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An ideal photo opportunity

With a bit of imagination empty shops can be turned into an asset, explains Ray Worsnop

When I asked people what they wanted to see in Rhyl’s town centre they said ‘more independent shops, like a bakers’. So that’s what I gave them.

Take a look at the above photo carefully and you may deduce that all’s not as it first seems. Or maybe you won’t. Through the trickery of a photographic mural I created a 3D impression of a bakers and placed it inside the windows of an empty shop.

Why? Well, I don’t want my town to end up looking like a ghost town. In the space of just two streets we have 14 empty shops and the situation could get a lot worse. Of the three big ‘names’ we have in the town, two are talking about moving out.

The shop prior to its photographic makeover.

These 3D murals could be the answer. As well as helping to make the town centre look a bit brighter, they ought to help owners let their properties.

My starting point, as I mentioned earlier, was to stop people in the street and ask them what shops they’d like to see in the town centre. The overall message was they’re fed up of chains – they want to see independent shops, places with the personal touch, where you can talk to the shopkeeper. A ‘proper’ butchers where you can ask for a specific cut of meat. That sort of thing.

By producing these images for empty shops it’s showing people how the town could look and where the potential markets are.

I paid for the bakers one myself (it costs around £600-800 a time) as there’s no funding for this around here. But the council is now interested and may commission me to do two for empty premises in Rhyl’s shopping mall, the White Rose Shopping Centre, and I’m also talking to agents who’ve got empty shops to let.

It’s a tricky, technical process, but this is something that could take empty shops anywhere and turn them into an advert for what’s possible.

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