Hi! Street Fest was Historic England's largest and final commission as part of the High Streets Action Zone Programme, a four year programme to revitalise more than 60 high streets. Across the country Hi! Street Fest has engaged with more than 60,000 people in the summer of 2023, all coming together for a series of community led street parties and carnivals that celebrated England's high streets.
The centre piece of these celebrations is a curious fox called Farrah who has travelled across the country to explore and celebrate high streets, bringing a touch of carnival to the people who love and look after them.
Created in partnership with Historic England, she is a 5-meter tall mechanical puppet of a young fox on a light up scooter. With resilience in her genes, Farrah the Fox has adapted to live in a changing environment and sparked the question in each town or city she has visited: how can high streets do the same? Taller than a double decker bus, Farrah has been designed by Tony Mason and is animated by two puppeteers.
To learn more about how you can bring Farrah to your local high street please visit the link below for more details:
At each high street celebration Farrah was greeted by a locally inspired host puppet co-created by each community in collaboration with puppet makers Thingumajig Theatre. Each host puppet represented the history and heritage of where they were from.
Across all 7 locations Hi! Street fest was brought to life with the help of 2000 participants and volunteers, providing a wide range and depth of community engagement. Hi! Street Fest was an ambitious project that aimed to bring together people and places to support bright futures for high streets.
Hi! Street Fest has engaged more than 5,000 people in the development of these events, with thousands of hours of community participation through outreach and workshops. The project aimed to reimagine the high street, attract visitors and bring people together to celebrate each high street’s culture and it was a resounding success! Just look at the numbers...
- Lowestoft - 17 June
- Gloucester - 1 July
- Wigan - 8 July
- Gosport - 22 July
- Middlesbrough - 29 Jul
- Stalybridge - 9 September
- Woolwich - Sep 22
Since the beginning of 2022 EEA and Historic England have been working with local partners to develop Hi! Street Fest, and through the collaborative process, Manuela Benini was appointed Artistic Director. Her specialism in dance, procession and carnival took hundreds of participants through a creative journey through music, dance and costume.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “Hi! Street Fest will give communities from six high streets across the country the chance to connect with their local places and get creative to celebrate what makes them special. We strongly believe that the combination of capital investment and cultural programming is an effective way to encourage people to view their high streets positively – as vibrant, active places where people come together. And we have seen that heritage is a powerful catalyst for growing civic pride. We’re pleased to be working with experts in outdoor arts events, Emergency Exit Arts, for this finale to our High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, and hope these events will encourage future cultural collaboration on each high street, driven by local communities.”
Daniel Bernstein, CEO of Emergency Exit Arts said "Emergency Exit Arts are so excited to be working on this important, co-created national project. We are determined that there are opportunities for hundreds of local people in each place we are working with to get engaged in the culture of their high street and help make a real long-term difference to their place. We will bring spectacle – but the development opportunities for people to put on more events in their place, is paramount."
Artistic Director: Manuela Benini
Farrah the fox
Designer & Fabricator: Tony Mason
Fabricators: Pablo Cattermole, Mike Pattinson, Emma Garofalo, Katie Currie, Rebecca Sainsot, Sam Noble, Melissa Dawkins, Danielle Williamson, Debz Eastlake, Amy West
Soundtrack: Ben Raine
Poetry: Niall Moorjani