Monday 9th November 2015

Artists reveal designs for empty shop windows

Back to News

Dos Artists, made up of artists John Guy & Chris McBirnie were awarded a R&D Prototype Projects to develop artworks for empty shop windows in St Helens for their project entitled This Town Is…

Here is an update of what they have been doing over the last six months:

Let us start by introducing ourselves. We are Dos Artists consisting of two local artists, John Guy and Chris McBirnie, whose practice consists of drawing, painting, photography and digital media.

The concept behind the project was to find out what the people of St. Helens thought about the town they live in. We decided that the best way to collect this information would be through social media such as Facebook, as well as collecting data through face to face interactions with the people of St Helens.

The use of social media was very successful in collecting information, as it allowed people to give their opinions in their own time, but also start a dialogue between people about issues related to St. Helens. We invited people to simply finish off the sentence “This Town is…” This tactic created a whole range of responses from people being proud of their heritage and town, with its connections to coal mining, glass production, rugby league success and of course it’s love of pies and other pastry goods. The positive responses were also met with negative comments about the place becoming a ghost town, in reference to the number of empty shops that now existed in the town centre, alongside people’s anger of it becoming a “Pound Town”. Other issues included parking, the removal of benches and the town’s general lack of vision.

The success of the social media posts gained us attention from the Liverpool Echo, where they chose comments that they felt best reflected the survey. The general consensus was that the town had lost its way in recent times, but people were proud to be from St Helens.



We wanted to reflect the opinions collected through illustrations and drawings on empty shop windows. Unfortunately, this is where we have come to a halt with the project. The designs (as you can see) are ready, but finding a suitable location or an empty shop unit is taking much longer than anticipated. In hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t have made the project so site specific, but we will continue to find a suitable window/location to illustrate our designs.

This project has been a real eye opener and learning curve in terms of the difficulties posed by trying to develop a temporary public artwork for an empty shop, as it can take a long time to find or even get a response from the landlord, as well as then trying to persuade the private landlord or local council to offer their space on a temporary lease for artists to use. 

As a result of this R&D period, our project is moving into a new direction, where we are in the early stages of wanting to create a short animation based on the style and aesthetics of a 16-bit computer game, similar to the games played in the 80’s/90’s, such as Super Mario. It is very much in the early concept stages, but we hope to showcase it in the new year.

For more information on accessing empty spaces/ shops for temporary exhibitions or community projects read this article by Artquest.

For more information about Prototype Projects click here

Prototype Projects: Round 3

Supporting artists from St Helens to develop projects

Read More