High street

The art of the high street

I can no longer remember when it was that high streets did not all look the same. The architectural writer James Maude Richards bemoaned the disappearance of local character from our shops as early as 1938, but even so he could include a plumassier, submarine engineer and shop of model transport in his winsome introduction to the high street. With the exception of some of the specialists, subs included, these were shops that could still be found in many towns beyond London. Eric Ravilious did the illustrations for the book (which, alongside three of the original prints, is on show at the Arc gallery in Winchester from 18 February to

Why the High Street won’t be another Covid casualty

Can the High Street recover from the Covid crisis? Even before lockdown, around 14 shops were shutting every day, and 2019 was the worst year for sales in a quarter of a century. After months of enforced closure, shops have finally reopened. But with mandatory face masks, social distancing and roped-off fitting rooms – and no indoor cafes, or restaurants to punctuate a day of retail therapy – shopping will be vastly inferior to the pre-Covid experience.  Nonetheless, there are good reasons to be bullish on the future of the high street – and too many commentators are being needlessly gloomy on its prospects. For a start, households have accumulated significant savings during lockdown. By December 2020, Britain’s

You can’t sing in church but you can get a tattoo

From my seat in the greasy spoon café I looked out on a typical English row of shops on a typical English street in a typical English village turned suburb. It was a rundown block consisting of a betting shop, a hairdresser, a charity shop, a chemist, an off-licence, a tattoo parlour and, right at the end, a ‘wellbeing’ clinic, which I took to be a place selling methods to undo all the damage done in the other places. We had driven to this suburb just off the M3 to help a friend who is trying to sell his collection of classic cars. The builder boyfriend is a dab hand