Activating Public Spaces on Dudley High Street

In Colab Dudley’s time spent listening to and creating with doers in and around Dudley town centre since 2017, Dudley High Street has been repeatedly framed within a narrative of decay.

Important social infrastructure — like public museums, public art galleries, cinemas, post offices, creative community hubs, or libraries — that act as important everyday spaces of connection, welcome, support and creative nourishment have closed or reduced their opening hours. The decline and decay of our public spaces — our streets and parks included — erodes a social infrastructure urgently needed in response to major challenges of growing segregation and isolation.

Sense of place has been described as the lens through which people experience and make meaning of their experiences in and with place. The High Street sense of place — once shaped around a busy market town and proud capital of a region of manufacturing and innovation — has been hollowed out.

After a period of listening and testing of experiments that invite sharing, connection & creativity, we have forged our goals around this new emboldened relationship with place. We believe that authentic people led change is made possible through democratising doing, making and (re)designing the spaces around us.

As a social lab and creative/participatory platform our job is to help nurture the emergence of a more creative, connected and resilient social infrastructure and social capital in the town centre.

In 2019, Colab Dudley convened a Collective of doers, makers and creatives. Together the Collective came around an idea to take doing and creating outside onto the High Street through a series of street experiments.

Paint Dudley was a collaboration with local Black Country creatives and doers to brighten up the town, inviting people to pay close attention to beauty, stories and meaning in the everyday fabric of the town through photowalks, pop-up exhibitions and sign writing workshops.

Do Fest 2019 was an experiment combining talents and imaginations to grow and spread creativity and kindness in Dudley Town Centre over 3 days.

“Coming here to Dudley for a creative activity — which you wouldn’t usually come here for — that is why it is important. The town needs other stuff going on not just retail and not just stuff you have to pay for — especially now.”

Paint Dudley participant


“This isn’t a far distant vision of the future, it’s happening now. Do Fest was just a snippet of the creativity and doing that is happening on the High Street. From Paint Dudley’s stunning work with Dan Griffin-Hayes and Seven 9 Signs bringing forgotten frontages to life, and harnessing the ‘power of out-of-place’ by creating a parklet, to building relationships through conversations while doodling, learning about living plastic free, taking photos, painting stencils onto streets, and making bird feeders, films, zines and pom-poms for loneliness.”

CoLab Dudley Collective member, Holly Doron

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