People enjoying Thamesmead Festival in the sun
Thamesmead Festival © Emergency Exit Arts
Thamesmead Festival © Emergency Exit Arts

Historic England Announces Carnival Celebrations on High Streets Across England

In summer 2023, Historic England will celebrate the future of our high streets in a landmark nation-wide commission in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts – the pioneering outdoor arts company famous for their celebration of the country’s diversity and strong communities at The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant.

Hi! Street Fest is an ambitious collaboration project spanning two years, aiming to bring together people and place to support bright futures for high streets. These vibrant celebrations will take place in six locations across England:

  • Gosport
  • Gloucester
  • Stalybridge
  • Middlesbrough
  • Wigan
  • Lowestoft

Taking the form of street parties and parades, Hi! Street Fest will bring a touch of carnival to each town and city, encouraging local people to come together to create performances that let their creativity loose. Travelling the length of the country, EEA will collaborate with local residents to bring their unique brand of unforgettable events and participatory experiences to each high street.

This is Historic England’s largest commission as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, the widest-reaching, community-led arts and heritage programme in the public realm that has ever been organised, led by Historic England in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This will be the finale celebration for High Streets Heritage Action Zones, a four-year programme to revitalise more than 60 high streets across England.

The project aims to reimagine the high street, attract visitors and bring people together to celebrate each high street’s culture. The concept of Hi! Street Fest is open and flexible, giving room for co-creation in each place. In 2023, after weeks of outreach and community workshops the project will culminate in a free, spectacular, home-grown procession around each high street. This project aims to encourage the long-term development of locally curated creativity in each area and increase opportunities for people to visit and to engage with their high streets.

Since the beginning of 2022 EEA and Historic England have been working with local partners to develop Hi! Street Fest, and through the collaborative process, Manuela Benini has been appointed Artistic Director for Hi! Street Fest. Her specialism in dance, procession and carnival will take hundreds of participants through a creative journey through music, dance and costume.

Hi! Street Fest will give communities from six high streets across the country the chance to connect with their local places and get creative to celebrate what makes them special. We strongly believe that the combination of capital investment and cultural programming is an effective way to encourage people to view their high streets positively – as vibrant, active places where people come together. And we have seen that heritage is a powerful catalyst for growing civic pride. We’re pleased to be working with experts in outdoor arts events, Emergency Exit Arts, for this finale to our High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, and hope these events will encourage future cultural collaboration on each high street, driven by local communities.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive Historic England
Emergency Exit Arts are so excited to be working on this important, co-created national project. We are determined that there are opportunities for hundreds of local people in each place we are working with to get engaged in the culture of their high street and help make a real long-term difference to their place. We will bring spectacle – but the development opportunities for people to put on more events in their place, is paramount.
Daniel Bernstein, CEO Emergency Exit Arts