There's a clear line becoming apparent in the emerging empty shops movement.
On one side there are artists and organisations who have been engaging with empty spaces for a long time. Often, there's no clearly stated reason – but some people are going back to empty shops, old warehouses, derelict offices again and again.
These people are excited by the fact that the space is empty, and recognise the benefits of working on short, temporary projects in buildings that have character and history to respond to.
And, particuarly since Hazel Blears announced the Empty SHops Network's ideas as policy, on the other side of the line there are a growing number of people who have an existing project (often in a very loose, early stage of thought and development) and want to shoehorn it into this latest government agenda.
'We want a gallery, we want studios, we want an arts centre…' Well, we'd all like those – but empty shops may not be the right place. Not every project is an empty shop project.
I've been writing a Manifesto for Empty Shops, an attempt to document what sets them apart from other artist-led projects:
“Using empty shops is about celebrating the local, engaging with the character of empty spaces, exploring new ideas and exciting the community.
It may lead to a successful business, but that's not the first and only aim.
The success of empty shop projects may be measured in many ways, from increasing local footfall to raising the profile of a community event.
When it's done well, everyone wins – landlords, local councils, arts, business and voluntary groups, near-by shops and of course – local communities.”
That's not all I've written since my last post here: there was an article for the mighty an magazine, 1600 words for Mailout, and a proposal to create a network of organisations wanting empty shops in the Revolutionary Arts Group' hometown of Worthing.
And meetings in Coventry, with AIR in London, and with GVA Grimley in Worthing – they're leading a study into the town's retail sector and helping us develop an empty shop policy.
Oh – and emails. Lots of them, from all over the country. Five so far today, asking for help and advice. And this is a project with no backing, no secure funding; just a lot of experience and a great idea.
So – the next thing I have to write is a funding application.