The Bubble Chamber has shown how art and culture can regenerate city centres by reimagining empty shops for artistic ventures throughout the West Midlands. Over 18 months the Bubble Chamber has been animating void spaces with live performance, film and computer technology. In Coventry, the initiative has been so successful that a resurgence of interest in a small but significant part of the city can be credited to local artists making a regenerative statement.
Oliver Scott explains ‘There are many artists in Coventry looking for creative spaces to develop their projects. Working in empty shops presents a new platform for engaging the public at street level’. The initiative offers a new way of making visual art and live performance accessible to audiences of all ages. In the Arcade, the Bubble Chamber is accompanied by Theatre Absolute and Artspace who are using vacant spaces for their own work and who together form a creative hub in the area.
In early 2009 Coventry City Council, initiated by artists, developed a strategy to halt the decline of City Arcade, a group of 38 shops it owns on the edge of the city's main shopping centre. The area, hit hard by the economic recession, was suffering from a spiral of retail business failures and high levels of vacant units.
Andy Jack a representative from the Coventry City Council stated: ‘The opportunity to allocate a shop unit to Mercurial Dance's Bubble Chamber project has helped to address key elements of the Council's property management strategy intended to arrest and reverse the decline by raising the profile of the area and encouraging footfall to support existing trade and promote future relocation’.
He continues: ‘The Bubble Chamber initiative, underpinned by Mercurial Dance's reputation for artistic quality, has made an important contribution towards achieving our objectives. Combined with other arts and community based use of vacant space introduced into the area it has helped re-brand the City Arcade with a distinctive character that provides a strong foundation for continued recovery’.
The Bubble Chamber is part of the Dancing for the Games programme, funded by Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity set up to create a cultural and sporting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games across the UK, Arts Council England and Advantage West Midlands with additional support from The Higgs Charity and Warwick Arts Centre.