After the Oxjam Pop Up – some reflections from Clare Sullivan.

The Oxjam Bedford team really enjoyed our Empty Shop experience.  The opportunity to reach out to a whole new section of the community in such an accessible and engaging way was invaluable, as well as being a lot of fun!  The walk-ins we got with people leaving reflecting on an enjoyable experience and seeming interested in what we are trying to do has been a real boost to our team in the run-up to the Takeover.  It was particularly great, especially during our second week, to meet so many people who already knew what we were doing – it’s so nice to know when your marketing is working!  This opportunity to talk to people face-to-face about the Takeover and gauge their reaction, and see the genuine interest from many of those we spoke to was priceless for us.

Staffing the shop was at times a challenge.  The team have given a huge amount of time in the last six months and to ask people to give up a whole Saturday (or two in some cases) was difficult.  Whilst we managed this in the end, having a bigger team to take care of this would have been helpful – maybe next year! Setting up the shop itself in a single day as well was also a mammoth undertaking.  In the event it came together and looked fantastic, but it was a physically and mentally exhausting 12 hours of effort to get us there.

What did we learn?  That we should have listened to you more!  Keeping it simple is definitely a hugely valuable lesson.  The simpler a concept is, the easier it is to communicate, and therefore the more likely people are to buy into it.  I thought that we needed a lot going on to get people into the shop when actually, the concept of the shop itself as a temporary home for something arty seemed to be enough to get people through the door.  Catering to families proved to be very important too.  The ‘Design a Superhero’ competition from Reaction Visual Media went down a treat (with all ages actually).  It would have been good if we’d had something similarly child-friendly for people to engage with at all times.

395 people visited the shop and we raised  £378.03 in total for Oxfam.

Some visitor comments:
“I luvd it, Milo”
“Great unexpected find, great theme and really well put together, thank-you”

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