Shutter designs, at Number 96, in Shirebrook

“The value of a heritage comes from its inheritors – from the Living!” Matthew McCarty

Shirebrook Market Place is thought to be one of the largest market squares in the country and is locally celebrated for its number of independent traders. Out of the 72 shops within the Market place in March 2020, only 5 are national chains, unusual now compared to nearby local high streets.

Since 2018, we have been working with Bolsover Partnership, Shirebrook Forward NG20 Group and a range of creatives to develop distinctive art and design activities with local young people aimed at transforming shop fronts and existing shop security shutters, to create a more attractive and welcoming environment within the centre of Shirebrook. Approximately 90% of the market shops are protected and secured at night with perforated shutters to safeguard premises from the area’s anti-social behaviour and many of the shutters and existing shopfronts, fascias and rendering are in poor condition.
Like many other ex-industrial towns within North Derbyshire, Shirebrook has a rich heritage and it was important that Junction Arts used that history as a tool to spark fresh ideas and new way of interpretation for the young people we worked with. Utilising creative heritage was integral for reconnecting people to a Market Place by making it look brighter, feel safer and looked after.

We know that public art can divide opinion and the consultation period with retailers and residents elicited varied comments about what the artworks should look like. Some wanted us to reference and commemorate the town’s mining history, others wanted a distinctly contemporary aesthetic that looked to the future rather than the past. It was the role of Junction Arts and our artist, Peter Massey, to bring the two together to create a refined aesthetic that was distinctive to Shirebrook and would appeal to all ages and cultures. We wanted the shutter artworks to celebrate the long history of retail in the Market Place, encourage increased use of the shops today and support their survival in the future.

Art work made by children of Shirebrook school in Derbyshire. The artwork is made using lino print on colour paper.

Research and development of designs
In late 2018, Peter Massey worked with Year 10 arts and graphic students from Shirebrook Academy to find out what Shirebrook means to the local community. We asked young people what Shirebrook’s future could look like and how the aesthetic of the Market shops can be reinvigorated with colours and contemporary designs.

Recognising the need for a starting point, Peter Massey developed artistic activities that used archive imagery from publications, including the ‘SHIREBROOK OFFICIAL GUIDE 1922’ which showed wonderful photographs of the Market Place. The students’ explored designs inspired by pictures of old signage, advertising and packaging and used contemporary techniques such as paper cuts, pop-art and collage to create uplifting and positive text-based designs with vibrant patterning. The students also interviewed local shopkeepers asking what is special about the Market Place and why independent trade is important. All this fed into the creation of a series of lino-cut designs.

A Refined Aesthetic
Some designs feature words or expressions that promote the positive aspects of shopping in the Marketplace. These were gathered during the community consultation sessions with various retailers, members of the public and from the students themselves. The pattern designs, whilst still relevant and ‘on trend’ today also reflect the town’s former industry. For example the herringbone and hounds tooth weave represent the once abundant textiles industry in Shirebrook and presence of many tailors and clothiers in the heyday of the Marketplace.
Uptake from retailers has been positive since we started engaging them in August 2019. Approximately 60% of shops in the Marketplace have or will receive shutter artworks, new signage and window decals.
When the future of the high street is being threatened by bigger convenience stores and increase in online trade, it has been especially important that we ‘enliven’ the square with artworks and promote Shirebrook’s unique shopping experience.

Junction Arts commissioned Director and Filmmaker Chris Bevan to create a film that shows the development of the artworks and what they mean to the town. Watch it now here:

About the project

Shirebrook final shutter designs

Project Coordinator – Amy Smith

Visit the Shirebrook Enlivenment Project Page to find out more.