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Monday, 12 May 2014 17:15

Pop-up to encourage revival

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Gail Laser (centre) with Samantha Wrightson, and Daniel Wrightson Gail Laser (centre) with Samantha Wrightson, and Daniel Wrightson
One of the many vacant frontages along Barnet High Street is about to get a new lease of life as a pop-up shop where aspiring independent traders, artists and voluntary groups can display samples of their work, goods and crafts.

A former outlet of the bakery chain Greggs that closed last year is being made available for the use of the Chipping Barnet Town Team and the Love Barnet campaign.

They hope it can become a pop-up boutique serving the local community. The aim of the project is to encourage independent traders to return to the High Street and help restore the character and atmosphere of what was once a thriving market town.

As soon as essential maintenance has been completed by the shop’s owners, the Eleanor Palmer Trust, it is to be fitted out by a team of volunteers led by Gail Laser, vice-chair of the Town Team, and a local television producer, Samantha Wrightson, who has already drawn up plans for interior decoration which she hopes might be sponsored by the paint and wallpaper specialists Farrow & Ball.

Handymen from Barnet and Southgate College are also going to join the team to refurbish the shop. David Byrne, the college principal and chief executive, believes the venture will offer students a chance to exhibit their work and also gain retail experience.

Mrs Laser said that by providing a showcase for local goods, arts and crafts the Town Team believed they could encourage independent traders and producers to see the potential of Barnet High Street.

We are open to ideas

“We are open to ideas. We can provide an outlet for recycled furniture; we may be able to assist local artists who cannot find a gallery; perhaps cookery or sewing groups might like an outlet for their wares; and we can also use the pop-up boutique to promote the work of the Town Team.”

Mrs Wrightson said she had volunteered to assist the Town Team because she believed that High Barnet could do so much more to become an appealing shopping centre once again.

“We moved to live here from Muswell Hill and there is no reason why High Barnet could not become a one-stop destination once again and offer the same range of independent shops that flourish in Muswell Hill or St Albans.

“We have a marvellous heritage here, lots of historic buildings and period shop frontages, most of them are in conservation areas and we hope our initiative will stop our traditional town centre street scene being obliterated by the relentless march of plastic shop-fronts.”

Her husband Daniel Wrightson intends to enlist other members of the North London Artists’ Network to join him in supporting the pop-up shop.

“We hope it can become a showcase for our work.  Local artists could stage exhibitions here. We are also very keen to encourage students at Barnet

College to use the pop-up shop to display their work. Who knows, if this initiative succeeds it might help us secure a more permanent local art gallery in one of the town’s empty shops or offices.”

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