Culture plan helping to breathe new life into Dunstable High Street

The scheme will run for three years

By Lynn Hughes
Friday, 19th November 2021, 11:23 am
Updated Friday, 19th November 2021, 11:24 am

A rural communities charity has been given a cash boost to help liven up Dunstable High Street for the next three years.

Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC) has been awarded a £92,572 grant from Historic England as part of the Dunstable High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) to create and deliver community-led cultural activities on the high street.

Historic England is also funding a role within BRCC to co-ordinate and assist in the delivery of the cultural programme. The programme will be designed and delivered by the Dunstable Cultural Consortium in partnership with and led by BRCC, the leading community development agency working across Bedfordshire. Ongoing support will also be provided by the Dunstable HSHAZ team at Dunstable Town Council.

Part of the town centre designated for Dunstable's Action Zone plan - photo Dunstable Town Council

Dunstable HSHAZ is one of more than 60 high streets to receive a share of £6 million for their cultural programme.

The cultural programme will include:

> They Came to the Crossroads – the makers of Dunstable: looking at how incomers have shaped the town, including the buildings, high street, food and way of life. Story gatherers will be placed at locations in the heart of the town as well as visiting schools, colleges, churches and community groups. The new research and stories will be published.

> High Street Talking Plaques: the aim is to begin with 15 plaques, each with a QR code enabling the passer-by to scan the code and listen to the story behind the plaque on their phone.

> My Dunstable Art: an art trail in shop windows and an annual art competition for young people focussed on the town and its heritage.

> Living Memory workshops and exhibition: hosted by The Workhouse, looking at memory and textiles.

> The programme of activities will culminate in a two-day celebration held in Ashton Square, with live art, performances and live outdoor cinema.

This is part of the four-year-long High Street Heritage Action Zone’s Cultural Programme, led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund aiming to make our high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director for Historic England in the East of England, said: “The high street cultural programme is a step change in the way we think about bringing high streets back from the brink. As we start to see these important historic spaces become regenerated through building work, it is the community-led cultural work that helps people to enjoy their high street again and also have a say in what the future of their high street might be.”

Cliff Andrews, Deputy Chief Executive of BRCC said: “We are really excited to have a lead role in this exciting new project for Dunstable. Supporting local residents and groups to be engaged in, and proud of, their communities is at the heart of our work. Celebrating the amazing heritage of Dunstable in ways which be of interest to local residents and visitors will help create a thriving High Street”.