The funding will bring together several hundred organisations to form one of the largest networks of cultural community bodies ever assembled as part of one unified project in the UK.

Historic England, along with partners Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund, will oversee the scheme designed to make the nation’s high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage MP says the funding, worth £95 million to the entire High Streets Heritage Action Zones project, will “help transform high streets into thriving cultural hubs, encouraging us to embrace all the joys our town centres have to offer”.

Each location taking part in the scheme has now been awarded grants of up to £120,000 to fund regeneration and activities for the High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme. This follows a successful series of 43 pilot cultural projects run since last August, including on Selby high street where interactive workshops were offered to young gamers to help create Selby Abbey in Minecraft.

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Grant funding

Towns to receive grant awards in the latest announcement from Historic England include:

Wigan – £120,000

Over three years, artists, local creative partners and community groups will come together to co-create unique dance, art and theatre, culminating in a celebratory festival for the whole community in 2023

Middlesbrough – £119,740

The Celebrating Hidden Middlesbrough programme will uncover how buildings, industries, people and communities have influenced the broader culture of the town and might offer alternative ways to think about the high street now

Buxton – £100,000

Members of local youth theatres and choirs, as well as students from the town’s secondary schools, will sit on a youth panel to advise on activity, with a quarter of funding reserved for young people’s programming

Great Yarmouth – £120,000

A year-round programme of creative workshops, heritage learning and skills development will feed into shop window exhibitions along King Street, and performances around the town’s historic Rows, St. Nicholas School and Market Place

Newport, Isle of Wight – £90,000

From a children’s festival, a public art project, art exhibitions, museum displays, heritage talks to a rolling programme of concerts and workshop, Renew Newport cultural programme will offer a transformative programme of culture-led regeneration

Harlesden – £100,000

A core youth group will work with creative facilitators to shape and deliver the Harlesden Gateway Cultural Programme, providing workshops and learning activities for community participants as well as hosting public and online events and activities

Weston-super-Mare – £119,690

21st Century super Shrines will appear on the high street, creating a sense of shared values and a new sense of ‘worth’ on the high street

Nationwide events scheduled as part of the Cultural Programme include High Street Sound Walks, commissioned by Historic England, National Trust and Heritage Open Days, created with artists and organisations with an affinity to the local community.

Twin Towns will bring together artists and residents from two areas with the aim of producing work that feeds on the similarities unearthed between the places. Another project with a longer scope will be Picturing England’s High Streets, a major photography commission that will task six socially-engaged photographers-in-residence to chronicle a region’s high streets over the coming years.

The Cultural Programme is an “essential part of the way we are contributing to bringing high streets back from the brink”, says Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive.

“As we start to see these important historic spaces become regenerated through conservation and building work, the community-led cultural activity programme will bring people back to enjoy their high street again and have a say in its future.”

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