Historic England, Picturing England’s High Streets   

Open Call for Socially Engaged Photographer-in-Residence in Coventry (one year) 

About High Streets Heritage Action Zones 

Historic England is working with local people and partners through grant funding and sharing our skills to help breathe new life into high streets that are rich in heritage and full of promise. The High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme, backed by government funding, aims to help with the recovery of local high streets from regenerating historic buildings to helping to engage local communities through art and cultural projects. The Cultural Programme, co-funded with The National Lottery Heritage Fund and supported by Arts Council England, has the goal of making the high street a more attractive, engaging and vibrant place for people to live, work and spend time. 

About the Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone and core partners 

The residency will be developed by GRAIN Projects in collaboration with the Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone Board and in the context of a wider programme of High Streets Heritage Action Zone projects.   

The residency will contribute to the key local High Streets Heritage Action Zone aims including, restoring and regenerating a forgotten part of Coventry’s historic townscape, boosting the local economy and celebrating the city’s rich heritage. 

The Burges area is the focus and forms a key element of Coventry’s surviving historic townscape.  Buildings on The Burges and Hales Street date from the late medieval period through to the 19th century. Palmer Lane is also a medieval street which runs alongside Coventry’s forgotten river, The Sherbourne. 

The Burges area has survived many changes over time, from those made by city planners and architects in the 1930s to the devastation of the Coventry Blitz during the Second World War and the subsequent redevelopment of the city in the 1950s and 1960s. 

The Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone project will help to reverse this decline by enhancing the special character of the conservation area, attracting more business and visitors and raising awareness of the area’s heritage within the local community. The photographer-in-residence will connect with the communities in this distinct area and contribute to the cultural activities that are planned in the lead up to the development of a new heritage square and public space.    

A cultural programme and capital works to create a new heritage public space are being developed by the High Street Heritage Action Zone Board locally built around local priorities for regeneration, community development and engagement. The High Street Heritage Action area in Coventry is establishing itself as a new cultural destination. 

Coventry; The Burges, Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone | Historic England 

Core partner GRAIN Projects is an arts organisation based in the Midlands that specialises in contemporary photography and provides a hub and network for practitioners and participants to engage with photographic projects. GRAIN manages and produces a broad range of nationally and internationally significant projects, works collaboratively with communities, individuals and artists utilising photography to create positive change and ensuring that people from every walk of life can express themselves and create. Projects remove barriers between artists and audiences and enable people to develop personal creativity and reach their creative potential. GRAIN engage with communities across the Midlands to make work of the highest quality and ambition and to exhibit, publish and disseminate this work. The communities they work with are diverse and often underrepresented. Their projects work with communities and individuals to express their own identity, to re-imagine and to develop new opportunities. 

GRAIN’s work is guided by their core values: The arts have the capacity to change and enrich everyone’s life and how we see and act in the world. Artists should be supported to experiment and innovate outside conventional arts spaces and in collaboration with communities. We seek to improve the skills, opportunities and conditions for practitioners and to facilitate new ambitious opportunities for all. 

About High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme  

Historic England is leading the High Street Cultural Programme in partnership with National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council England as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones initiative funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  

The High Streets Heritage Action Zones Programme is a nationwide scheme designed to secure lasting improvements to our historic high streets for the communities who use them. The High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme aims to transform and restore disused and dilapidated buildings into new homes, shops, work places and community spaces, restoring local historic character and improving public realm.  

Developed alongside capital improvements on the High Street Heritage Action Zones participating in the scheme, the Cultural Programme is the biggest ever community-led arts and heritage programme celebrating the high street. The Cultural Programme will unlock the potential of these high streets, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery, helping people to feel proud of where they live. The Cultural Programme has two strands. Firstly, local grants will support the development and production of cultural programmes, and new partnerships on each of the High Street Heritage Action Zone participating in the scheme   

See map here:  


Secondly, Historic England is curating a National Commissioning Programme that will engage with artists and creatives to help bring a very special and diverse set of places together. The commissions will be developed and co-created with communities, and delivered by artists to provide a creative response that documents and reflects the high streets over the period of the programme from 2020-24.  

This Open Call is part of Historic England’s National Commission Picturing England’s High Streets run by Photoworks in partnership with photography organisations nationally.  

About the national photographer-in-residence programme  

Picturing England’s High Streetsis a three-year project which includes six photographer-in-residence programmes at six high street locations across England, as well as artist mentoring and a digital nationwide mass participation project. This Open Call is for the photographer-in-residence programme in Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone.   

England’s high streets have a long history and have always been at the heart of our communities. They are our landmarks, points of reference and meeting places. Across centuries people have gathered together on high streets, from market days to turning on the Christmas lights; coffee dates to national jubilees. In a recent survey, 45% of respondents indicated that their primary high street use was non-retail related. (Research undertaken on behalf of the Mayor of London in 2017

Every high street in England, whether it is in a medieval market town or a post-war city centre, has a unique and distinctive history that creates identity and a sense of place. Despite this, high streets are struggling, and need to adapt to survive. This commission will help people reconnect with their high streets, seeing them as places that can thrive and are of relevance to them and their lives.    

The photographer-in-residence programmes are a key part of Picturing England’s High Streets. The photographer-in-residence will work with local communities to reimagine the high street, producing images which will become part of the Historic England archive.   

High street users and the community are at the heart of this project and we are looking for photographers whose practice is socially engaged. We are proposing a way of working rather than a thematic or visual approach.  

The project starts with a simple provocation; ‘Your high street: Investigate before, picture now and imagine the future……’   

This provocation will be used as a creative springboard for a socially engaged, diverse, community led commissioning for the photographer-in-residence programmes for Picturing England’s High Streets.  

What are we expecting?  

We are looking for a photographer who has an interest in Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone and whose practice embraces the opportunity to collaborate with the local community. We would welcome applications from socially engaged photographers with a connection to Coventry – although this is not essential.     

The Socially Engaged Photographers role will include: 

  • Working closely with local partners to develop relationships with communities to develop visual narratives that are meaningful to them. The photographer will support participants to create photographic stories themselves, through a process of dialogue and collaboration.  
  • Taking part in stakeholder planning meetings with GRAIN Projects and the local High Streets Heritage Action Zones team, around accessibility guidance and scope for showcasing work in the public realm and opportunities for safeguarding or CPD training with GRAIN Projects where appropriate.  
  • Delivering a series of socially distanced physical or online planning sessions and practical photography workshops sessions that support develop skills, ideas and photo stories with community members.  
  • Supporting a student, early career or amateur local photographer from the local community annually, to develop some work alongside you.  
  • With partners support co-producing a series of physical works for display, and delivering within the public realm (e.g pop up spaces and shopping unit windows) and accompanying works for digital or online /social media display. 
  • A selection of images produced to go into Historic England’s national Archive.  
  • Supporting engagement with the wider mass participation online project.  
  • Adhering to all safeguarding and ethical policies associated with the programme, supported by GRAIN Projects and local partners.  
  • Contributing to evaluation process with all project partners  

What will the selected artist receive?  

Artist fee - £4,000 over 1 -year period, including VAT if applicable.  

There is an additional budget for artist’s travel, materials, DBS, and other costs associated with delivery. 

Mentoring and training – the artist will receive a training day on socially engaged practice and up to six mentoring sessions.   

Practical logistics and organisational support will be provided by GRAIN Projects, with input from partners. 


Key dates and timeline 

Open call deadline: May 26th 2021 

Short list contacted: June 4th 2021 

Interviews: June 10th 2021 (TBC) 

Start date: Summer 2021  High Streets Heritage Action Zones residency begins 

End date: End Summer 2022    


How to apply   

  1. Applications should be submitted toGRAIN Projectsat applications@grainphotographyhub.co.uk Please put Picturing England’s High Streets  Coventry in the subject. The application should be submitted as one PDF document. 
  2. Please describe what interests you about this project and how you feel your experience as a socially engaged photographer would meet the brief.(No more than 4 sides of A4) 
  3. Please submit a C.V.
  4. Submit up to 15 images. These can be examples of your or participants previous work or the engagement process.
  5. Please complete the Equal Opportunities Form and attach to your application.  


Selection process  

The Open Call will have a jury involving partners representing GRAIN Projects, Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone team, Photoworks and Historic England.  


Get in touch  

If you have any questions, please read the frequently asked questions below or contact nicola.shipley@grainphotographyhub.co.uk   

Is this opportunity right for me?  

We have created this quiz to help you decide if this open call is right for you at this point in your practice. You should be able to answer ‘YES’ to all questions in the quiz with confidence. 

Q1. My artistic practice is socially engaged, and I can provide evidence of my approach to working with communities.  

Q2. I have an interest in Coventry and the aims of the High Street Heritage Action Zones 

Q3. I am confident I can invest sufficient time to meet the expectations of this project. 

Q4. I am over 18 and not in full time education. 

There is more detail about who the opportunity is for in the FAQs. If you have further questions about your suitability for the photographer-in-residence programmes open call, feel free to email Nicola.shipley@grainphotographyhub.co.uk  and we will get back to you within 3 working days.  

Equality, Diversity, Inclusion   

We are committed to addressing equality, diversity and inclusion across all our work and we welcome applications from candidates of all backgrounds. The sector is experiencing one of the highest levels of loss of work in the face of Covid-19: the personal impact of this is often devastating; the loss of skilled and talented people permanently a very real worry for the future. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the health and livelihoods of people from African, Caribbean, LatinX or South and East Asian heritage, those with disabilities or long-term health conditions, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and those facing intersecting barriers. These groups were already under-represented in the visual arts and photography sector and most likely to experience racism and marginalisation. We therefore particularly welcome applications from anyone from the groups above.   

Why do we collect Equal Opportunities Monitoring data?  

We are committed to equal opportunities, with the aim of ensuring that everyone engaging in our programme as an audience member, an artist, or those joining us for employment, receives fair treatment and we positively encourage applications from everybody regardless of age, disability, race, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion or belief, marriage and civil partnership and caring status. 

The information you provide us as part of this opportunity (if you would like to) helps us track and measure performance and progress towards our equality and diversity goals and in promoting inclusion. The information collected will help us to identify disparities in outcomes and experiences between groups, identify trends over periods of time, to investigate the reasons for these differences and put suitable actions in place. To help us achieve this aim we ask you to complete this monitoring form. We collate equality information on age, location, disability, race, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion or belief, marriage and civil partnership and caring status. The request for this information and how it is used is within the scope of the Data Protection Act 1998 which allows for the collation and reporting of sensitive data for monitoring purposes. 

Accessible Documents :

Please download a large print version of this opportunity brief on the button below:

Frequently Asked Questions :

Please download our FAQs on the button below:

Watch our event: Picturing England’s High Street’s Open Call Q&A below:

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