My perfect high street would be one full of people - Ian McMillan

With all the talk these days of the troubles on the high street due to the virus and the inexorable rise of internet shopping, I started to plan my perfect high street, just in case the muse finally deserts me and goes to a pied-a-terre in Chapel St Leonards and I have to retrain for a new career at my advanced and white-haired age.

Ian McMillan sets out his idea of the perfect high street.

At one end of my high street there would be a bookshop; a bookshop that, like my local bookshop in Barnsley, the Book Vault, is welcoming and friendly and lets you take your time and recommends books to you and, maybe more importantly, is able to take your order for books they haven’t got in stock. Feels like a plan to me!

At the other end of this fantasy high street there would be a library in a new building that was evidence of the way that a library, like a bookshop, can be a cornerstone of civilisation.

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Imagine that: a bookshop at one end, a library at the other. Each of them would have a space upstairs where people could gather (socially distanced of course) and listen to writers reading their work and leading workshops.

A bookshop would be one of the stores on his ideal high street.

Imagine that: a bookshop at one end and a library at the other. And in the middle? A proper butcher’s shop, with pies that you can see from space, and a proper greengrocer’s, with fruit and veg laid out like works of art. A proper DIY shop that you can never stump; you’ll go in and ask for a sprocket for a widget for a penny farthing and they’ll ask: “What size?”

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There’s a pub: a pub selling real beer and the kind of food that fills a vast white plate to overflowing. There’s a cafe that sells (my preferences coming out here) tiny espressos that are so strong you can still feel their effects a week after, and cakes so sweet that the memory of them makes you a bit giddy.

And people; my high street would be full of people. People talking, interacting, laughing, arguing, debating, taking their time to get from one end of the street to the other, socially distanced of course. If they need to have a minute there are plenty of benches for them to sit down on.

Obviously this is just a dream and the reality for so many high streets is a row of metal shutters rattling in the wind and maybe, like King Canute, I can’t hold back the seas of change. I hope not, though, because as we make our way tentatively out of these terrible times, human interaction could well be the way to rebuild, and where better to interact than on a high street?

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Thank you

James Mitchinson