somewhereto_ re:store (the high street heist) - a UK-wide empty shop takeover

What do you visualise when I say 'local high street'? Sadly for many, like myself (who instantly thinks of the sorry sight that is my local East Ham high street), there is the image of empty, closed down shops, littered in between rows of betting shops, £1/99p stores, a sprinkle of chicken and chip 'eateries', and the odd powerhouse high street chain (thank you McDonald's, Starbucks, Primark etc for bringing a bit of 'glamour' to dying high streets).

Do we not want better for our local high street? Whilst generation 'next' moves in masses towards online shopping, bar the convenience of not having to stroll down the road, does one not feel any sense of despondency in the knowledge that one in five shops could close by 2018? Please tell me Sam's Chicken and Paddy Power isn't as good as it gets...

The latest campaign I'm working on is trying to change this woeful picture. Since 18 July, somewhereto_ re:store (the high street heist) has been taking over empty shops UK-wide alongside young people, bringing creative and entrepreneurial activity back to the high street. It kicked off in south London, Elephant and Castle, with an empty shop on East Street Market opening it's doors to music performances, stalls and live art by young talented locals. All the whilst campaign representative Theo Paphitis (former Dragon's Den judge) waltzed around the capital singing the #highstreetheist tune. Here's the vid highlights:

The somewhereto_ re:store campaign then marched to Manchester's Corn Exchange on 25 July, where former Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates, and a host of the city's young talented creatives took over an empty shop for a day of music, theatre, fashion showcases and more. And it's not just one-off days; London, Manchester, as well as Glasgow, Bangor (Northern Ireland), Cardiff, Newcastle and other parts of the UK will see local high streets get the somewhereto_ re:store treatment week by week until the close of summer.

Will this have a lasting, long term impact? One can only see, though the signs are good as young people and their communities are rallying together, reinvigorating otherwise dull, uninspiring high streets; united in a win/win situation that sees our two biggest economic assets - young people and space - put to good use. A much easier question to answer is - is this needed? Undoubtedly. If 'Closed Down' is a sign of the times, then let's think outside the box about empty shop spaces and invite young people and somewhereto_ re:store to lift the shutters and proudly leave a #highstreetheist tag for everyone to see.

Want to know more and get involved? Check out the campaign trailer below and visit somewhereto.com/restore

somewhereto_ re:store (the high street heist) is run by somewhereto_ - the UK-wide service funded by the Big Lottery Fund, helping young people access space for FREE.