Academic explores the future of the town centre for new BBC series

Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan

Trading Spaces looks at the future of the UK's High Streets via the stories of five very different kinds of business.

  • 10 February 2021
  • 2 min read

University of Portsmouth academic Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan explores the future of Britain’s town centre in a new BBC Radio 4 series this week.

‘Trading Spaces’ is a five-part documentary series that looks at the social and cultural history of shops and businesses and their future, especially how they're being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is broadcast every day this week at 1.45pm (8-12 February).

The series, presented by Deborah Sugg Ryan, who is Professor of Design History in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, looks at the future of the UK's High Streets via the stories of five very different kinds of business. As well as department stores (Monday), the series will look at pubs (Tuesday), beauty salons (Wednesday), cinemas (Thursday) and toy shops (Friday).

Through the experiences of five independent business owners, it sheds a light on the huge challenges that our high street businesses are facing at this unprecedented time. I also consider the histories that will be lost if those businesses disappear from our high streets.

Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, Professor of Design History

Each of their business owners has been keeping an audio diary about the impact of COVID-19. Professor Sugg Ryan also interviewed historians to delve into the history of each business and their significance for the high street.

Professor Sugg Ryan said: “I’m delighted to be presenting this very timely series on the history and future of the high street in the context of the pandemic. Through the experiences of five independent business owners, it sheds a light on the huge challenges that our high street businesses are facing at this unprecedented time. I also consider the histories that will be lost if those businesses disappear from our high streets.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, Professor Sugg Ryan had the additional challenge of making the series from home with the support of the production team at Whistledown.

Trading Spaces is broadcast Monday 8 to Friday 12 February at 1.45 on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

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