Research

High Street Project Connects Communities

A row of shops in an arcade

What started out as a survey of local high streets led to Barnsley u3a members connecting with their area’s history and feeding into the vision for Its future.

2020 saw the birth of the u3a High Street Project with members across the movement looking at the pandemic’s impact on local shops and the communities using them. Hannah Lucas, the coordinator of the High Street Project in Barnsley and Lynn Maloney, Development Officer, saw the results of the survey as an opportunity for involvement from different interest groups at Barnsley u3a.

It was not easy, though, to garner enthusiasm. Hannah says, “What characterizes this for us was the uphill battle after survey. We got utterly disheartened.”

A year later, the Barnsley local council called for people to come forward and feed into a consultation around the town’s redevelopment. As part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone, the council were seeking the opinions of residents about the restoration of the frontages and importantly to shape its future within the town’s multi million pound redevelopment. It seemed a natural opportunity for Barnsley u3a to become involved as a voice for a safe and Age Friendly town.

Hannah said, “Once we had this link with the council, doors started to open.”

Barnsley u3a’s local history groups developed a relationship with the local museum, ‘Experience Barnsley’, and now have an ongoing display filled with artefacts donated and lent by Barnsley u3a members. The group have big plans for future displays – and are currently considering an upcoming focus on memories of food.

A new group was formed researching the history of individual streets – a particularly interesting discovery was a pipe smoking competition, held in 1937.

u3a members are now working with the council as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone.

Maggy Simms, from the national High Street Project, said that this is an example of the project’s continuing legacy; “For many u3as the project has been about how we can explore, examine and celebrate a sense of place.”