Empty Havant and Leigh Park shops to be opened up for art

113195-6101 LEIGH PARK SHOPS (JT) MRW ''Many of the shops at both The Greywell Shopping Centre and Park Parade shops at Leigh Park near Havant have shut-down and closed '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (113195-6101)
113195-6101 LEIGH PARK SHOPS (JT) MRW ''Many of the shops at both The Greywell Shopping Centre and Park Parade shops at Leigh Park near Havant have shut-down and closed '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (113195-6101)
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EMPTY shops will be filled with art exhibitions and poetry as part of a bid to kickstart the regeneration of the high streets in Leigh Park and Havant.

Landlords have decided to open their buildings for free for one weekend next month.

The spaces will be filled with paintings, crafts, poetry, cinema and history exhibits – created by local people – for the public to view.

One person getting very excited about the scheme, being piloted by Havant Borough Council, is literary fanatic Anne Jenkins.

Mrs Jenkins, who runs Havant-based charity Wordsouth, which promotes the written and spoken word, will deck out an empty shop in the Meridian Centre.

The space, called B Creative, will have dozens of poems in the shop window about Havant.

Inside there will be an opportunity for the public to create their own modern art by going wild with paint.

Mrs Jenkins, from Chichester, is now urging people to put pen to paper and write a poem about the town.

She said: ‘This scheme is fantastic.

‘Hastings has done a brilliant job with its empty shops by giving them to artists longer-term, not just over a weekend.

‘What happens is people come into town to see what the artists are doing.

‘It generates more business for the town. It’s a nice way to regenerate.’

The initiative, called Creative Days, will take place on March 9, 10, and 11. Ten shop spaces will be open.

The project is the brainchild of Lea Guzzo, the council’s cultural officer.

She said: ‘There are lots of creative talent in Havant and I thought it would be great to link empty shops with creative people.’

She said depending on its success, the scheme could be rolled out further.

‘We will be evaluating the response in the street and what Havant residents want to see happening in their empty shops,’ she added.

‘People thinking about opening a shop may be able to see the space in a different light.’

The exact location of all 10 shops will be revealed nearer the time. The finale will be a variety show at 2.30pm on Sunday, March 11 at Havant Leisure Centre, showcasing the creative talents of young people. Tickets are available at The Spring.

Anyone wishing to write a poem about Havant can email info@wordsouth.org.uk. Poems can also be dropped off at The News office in West Street, Havant.