Cold War Steve hopes to revamp high streets through art

An artist known for satirical collages mixing politics and popular culture has turned his attention to revamping UK high streets.

Cold War Steve and his manager Carl Gosling are looking for empty units to be used for art.

The Birmingham artist said these could become a centre for arts for people to enjoy, create and share ideas.

The pair are pitching the community art project under the name of fictional former store Adequate Supplies.

The fictitious Midlands family chain began by selling washboards and tinned pies in 1923. It closed in 1990.

Mr Gosling said the UK high street was a “concept in decline”, partly due to the rise of online shopping.

“For a lot of people that constant in their lives was a really important part of going to the high street or their local bank,” he said.

Carl Gosling

High street footfall fell due to the pandemic and the British Retail Consortium believes about 14% of units are now empty.

Cold War Steve, whose real name is Christopher Spencer, said: “It’s a really depressing time at the moment for everyone and I appreciate that.

“From my point of view, art saved me and it opens a whole new world for people.”

Benny's Babbies - Cold War Steve

Cold War Steve

The project aimed to create “a little bit of joy through art” and bring people back together, he added.

He spoke to BBC News in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, which is among places given government and other funding for regeneration.

He said the town, whose losses include Debenhams and BHS, had a “lot of histories boarded up”.

However, he said there were still “little chinks of life” on high streets. Pointing out the boarded-up former clothing store Parc Avenue, he said: “It’s quite remarkable really, in its unorthodox beauty.”

As well as “friendly benevolent” landlords, he appealed for help in finding abandoned, boarded up premises, which could be made into the “heart of the community”.

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