Early in 2014, Neil Wrigley from the University of Southampton, invited myself and my colleague, Anne Findlay, to contribute two short chapters to a forthcoming collection of pieces exploring social science perspectives on the Evolving High Street. In particular he wanted us to reflect on (a) the changing policy towards high streets and (b) secondary retail centres during the economic crisis.
We were more than pleased to contribute and are now even more delighted that the work has been published under the auspices of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The full citation to the volume is:
Wrigley, N and Brookes, E (eds) 2014. ‘Evolving high streets: resilience and reinvention – perspectives from social science’. ESRC/ Univ of Southampton, ISBN. 9780854329809, 52 pp.
and the entire 50 page collection is available to download for free here.
My purpose about blogging about this at this time is to draw attention to the collection. Anne Findlay and myself will be preparing a longer discussion piece on the publication for our next Trading Places column in T&CP. In that we will try to draw out themes and issues. Here I simply want to publicise the collection.
In Neil’s initial thinking, the aim was to give a range of academic authors some space to provide thought leadership pieces on topics around the high street. These pieces were to be succinct and to be readily accessible by a variety of audiences including politicians, retailers, town centre ‘stakeholders’ and other social scientists and academics.
As Neil writes in his introductory piece, ‘the brief was to write ‘opinion’ pieces which structured, interpreted, extended, added value and possibly redefined existing debates on these issues’. He argues persuasively (well I would say that, wouldn’t I) for the value of the academic perspective and freedom in exploring dimensions of a largely shared interpretation of Britain’s high street crisis about which positions are often closed to experts in industry and government. The value he sees in the collection is in the academic freedom in exploring high street change to add value to:
- Analytical insight to variation in performance,
- Drivers of differential performance,
- Conceptualising complex variations and evolving configurations,
- Contributing theoretically informed evidence based insight to policy development and implementation.
As Huw Williams writes in the preface, this is ‘a wide-ranging and thought-provoking collection’ and in her postscript, Mary Portas urges ‘anyone with a vested interest in their high street and local community to find a few hours spare and settle down to reading these views’.
These are ringing endorsements for this collection of social science perspectives on the high street so download, have a read and, if motivated and energised (or even outraged) provide comment, feedback or debate (here or directly to Neil).
thanks Leigh. I look forward to discovering the social AND cultural in this, hoping it portends not another packaging shift or, reheating of well-established retailing myopias, but a paradigmatic retuning, if shifting is not available given property investments.