Shop Front Festival
Over two days, the Shop Front Festival saw 60 events and happenings take place inside Coventry’s empty and inhabited shop spaces and outside in shop windows, precincts and public spaces. Some events were ticketed, but many were free.
The Festival achieved capacity audiences, and footfall in the city centre was 20,000 above the previous weekend as people gathered to experience the festival.
The Festival was part of an advance pilot programme of events and activities to support Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture 2021. It was created in the spirit of Theatre Absolute’s founding space, the Shop Front Theatre, an empty disused shop that has become a beacon for new performative works, experimentation and dialogue.
The Shop Front Festival 2018 was created by Chris O’Connell and Julia Negus, working with independent artistic director Orit Azaz and outdoor arts producer Lou Lomas.
It was supported by Coventry City of Culture Trust, Coventry City Council, Heart of England Community Foundation, Coventry Business Improvement District (BID), Backstage Trust and 29th May Trust.
AIMS OF THE SHOP FRONT FESTIVAL
- Develop, explore and test ways of amplifying the Shop Front Theatre’s distinctive cultural vision and practice towards a high-profile festival experience
- Build partnerships across local and regional business, retail, local authority, community, arts and cultural networks in support of this concept and establish a shared vision and ambition for the future
- Develop new and existing relationships with local, regional, national and international artists and arts organisations, festivals, and Shop Front networks with a view to collaboration and programming
- Enable Theatre Absolute to discover how the Festival might support and run alongside our existing practice.
120 community participants and/or performers
12,000+ attendances to outdoor events
Footfall 5.4% above national average
33 local creative facilitators engaged
City centre footfall increased by 20,000
100% capacity audiences
4,000+ attendances to indoor events
26 Volunteer hosts
58+ local professional & emerging artists engaged
73 students working on placements, performers, designers
48 UK and international artists engaged
38 local businesses involved
The Festival’s commissioned signature work:
- DIY Dance – a collaboration with Motionhouse and Vortex Creates, involved eight local dance groups each responding to different city centre locations and performing together for the first time.
- The Q – local company Talking Birds were invited to explore scaling up of The Q in context of the Shop Front Festival.
- Made in Store – local writer Nick Walker was invited to collaborate with and celebrate shopkeepers and local businesses. 12 businesses participated and 148 people took part in the city centre trail.
- The Unfinished City – A Coventry Symphony: Theatre Absolute in collaboration with six Coventry musicians created a new work-in-progress gig theatre performance written and directed by Chris O’Connell for the iconic staircase outside of Shop Front Theatre. This signature piece closed the festival on the Saturday night with over 200 people in attendance.