Raising the curtain on imaginative Burnley arts project

Part of Burnley town centre is to be given an artistic make-over thanks to an imaginative arts project.
Lower St James' Street. Photo: GoogleLower St James' Street. Photo: Google
Lower St James' Street. Photo: Google

The project, called Raise The Curtain, will take place in lower St James Street, which has recently been earmarked a High Street Heritage Action Zone.

It aims to tell the story of the area through street-level shutter artworks, combining art and heritage to engage a new audience.

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External surfaces such as steel shopfront shutters are to be at the forefront of transformation, with artworks on other surfaces set to be explored depending on the uptake from property owners.

These blank canvasses will provide an opportunity for street artists to tell the stories of the area.

It is anticipated that two local street artists will be commissioned to deliver the artworks.

Raise the Curtain will be delivered through the Cultural Consortium, an artistic group with the ambition of working collectively to preserve and enhance the culture and heritage of the High Street.

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The group will work with local businesses, organisations and others with an interest in the area.

The project will be documented and animated online to come to life as a digital “advent calendar”, illustrating the events and characters who have shaped lower St James’ Street over the past century.

Coun. Asif Raja, the council’s executive member for economy and growth, said: “This is a brilliant idea. Metal security shutters, whilst we understand the need for them, are often an unwelcome addition to the architecture of a conservation area such as lower St James’ Street.

"However, they are the perfect blank canvass for someone with a bit of imagination to transform into something eye catching and imaginative.

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“It will brighten up the whole area and, added to the improvements currently being carried out in the street, will help draw people in and make it busier and more vibrant.”

The arts project will be carried out whilst work on improving the street with wider footpaths, new seating and new lighting, goes ahead.

The arts project is expected to be completed in March 2021.

The brief to commission street artists is expected this month and the Raise the Curtain project will be facilitated by the Burnley High Street HAZ Cultural Consortium in partnership with the council.

The brief will highlight new connections between contemporary arts, traditional decorative arts, street art and the visual cultures of those now working on the street.

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Local students will also be involved in the project through engagement sessions, including those on the newly-established Burnley College arts degree course.

Raise The Curtain is a pilot project of a wider cultural engagement programme aimed at working and engaging with communities to encourage and protect local heritage and culture in creative and innovative ways.

At the same time it will also connect with the wider improvements planned for the heritage action zone.

The cultural programme is funded by Historic England and the National Lottery Fund, and supported by Arts Council England.

For further details on the heritage action zone visit www.burnleyhaz.org.uk

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