GapFillers – Pop Up Shop Development (Post 1 of 3)

So last month we made a pop up shop happen in Wolverhampton. It was messy and ad hoc, it took a lot of patience and thinking and talking but ultimately it was fun.

My idea – Gap Fillers – was to look at ways empty shops/spaces in Wolverhampton could be used creatively. The idea for the Pop up was developed at Make Shift.

Info for idea development


Friday was ideas development day, the start of Make shift where the idea leads were thrown together with  people who may have submitted a similar idea for development, or had expressed an interest in the idea I had suggested.

It was horrid.

Not all of it but some of it. At one point near the middle of the afternoon I was exhausted and all but ready to go home. We’d talked around in circles and I was having no fun whatsoever! I love collaborating, but it’s fair to say I love collaborating more with people who are on the same page , or who are at least looking positively at ideas or willing to work something through until you hit a stumbling block you work around – rather than throwing in lots of blockages that may or may not occur and trying to work them through before you’ve even got there. I spent most of Friday frustrated and feeling like we were going backwards – It took hours of talking for us to come up with an achievable idea in the last 10 minutes of the session and a lot of my energy enthusiasm and goodwill to get it off the ground.


We were told we could possibly have a shop on the Saturday and I was all for trialing something in there –  but some of the group kept throwing up obstacles that I thought were unnecessary. What about business rates? What about sustainability? – In fact it got to the point where I just sat back, stopped partaking in the conversations and tweeted.

We weren’t looking, to start a business or even a smaller social enterprise and we had leaflets  that told us exactly who was liable for the rates so that wasn’t something I felt we needed to keep coming back to, and as for sustainability well that was something we could look at once we had proof of concept – lets get in and see if it it can be done before we worry about replicating it was my mantra. I think some of the problem was we all kept thinking of it as a shop rather than just a a space or a building to be used.

It took a while but once we’d finally agreed to actually DO something rather than sit around talking about it,We  hit another brick wall – The conversation turned from theory into delivery – WHAT should we do and where? Did we use the offer of the shop, or should we look at another space.

Ideas being developed

Everyone was making suggestions just to have someone else in the group shoot them down. Sometimes I felt that this was because there was very little willingness to see the idea from anyone’s perspective but their own – (it wasn’t supposed to be one persons vision but a collaboration), sometimes it was of a lack of willingness to actually take part and get hands on and inventive the next day and other times because the time scale was just unrealistic, for instance as much as I would have loved to have have live music performances in there – getting gear and a P.A. system would have been difficult, and even if we had just gone the acoustic route as was suggested as an alternative, getting a PRS license, or permission from the shopping centre to use their at 4pm on a Friday afternoon for a performance the very next day would have been pushing it (however this is definitely an idea for the future especially as the need PRS licensing on acoustic performances has been loosened in the last week!)

The Idea

Finally in the last developmental session of the day, having chatted to some people in the break, I decided to take charge, we needed an idea and fast if anything was going to happen.  I went back in with my head in the right place to take a much firmer stance, thankfully it seemed a few of the group had, had the same idea. The last 30 minutes of the day felt really productive. We finally developed the idea of a “Pop Up – Crowd Sourced Tourist Information Centre” to address the issue that Wolverhampton City Centre seems to close at 5:30pm. We were going to have activities going on in an empty unit in the shopping centre to attract people in to then ask them “What is there to do in Wolverhampton after 5:30pm” or “What does the city need to bring you into the centre after 5:30pm”  with answers being shared on a big chalk board for all to see.

Brain storming in the closing minutes also threw up the idea of a human claw grabbing game, similar to those machines you find in service stations, a “The Claw” la toy story, where you try your luck at grabbing cuddly toys, but life size using humans and a blindfold along with some other ideas for activities that the group could supply.

So by 4pm on the Friday we had an idea, we pretty much confirmed we’d have access to the shop and now all we had to do was feedback to the main group getting everyone excited enough about the idea that when we asked for donations of prizes they’d bring them in for us on the Saturday. Then it was just a case of turning up the next day regrouping and getting it done…..

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