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London’s West End comes to life with new pop-up exhibitions to revamp the high street this summer

Dozens of temporary shops and art installations will pop up across the West End this summer as part of a campaign to fill vacant retail space.

Published: 16 June 2021

  • Our first three pop-ups will open in the West End from 10 June showcasing the work of up-and-coming London-based artists and creatives
  • the Pop-Up Exhibitions, a partnership between Westminster City Council, Heart of London Business Alliance and The Crown Estate sees artists receiving their very own space in the West End, as well as a £5,000 grant
  • artists involved include Joyce Fraser (founder of Black Heroes Foundation), Lito Apostolakou (installation and mixed-media artist) and Sarah Porter (abstract painter)
  • the pop-ups launch following a competitive application process, offering prime space in the cultural hub of London’s West End

The scheme starts this weekend as Westminster City Council, in partnership with Heart of London Business Alliance and The Crown Estate, has made three coveted sites across London’s West End available to some of the capital’s most innovative artists and creatives.

The three units are part of Westminster City Council’s pop up programme, which runs from June to October, and is set to provide up to 20 pop up opportunities in the West End and many more across the borough.

Sites across Haymarket, Piccadilly and St James’s will be transformed with the help of Westminster City Council, giving each artist a “white box” unit, a blank canvas for their work, which will be on show to thousands of West End visitors as London reopens after an extended period in lockdown.

The scheme, which is run in partnership with Business Improvement Districts and property owners across Westminster, sets out to encourage visitors to return to central London safely this summer, offering new attraction experiences to people in the capital.

The series of installations will kick off on 10 June at 2 - 4 Princes Arcade, St James’s, with mixed-media artist Lito Apostolakou launching her Clothes You’ll Never Wear installation. Lito will transform the retail space into an immersive workshop and creative hub for making, reusing and sharing with a focus on inclusive participation, creative use of waste materials and production of not-for-sale garments. The artist and participants will use recyclable materials and waste fabric to create garments based on personal stories, memories, and perceptions of identity.

This will shortly be followed by Joyce Fraser’s Black Heroes Soul Food Café in a Windrush Living Room opening at 12 Waterloo Place, St James’s, on 22 June (Windrush Day); a venue for running arts therapy, exercise, lifestyle sessions, and grabbing a Jamaican Pattie and a Blue Mountain coffee.

Award-winning artist Sarah Porter will be showcasing her work using innovative painting mechanisms to create poured paintings at 22 Bury Street, St James’s, on 15 July. The space will be used as a performative studio, displaying completed abstract artwork for sale. Also, members of the public will be invited throughout the project to collaborate on a poured painting.

Cllr Matthew Green, Cabinet member for Business, Licensing and Planning at Westminster City Council, said:

The pandemic has hit the West End particularly hard, forcing businesses across the city to shut up shop. 

Pop-ups help turn vacant into vibrant. By filling empty units with original attractions and unique shops, we can start attracting visitors back to the West End to enjoy its creativity and individuality.

This project offers the next generation of creatives and retailers a unique opportunity to flourish in some of the world’s most sought-after retail space.

These new, engaging shops and exhibitions will make the world’s leading centre of retail even more exciting.

These prime locations were secured following a competitive application process, inviting talent across multiple creative disciplines to put forward their proposals for the use of the space to benefit fellow creatives and the community.

The pop-up programme was launched to give a new generation of local talent and start-ups the opportunity to open their doors in London’s sought-after West End. The revitalisation of empty retail spaces will showcase and celebrate artists’ work in London’s thriving cultural hub, breathing life back into the area following the pandemic.

Ros Morgan, Chief Executive at Heart of London Business Alliance, said:

Art and culture are at the heart of the West End. Home to some of the world’s greatest cultural institutions, including galleries, theatres and cinemas, we want our area and its high streets to evolve and innovate, all the while reflecting its world-class cultural status.

Nobody truly knows what the future holds, but what we do know is that the importance of art and culture cannot be underestimated. We are delighted to partner with Westminster City Council and The Crown Estate to foster creativity within the West End with an initiative that will help drive the recovery of the area.

Lito Apostolakou said: 

Clothes You’ll Never Wear is about recreating and recording memories of dress using waste and recyclable materials and storytelling. It’s an installation always in the making with artist and audience placing their creations inside what used to be a retail site and repurposing this site into a creative hub.

In Clothes You’ll Never Wear we’ll be producing garments that are not for consumption or not fit to wear but are expressions of our selves and our identities. Remembering clothes opens a dialogue between the past and the present and it’s an exploration of who we were, who we are and maybe who we want to be. We will be making garments with paper and fabric remnants and also recording memories of clothes in writing. A selection of the work will be later published digitally or in print as a record of the installation.

Joyce Fraser said:

I am delighted and honoured to have been selected as an artist-in-residence as part of Westminster's Voids Activation & Pop-up Project. This is an important step in my journey and that of the Black Heroes Foundation.  The installation, Black Heroes at The Gallery opens on Windrush Day, 22 June, closing on 31 July. Providing a space for participatory, conscious experiences, restaging the Black Heroes Soul Food Café in a Windrush Living Room: A celebration of our heroes, our life, and our times.

It will house living exhibitions, a Windrush Living Room, Artists at work, and interactive activities and events. It will provide rehearsal space for our new production the Story of John Archer which is part of our show at the Wandsworth Arts Fringe festival on 2 July.

A place to engage a wider audience, test out new ideas and gather new materials for consideration in our new productions.

The Pop-Up Programme launched with Clothes You’ll Never Wear by Lito Apostolakou at 2-4 Princes Arcade. For more information on the pop up spaces and creative and cultural offerings across the West End.

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Notes to editors

About Heart of London Business Alliance:

Since 2001 Heart of London Business Alliance has been cementing London’s position as the world’s leading cultural destination by working on behalf of over 500 businesses and 100 property owners in the Leicester Square & Piccadilly Circus, Piccadilly & St James’s and St Martin’s areas of the West End.

Home to galleries, theatres, restaurants, cafés, bars, world-famous shops, cultural institutions and associations, the area is truly unique with an experience-based economy that caters to every taste. From the BAFTA headquarters to the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, the area’s cultural heritage stretches back centuries, yet it remains at the forefront of the arts.

As a not-for-profit, Heart of London Business Alliance is focused on securing the long-term commercial wellbeing of the area. Through area promotion, business support and advocacy they champion members’ interests and ensure the West End remains truly world-class.

More information about the Heart of London Business Alliance