Kingston Council helping to fund creative ‘meanwhile spaces’ in town centre

Kingston Council is working with the Union of Kingston Students and Studio KT1, led by students at KSA and Kingston Business School, on a project to help define the changing face of the high street.

The former PC World unit in Fife Road, Kingston Town Centre will be temporarily reimagined as a creative space while redevelopment of the site is pending, helping to avoid a prominent shop lying empty. The project will help test new models of how retail units can be used and how residents and visitors use the town centre. The space will initially open April - August 2021, with the potential to move to on other locations later. It will host a lively programme of public events curated by students and recent graduates of Kingston University, helping to drive footfall in this part of the town centre.

Kingston Council will be contributing approximately £27,000 to help town centres across the borough recover from the impact of the pandemic and ensure they continue as busy and appealing places. The funding is to be drawn from the council’s Additional Restrictions grant, intended to support businesses and the business community and address the impacts of COVID-19. 

Councillor John Sweeney, Portfolio Holder for Business at Kingston Council, said:

“We are delighted to be funding this project together with GLA, Canadian Portland and many other smaller community donors - each of whom are an important part of the picture. While town centres are evolving, high quality meanwhile uses will form an important part of the picture. The KSA project will be an important expression of the role of the university in the town centre and the benefits of having a world leading art school on the doorstep.

“This project will help to define the changing face of the high street, making use of one of the many empty shops and breathing new life into the town whilst creating a legacy and space for Kingston students in the town centre.”

Work from the Kingston School of Art students and graduates will be showcased in the new space, and partner organisations will also have the opportunity to exhibit - or to simply book a quiet space to work in.

Claire Selby, Commercial Projects Manager at Studio KT1, said:

“We'll provide a lively space with opportunities for those who may not have access to materials, support, creativity or technology such as not in education or employment, or individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds. This venture will show Kingston as a forward-thinking borough by transforming an unused retail space into an activated, lively destination.”

Muna Ali, the SU Vice President Activities, said:

“Our programme of events will connect student talent with Kingston residents. Students will get the opportunity to showcase their work and sell to visitors, providing professional experience for young people."

Mandy Ure, Dean of Kingston School of Art, explained that the project was a really important opportunity for students and for the borough as a whole:

“The Creative Meanwhile project is an initiative we hope will give our students further experience of exhibiting, collaborating and discussing their art while encouraging the wider community to engage with the exciting and innovative work taking place at Kingston University. We also hope it will breathe new life into the high street at a time when new, invigorating ideas for retail spaces are much needed.” 

The importance of culture and the cultural industries in driving recovery is recognised by the GLA. 

Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE, said:

“Culture is London’s DNA and new creative ideas will be vital in supporting our capital’s recovery from the pandemic. We’re committed to supporting innovators and community organisers to help rebuild our city, and through Make London I’m proud that we are funding important projects, like the Creative Meanwhile Space for Kingston, to boost their local area.”

Published: 17th March 2021