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.
Saturday was doing day – I woke up in the morning and filled my car with stuff that could be used in the shop, Twister, connect four camping tables and chairs , boxes of books and anything else I thought we could use, or give away as prizes and set off for Light House hoping that everyone who had promised to bring something along had.
Where is everyone?
When I got there the first thing I noticed was a bags of stuff piled by the registration desk with my name on! The people who had promised to donate prizes for the shop had come up trumps!
The second thing I noticed was a distinct lack of people from the ideas development group.
I was disappointed but unfortunately not surprised that of the 15-20 people who had been coming in and out of the development session the day before only 3 of us had arrived to make this thing happen, The frustration I had felt the day before was obviously felt by others and the the fact that the development sessions were running at the same time as the speakers was also an issue – Everyone wanted the opportunity to experience everything and being stuck in the room bashing out ideas the day before and faced with being in a shop away from the action during the second day was too much. This was a feeling I shared as I missed out on hearing some amazing speakers but was determined to make this idea happen!
Despite the lack of support, myself, Simon Hamilton (LNP constituency support officer extraordinaire) and Craig, a guy off the street who wanted to get involved packed up and shipped out to the shop to make things happen.
We were given access and to the old Adams unit in the Mander Centre and got to work. We set up the games in the windows to try and entice in passers by and started throwing teddies and other toys across the floor to try out our “Human Claw” idea.
We were having great fun making a mess, but no one was venturing in through the doors.
So we started going outside the front doors and inviting people in, we got some young people in the window playing Twister, a mom and her daughter looking at the books, some little ones playing skittles while their parents looked on and then we started to engage.
We had them telling us what they’d like to see in Wolverhampton and writing it on post its, sticking their suggestions to the front window, that then attracted more curious passers by. Over all in the hour and half we were open we attracted feedback from around 90 people, more than half of which were happy to contribute to our post it note window – and all with really useful suggestions on what they would like to see in their city.
At the end of the day we packed everything up and trekked back to Light House to hear how everyone else’s days had gone and feedback on our own.
Overall I thought our day was quite successful. The whole process had been frustrating – the ideas sessions, missing out on the talks etc but I was happy with what we had achieved with the time and resources we had to hand. We had managed to do what we had set out to do and had some brillinat feedback from the community to go with it.
Other working groups had, had just as successful days with ideas being developed for a community garden and a city wide book exchange and we’d all learned that getting bogged down with bureaucracy is painful.
It nearly ruined my enjoyment of the whole weekend, and while I know some bureaucracy is unavoidable, the unnecessary blockages are not – and so finding a way to navigate round these are important as not to stifles peoples creativity.
At the very end of the day we all made pledges on what we could do with the things we’d learned going forwards – to Make a change for the better in Wolverhampton.
My pledge is just to get on and make more stuff happen.