Case study: Social distancing with flowers in Leamington
This case study uses the example of placing large flower stickers in the high street to demonstrate the 2 metre social distancing requirement in key areas of public space and around businesses. Stephanie Kerr, Executive Director of the BID, spoke with the Institute of Place Management to run through the initiative and its wider place making lessons for high streets reacting to COVID-19.
The requirement for social distancing requires high streets to reimagine and change their physical spaces, allowing for and encouraging people to respect the measure but to also access the businesses and services that will return in the coming weeks and months. Royal Leamington Spa is one such town dealing with these issues. Located in Warwickshire, it has a mix of green space, historic buildings, and retail offer centred around its Parade.
This case study uses the example of placing large flower pavement graphics in the high street to demonstrate the 2 metre social distancing requirement in key public spaces and around businesses.
This was organised by BID Leamington, the local Business Improvement District that works with businesses and the wider community to enhance the local area and provide supporting services and activation activities.
Stephanie Kerr, Executive Director of the BID, spoke with the Institute of Place Management to run through the initiative and its wider place making lessons for high streets reacting to COVID-19.
Stephanie points out the challenge of understanding the right intervention for a place, and spent time thinking about how social distancing measures could fit with the ‘DNA of the town’.
- Spend time observing
“After observing, I could see lots of variation in respect to business access and queueing. I knew I could positively intervene, but I wasn’t 100% sure in all cases, so I formed some questions to follow up on, and installed the graphics in locations where we had most certainty. We focused on ATM queues, and at gathering points around pedestrian crossings and entrances to the shopping centre.”
“It was quite strategic in the end - we’re now drafting guidelines in partnership with the Local Council and businesses, for the installation of these stickers more widely”
- Reflect local and business needs
“I realised very quickly that our interventions needed to be delivered partnership with businesses. For example, many have different access arrangements and some shop doorways are not 2 metres apart.”
“I would encourage businesses to talk to their neighbours, to identify opportunities; booking customers in at different times, sharing queues, hand sanitiser tables and so on.”
“I was also very conscious that this was a trial – so at first we didn’t deploy huge numbers and they could easily be pulled up if they weren’t the right places.”
- Foster trust and loyalty
There is a need to reflect on local values and existing place brands. While there are limiting factors to making changes in public space, there is no need to discard these ideas – they are what will help people to trust high streets and recognise a consistency of experience that encourages them back.
Steph identifies the benefits of the flowers in easing stress and anxiety for pupils at local schools and town centre visitors – with many children keen to interact with the stickers, as the experience can also offer interest and fun.
- Finding Inspiration and sharing ideas
It is helpful to share ideas and inspiration and support each other. Steph talks about drawing inspiration from nature, and ensuring we listen in different ways to new voices in our communities. In her presentation she references a 4min video by Toby Herzlich as a recent source of her inspiration – view by clicking here.