Portsmouth shops take centre stage in BBC Radio 4 production looking at town centres' future after Covid-19

SHOPS in the city have taken centre stage on a BBC Radio 4 production looking at the future of Britain’s town centres after the pandemic.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 11:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 10:14 am
Professor Deborah Sug Ryan outside of the Knight and Lee building on Palmerstone Road.

The Trading Spaces documentary, due to be aired on Radio 4, looks at the social and cultural history of shops and businesses, and how they're being affected by the pandemic.

Portsmouth plays a prominent role in the show as Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, who lectures in design history at the University of Portsmouth, analyses the demise of Debenhams and Knight and Lee in Palmerston Road, Southsea.

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University of Portsmouth Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan.

Prof Ryan said: ‘The closure of these stores has brought about a number of challenges – not least in how we are going to use these buildings which are often large and grand in design.

‘At present there are plans for Debenhams to be used for housing and retail while there is talk that the Knight and Lee building could be used for a cinema.

‘There are previous examples in the city of how department store premises have taken on new roles. What is now Southsea Library was once Woolworths before it closed down.’

As part of the programme, professor Ryan will also look at the impact on pubs, local cinemas and the hair and beauty industry.

She added: ‘There are so many salons in Portsmouth and Southsea which have been impacted by the pandemic. What people don’t realise is that this industry is worth around £30bn to the country’s economy.’

Having previously worked as an expert consultant on the BBC television programme A House Through Time, the university academic welcomed the opportunity to present the new documentary.

Prof Ryan said: ‘I’m delighted to be presenting this very timely series on the history and future of the high street in the context of the pandemic. Through the experiences of five independent business owners, it sheds a light on the huge challenges that our high street businesses are facing at this unprecedented time.

‘I also consider the histories that will be lost if those businesses disappear from our high streets.’

The show is running until February 13 with episodes also available on BBC Sounds.

Episodes are based in part on five independent business owners’ Covid audio diaries.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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