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Hartlepool, Church Street residency

Location: Church Street, Hartlepool
Dates: August 2018 – March 2021

Project overview

As part of the Tees Valley Great Places programme we were invited to undertake a residency in Hartlepool’s historic Church Street. Working in partnership with Hartlepool Borough Council, Northern School of Art and Church Street Heritage Townscape project we kick started a host of activity in the town whilst creating new platforms and opportunities for the creative community to work with creative practitioners and businesses.

The residency featured a range of projects and initiatives evolving and adapting, by design. This responsive approach was core to it’s success in delivering authentic content for the community.


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Bridging the Gap: Reflections on a Creative Residency on Historic Church Street:

An example of best practice

Our residency in Hartlepool’s historic Church street was highlighted in Art Council England’s Arts and Place Shaping Evidence review. Commissioned from Wavehill, it points to a body of evidence that demonstrates how culture-led regeneration and investment can help drive local economic growth, help regenerate the high street, and promote social cohesion.

Go to Arts Council England Report

Featured initiatives

Talking Shop

A drop-in space to share ideas, tell stories and connect with creative people in Hartlepool. People were openly invited to join the conversation every Thurs, Friday and Saturday from 12 – 4pm. Our ‘open door’ approach meant anyone was welcome to come in for a cuppa and a chat; this engaged approach helped us to find answers to questions that emerged directly from the creative, resident and neighbouring communities, in turn helping to shape the direction of the project.

The Contemporary: A Creative Space for Hartlepool

In March 2019 The ConTemporary – a new creative space for Hartlepool – opened its doors on Church Street. The space was set up to host cultural activity, encourage conversation and bring creatives from the town together.

Over a period of 4 months the space acted as a venue for a regular programme of exhibitions, events, plays, workshops and residencies – welcoming over a hundred young people to participate in the arts, supporting almost 100 practitioners to deliver events and activities and welcoming over a thousand visitors.

Initially devised as a 10 week pop-up, the space was commissioned by Great Place Tees Valley to make the most of Church Street’s ongoing Heritage Townscape Programme and create pathways into the cultural sector for people in the area, in response to the Church Street Creative Industries Strategy.

More importantly, it was a sustained process of conversation and consultation with Hartlepool’s greatest cultural asset – it’s creative people.

“We Are Church Street” - Church Street Shutter Painting Project

Another distinct project within the programme was a Shutter Painting Project commissioned jointly with Hartlepool Borough Council’s Townscape Heritage team.

Street Artist Toby Heaps was commissioned to work with a range of young people from Hartlepool and produce a series of original designs. Over a period of 2 months Toby worked with a range of groups from the town. Some of the participants were in care, others have learning disabilities and another group were all LGBTQ young people. All of the groups visited Church Street to learn about the historic businesses, events and key figures that have played a part in the area’s history.

Taking part in a number of workshops, hosted at The ConTemporary, all of the young people contributed ideas and inspiration for a series of designs. The designs were then re-produced large scale on four of Church Street’s vacant shop fronts.

A map which detailed each building’s history was published online and in paper format to be hosted at local businesses.

The Creative Social

Initially intended to be a year long programme of scene building activity as part of the Hartlepool, Church Street residency, we had to pivot in response to the coronavirus outbreak; Accordingly, we developed a new, phased programme of activity in response to the challenges of the pandemic.

A Great Place Tees Valley project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England,
commissioned by Hartlepool Borough Council and the Tees Valley Combined Authority.