Procession of people carrying banners
© Lance Tabraham, London College of Fashion
© Lance Tabraham, London College of Fashion

High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme

Four years of nationwide cultural activity helping to make high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.

The High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme was part of the £95 million High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative, which has been working across more than 60 English high streets. It was funded with £40 million from the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport’s Heritage High Street Fund, £52 million from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ Future High Streets Fund, and a further £3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.


One of the major aims of the programme has been to help people feel proud of where they live. The Cultural Programme was a key part of this, providing £7.4 million to fund four years of cultural activities to engage communities with their local high streets, and celebrate the role and importance of these historic areas as hubs of the community. 


Historic England led the Cultural Programme in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which awarded £3 million. The programme was divided into two strands:

National commissions programme

Our national commissions programme worked with artists and creative organisations across the country to celebrate and showcase our high streets. It comprised cultural programming, co-created with communities and delivered by artists, to provide a creative response to document and reflect the High Street across the whole period of the programme until 2024.

£1.2 million (of the total £7.4 million) was made available to artists and cultural organisations to work with us on a variety of commissions over the course of 4 years.

More about the commissions

Local grants programme

Our local grants programme was delivered in the form of grants distributed through cultural consortia set up by local authorities on each high street. £3 million of this funding was provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The consortia were made up of local cultural organisations, creatives, heritage and community groups, and developed a programme of activities and events to celebrate the local character and heritage of each location, making our high streets a key place to experience and participate in culture.

Reimagining High Streets conference

In February 2024, almost 150 people from across High Street Heritage Action Zones, arts and heritage organisations, and local and central government gathered at the Birmingham Hippodrome to reimagine what our high streets could be.

Speakers and audience members shared learning from the 4 year cultural programme and wider heritage and arts activities and explored how these activities can work with communities to help shape local places.

R. M. Francis, one of the poets who took part in Pop-Up Poetry in Wednesbury High Street Heritage Action Zone, rounded off the day with a poem inspired by the event.

Symbolically Charged Space

R. M. Francis

I left the beauty
of Brierley Hill this morning:
land of Blue Bricks and bad reputations,
of thin cut crystal glass
blasted in fire and Triassic sandstone.
Deep, slow time leaks
stratigraphic through moments and places.
This is the beauty.

Meet me at the sundial.|
Meet me at the man on the horse.
Meet with me to mark these metres meek,
through desire paths and skaters cartography,
to collapse full stops with spectacle.

More than mere shop fronts.
More than mere dots on maps.
More than the meagrely forgotten.

I've never been there 
but I know it with sound and rhythm.
I know 67 sites
led there by resilient fox on a scooter
who opens currents of exchange, knowledge, pride.
This red haired crepuscular canine shows 
new ways of doing, 
new ways of being - being together -
coming into being.

Why? To learn to look closely
To add to record beyond full stops.

Supported by

HM Government
Heritage Fund logo
Arts Council