24 November 2012 - 3 February 2013.  Open 7 days a week 10am till 5pm, except Sunday 12noon till 5pm

High Street – an award-winning exhibition created by Architecture and Design Scotland – explores the past, present and the future of the high street in Scotland.  The exhibition was officially opened by North Ayrshire Council's Provost Joan Sturgeon and Architecture and Design Scotland's Board member Alan Sim on the 23 November at The Barony Centre, West Kilbride, Craft Town Scotland as part of a national tour. 

The NAC Provost commented on the tremendous achievements of the West Kilbride Community Initiative Ltd:

"The High Street Exhibition fits in well with the culture and community here in West Kilbride.  In the mid 90’s West Kilbride found itself at a low ebb with over 50% of retail business having ceased trading.  The Village was indeed in a sorry state. It was then that the local community came together to tackle these issues and make plans for the future of the Village.

This community led project and has been an inspiration to many where local economic problems have been turned into positive enterprising action.  Behind the scenes there are many volunteers who selflessly give up their free time and go that extra mile for their local community without these people West Kilbride would not be the place it is today.  I would like to thank all volunteers for their demonstration of civic pride and for generating a greater sense of community spirit".

Maggie Broadley, Craft Town Scotland Director was delighted to welcome Joan Sturgeon and Alan Sim  to the award winning Barony Centre, recently recognised as "a stunning conversion" by the judging panel after the building won a coveted Design Award at the Glasgow Institute of Architects Design Awards 2012.

" This is a fitting venue for the High Street exhibition, itself an award winning  show.  The West Kilbride Community Initiative Ltd's development of Craft Town Scotland is an excellent example of the role culture and creativity can play in society and communities.  The people of West Kilbride have harnessed the power of the arts and delivered sustainable development for their town".

Start date: November 24, 2012
End date: February 3, 2013

A&DS High Street Exhibition: image by Stuart Nimmo Photography


Exhibition Synopsis and Content

Our local High Streets are important public spaces, vital in establishing thriving communities and local economic growth. The future ofour High Streets is a highly topical issue and the exhibition will show their evolution in villages and towns as a market, a place of commerce and social exchange. Specially commissioned films will gather people's ideas, memories and visions for their High Streets andpresent a fast moving visual journey through Scotland's High Streets today.

High Street People

Film gathering peoples experiences, ideas and opinions of their High Street.

High Streets need people. They are sociable places with shopkeepers, small talk and neighbourhood gossip, full of activity and interaction. They require shoppers, shop owners, entrepreneurs and original ideas. At the exhibition you can see films of lots of different people talking about High Streets, from long-standing family businesses and community co-operatives to planners, politicians and town centre managers.

Here is some of what they said:

“One of the frustrations we found is the lack of council support . . . we’re a social enterprise . . . and people not really understanding the value or the skills that go into creating these shops on the local High Street.”

Watching filmed interviews at A&DS High Street Exhibition: image by Stuart Nimmo Photography

“If you don’t have a high street, what have you got?... houses, people floating about . . . you don’t have a centre that brings it all together.”

“I love it, I love being on the High S

treet, I love the interaction, I love my customers, I love when they come into the shop, living in a small town, you get your regulars, you know everybody on the High Street, all the shopkeepers know each other and look out for each other.”

“In the old days, the town was the area where everybody came to do their shopping. So it was like a magnet to people. And now that magnet is broken, because we’ve created a culture where the town centre is not the most important place to go.”

High Street History

The exhibition explores the history of the Scottish High Street from the 12th century with the reign of David I and the establishment of the early royal burghs, Scotland’s first organised trading centres. From the medieval period to the 17th and early 18th century the street market was the main source for daily food and provisions. As the towns grew and developed, so did the public buildings and structures required to support the population, trading and the collection of taxes.

High Street Shops

Scotland’s medieval shops were simple lean-to timber booths offering shelter and security existing alongside open market stalls. In the seventeenth century ground floors of piazza

s provided shopping under cover and were encouraged by Burgh authorities for their fire-proof stone construction. Glass was pivotal in shop design. From 1850 onwards window panes increased in size, slowly at first, but along with architectural cast iron mass produced in Scottish foundries, streetscapes were transformed. The twentieth century witnessed construction of elegant Edwardian shops and substantial department stores but traditional styles were eclipsed by the Art Deco Movement of the inter-war period. World War II halted development and post-war enthusiasm for minimalist designs waned. Vitrolite and chrome gradually diminished in favour of plate glass, aluminium and plastic.

West Kilbride Craft Town Scotland's Data: Image by Stuart Nimmo Photography

High Street Change

Timeline showing major changes and challenges to the High Street; the change in shop types showing 1911 compared to 2011 with exhibits that show the changes in our shopping patterns.

High Street Places

A film showing 15 Scottish High Streets as they are today plays and is backed up by a matrix with info on each of the places and data about their High Streets:

Arbroath, Ayr, Dumfries, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Elgin, Forres, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Lanark, North Berwick, Paisley, Peebles, Perth, Sanquhar

West Kilbride was surveyed and found to have the third lowest percentage of empty premises, the highest percentage of independent businesses and the lowest percentage of chain businesses :

High Street breakdown     West Kilbride
No. of vacant units: 5%
No. of independent businesses: 89%
No. of chain businesses: 5%

High Street Remedies

The exhibition affirms the importance of  our High Streets and ends with inspirational project ideas to preserve their future role in the social and economic life of our communities.