Tales from the empty shops frontline in Boston and Holbeach

The Boston shop had been open about a week, word was getting round and we were getting many people coming back again and again to attend our free arts activities…..which was great, it meant we had an opportunity to engage them in conversation and find out some real information.

We exhibited artists’ work produced during the previous 3 months consultation phase, letters created for shop windows leading up to our launch event and information on community groups to raise awareness of their work.   The information sharing and networking was woven in amongst the practical activities, the cups of tea, the knitting and nattering…..and listening.

Although I was mainly in the Holbeach shop, I also programmed myself in to the Boston shop a few times, just so I could get a feel for the differences…..with 14 miles between them, one a busy town and small port, the other a small fenland market town, there were many.

It was during one of these times that Dennis appeared silently at my side, ‘I’d like a word’ he said.

‘I make canes……with carved heads, would you like some in the shop?’

We chatted as we drank tea.   As well as carving the most exquisite duck heads (mainly) on long hazel canes, Dennis also created puppet heads.   He wanted to set up a touring puppet theatre.   He was from the local area, he had the most amazing skills and up to now nobody had known about them.  Dennis told me he had previously worked with another artist and asked if I’d like to see pictures of the work they completed.  Wow! (sorry but I don’t have permission from the artist to give you any further details, you’ll just have to trust me and it wasn’t puppets).

Dennis brought in his canes the next day, he’d also made a frame for displaying them.  His work attracted attention every day with shop visitors admiring his skill and the playfulness of the carved heads.  And as for his puppets; I forwarded his contact details to a Lincoln theatre company who often use masks and puppetry in their work…..the two are now talking.   Dennis is working on his next large scale collaborative installation.

A guest post for the Empty Shops Network blog by artist Carol Parker. As Transported Empty Shops Co-ordinator, she programmed and curated two empty shops, one in Boston and one in Holbeach, during July-August 2013

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