple method of brightening up shop fronts was to paint the chipboard hoarding.

“This project can be more ambitious than that, and perhaps people have other ideas for how to use empty shops,” he added. Mr Dolphin said the trust was keen to involve young people in creating artwork.

“We are open to all kinds of suggestions such as murals, photo montages or something completely different,” he said. The trust has earmarked a small budget for materials, and hopes to attract grant aid from other sources when the extent of a suitable project is known. The Duff Street shop art initiative was widely admired, and the trust has examined how eyesore buildings are brightened up in other parts of the country.

Mr Dolphin said: “Time and again people tell us that what they dislike most about Banff and Macduff is the number of boarded-up buildings. The Duff Street project proved properties can be re-animated in a positive way, and has encouraged discussions on how empty shops can be used until a commercial