The monthly U3A National newsletters have loads of information about projects which are in progress either locally or across the country, and in fact I find that it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees at the moment. However, a few months ago I spotted the national ‘High Streets’ project, right at the end of a very long newsletter.
This is a project which aims to look at High Streets before and after Covid-19. The project was proposed before the first lockdown by a member of the U3A National Research Network, whose former career was in retail. The basic plan is to compare today’s, and tomorrow’s High Streets with those of the past.
I expect that a lot of Hucknall U3A members will remember how our High Street used to look. My recollections go back 40 years, and no doubt many members can go back well before that. How the High Street will look in the future is probably anyone’s guess, but we can be certain that 2020 will cause many changes – will Amazon take over completely, or will local shops (especially food-related) prosper? Will all the estate agents disappear online, and will we still drink as much coffee? Will lots of shop units have been converted to housing?
In the temporary absence of our Easy Wheelers and Pickleball groups, I’ve been trying to keep up the exercise, so this looked like an opportunity to at least do some walking. I volunteered to survey Hucknall High Street pedestrianized section, and the end of September found me walking up and down photographing and taking notes of all the shops and offices.
Nationally, 533 U3A members took part, and a total of almost 9,500 premises have been surveyed, out of around 20,000 nationally. The next job is to compile a massive combined database (any volunteers?) and preliminary findings will go to the Third Age Trust December board meeting. The plan is to develop local projects during 2021, Covid permitting, then revisit all the individual High Streets in 18 months’ time to see how things have changed.