Historic England, Picturing England’s High Streets  

Opportunity for Photographer-in-Residence in Leicester (two years) supported by QUAD/FORMAT

FORMAT and QUAD in association with Historic England and Photoworks are delighted to offer this unique opportunity to work on the long term project, Picturing England’s High Street, photographing the high streets of Leicester.

About the national photographer-in-residence programme

Picturing England’s High Streets is a three-year project which includes six photographer-in-residence programmes based in six high street locations across England, as well as artist mentoring and a digital nationwide mass-participation project.

This Open Call is for the photographer-in-residence programme focused on the
Leicester High Streets Heritage Action Zones.

England’s high streets have a long history and have always been at the heart of our communities. They are our landmarks, points of reference and meeting places. Across centuries people have gathered together on high streets, from market days to turning on the Christmas lights; coffee dates to national jubilees. In a recent survey, 45% of respondents indicated that their primary high street use was non-retail related. (Research undertaken on behalf of the Mayor of London in 2017)

Every high street in England, whether it is in a medieval market town or a post-war city centre, has a unique and distinctive history that creates identity and a sense of place. Despite this, high streets are struggling, and need to adapt to survive. This commission will help people reconnect with their high streets, seeing them as places that can thrive and are of relevance to them and their lives.

The photographer-in-residence programmes are a key part of Picturing England’s High Streets. The photographer-in-residence will work with local communities, individuals and partners to reimagine the high street, producing images which will become part of the Historic England archive.  

This Open Call is for the photographer-in-residence programme focused on the
Leicester High Streets Heritage Action Zones.

High street users and communities are at the heart of this project and we are looking for photographers whose practice is socially engaged and/or photographers with a strong desire to work in a socially engaged way. We are proposing a way of working rather than a thematic or visual approach.

The project starts with a simple provocation; ‘Your high street: Investigate before, picture now and imagine the future……’

This provocation will be used as a creative springboard for a socially engaged, diverse, community engaged commissioning for the photographer-in-residence programmes for Picturing England’s High Streets.

This Open Call is for the photographer-in-residence programme focused on the
Leicester High Streets Heritage Action Zones.

About High Streets Heritage Action Zones (High Streets HAZ)

Historic England is working with local people and partners through grant funding and sharing our skills to help breathe new life into high streets that are rich in heritage and full of promise. The High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme, backed by government funding, aims to help with the recovery of local high streets from regenerating historic buildings to helping to engage local communities through art and cultural projects.  The Cultural Programme, co-funded with The National Lottery Heritage Fund and supported by Arts Council England, has the goal of making the high street a more attractive, engaging and vibrant place for people to live, work and spend time.

The photographer’s role, what are we expecting? 

We are looking for a photographer, duo or collective, who has an interest in Leicester High Streets Heritage Action Zones and whose practice embraces the opportunity to collaborate with individuals and the local community. We would welcome applications from photographers with a strong desire to work in a socially engaged way, with a connection to Leicester or Leicestershire – although this is not essential.

The selected artist will be supported throughout the project by QUAD/FORMAT and the mentoring organisations to develop their project and determine their interests and focus in the local HAZ context and communities.

The Photographer’s role will include:

  • Working closely with local partners to develop relationships with individuals, groups, communities, or to create new communities, to creatively explore and research in a participatory way what the residency should be focussed on, from looking at the future of the high street to mapping the activity, opportunities, histories, archives, occupants and visitors in the area. The photographer should also respond to and reflect the diversity of the area in their work, for example the Asian population of Leicester is around 40%.
  • Sessions could include the development of meaningful visual narratives, in which the photographer supports participants to engage in the creation of works, through a process of dialogue and collaboration.
  • Taking part in stakeholder planning meetings with QUAD/FORMAT and the local HS HAZ team, around accessibility guidance and scope for showcasing work in the public realm and opportunities for safeguarding or CPD training with QUAD/FORMAT where appropriate.
  • Develop, with the support of QUAD/FORMAT, and deliver a series of photography workshop sessions that support the development of skills and ideas of individuals/community members in the Leicester HAZ.
  • Supporting students/early career photographers from the local community annually, to develop the work alongside you.
  • Collaborating with partners to co-produce a sharing of works for display within the public realm, screening event, talk, performance as relevant (e.g pop up spaces, with cultural partners, or shopping unit windows) and accompanying works for digital or online /social media display.
  • Produce a selection of final images (minimum of 20) final edit to be agreed by the project partners, to go into Historic England’s national Archive.
  • Supporting engagement with the Picturing England’s High Streets mass-participation online project.
  • Adhering to all safeguarding and ethical policies associated with the programme, supported by QUAD/FORMAT and local partners.
  • Contributing to evaluation process with all project partners

About the Leicester High Street HAZ and core partners

The residency will be developed by QUAD/FORMAT in collaboration with the Leicester High Streets Heritage Action Zone team and a range of local partners in the context of a wider programme of the High Street Heritage Action Zone activities.

The residency will respond to and engage in the context of the High Streets Heritage Action Zone areas in Leicester and needs to be conscious of the aims of the HSHAZ team.

The two areas in Leicester are Granby Street conservation area, which is the main route from the train station leading towards the city centre and Church Gate conservation area, which is an important historic route from the bus stations to the city centre. The local programme is focussed on the repair of buildings, bringing vacant space back into use and public realm works.

Leicester’s HAZ programme will enable important historic shopfronts and buildings in the Granby Street and Church Gate conservation areas to be repaired, restored and revamped and aims to celebrate the rich heritage of these shopping streets. The area’s architecture is varied but the main character is drawn from its Victorian buildings, as the city saw an explosion of growth during Queen Victoria’s reign. Some notable buildings include the Turkey Café and 31 Granby Street (Former HSBC). Leicester’s varied history includes links to Thomas Cook and the early days of tourism, his Temperance Hotel is on Granby Street and his former house is also close by.

Plans for the area include the pedestrianisation of Church Gate as part of the ambitious scheme to transform the shopping streets around the Clock Tower and an improvement scheme on part of Granby Street, including research into the history of the two streets and key buildings. Alongside this, the city is developing a programme of activities and events driven by local organisations and focussed on the two streets, plus the development of heritage skills apprenticeships together with local businesses and free architectural advice for property owners. Projects will include a young persons leadership programme with The Mighty Creatives, exhibitions by De Montfort University, an outdoor street festival and comedy events from the Big Difference Company.

To read more about the Leicester based project click here and here



Established in 2004, FORMAT is the leading international contemporary festival of photography and related media in the UK. It organises a year round programme of international commissions, open calls, residencies, conferences and collaborations in the UK and internationally and welcomes over 100,000 visitors from all over the world to its biennale.

The festival and off year programmes celebrate the wealth of contemporary photographic practice and feature everything from major conceptual works, participative projects, documentary photography, mobile phone imagery to the archive and all that falls between. We are concerned with what is happening now in the scene and beyond, whilst sharing and contributing to it.

FORMAT is focused on developing opportunities for audiences to see, debate, develop, contribute and participate in the best of what photography is and can be, through our comprehensive professional practice programmes and a yearly international photography portfolio review.

Since its beginning FORMAT has strived to develop and respond to new ideas in photography and has given each festival a distinct and stimulating theme to reflect these ideas.


Established in 2008 QUAD is an international centre for engagement in contemporary art and film, based in Derby and known for its mass participation and socially engaged programmes. The arts centre is a leading UK organisation for the sharing and creative development of digital technologies including AR, VR, AI, projection mapping, interactive media, major residencies and new commissions by contemporary artists alongside workshops, public programmes, publications, education and learning.

The year-round programme focuses on major exhibitions, professional practice for artists, mass participation, commissions, independent film and the creative use of emergent digital technologies. Its cinema programme presents a diverse range of world and indie films and festivals.

QUAD is a charity focused on intercultural dialogue through supporting diverse audiences to engage, develop skills and contribute to contemporary culture. Year-round, our learning, education and participation programmes involve people and communities locally and worldwide in innovative arts programmes.


Visit QUAD

About High Streets Heritage Action Zones Cultural Programme

Historic England is leading the High Street Cultural Programme in partnership with National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council England as part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones initiative funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The High Streets Heritage Action Zones Programme is a nationwide scheme designed to secure lasting improvements to our historic high streets for the communities who use them. The High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme aims to transform and restore disused and dilapidated buildings into new homes, shops, work places and community spaces, restoring local historic character and improving public realm.

Developed alongside capital improvements on the High Streets HAZs participating in the scheme, the Cultural Programme is the biggest ever community-led arts and heritage programme celebrating the high street. The Cultural Programme will unlock the potential of these high streets, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery, helping people to feel proud of where they live. The Cultural Programme has two strands.

Firstly, local grants will support the development and production of cultural programmes, and new partnerships on each of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones participating in the scheme

To view the map of participating areas click here

Secondly, Historic England is curating a National Commissioning Programme that will engage with artists and creatives to help bring a very special and diverse set of places together. The commissions will be developed and co-created with communities, and delivered by artists to provide a creative response that documents and reflects the high streets over the period of the programme from 2020-24.

This open call is part of Historic England’s National Commission Picturing England’s High Streets run by Photoworks in partnership with photography organisations nationally.

What will the selected artist receive?

Artist fee – £6,000 for activity on the project within a 2-year period, including VAT if applicable.

There is an additional budget for artist’s travel, materials, DBS, and other costs associated with delivery. This budget is managed by QUAD/FORMAT.

Mentoring and training – the artist will receive a training day on socially engaged practice and up to six mentoring sessions from the Picturing England’s High Streets partners alongside ongoing support from QUAD/FORMAT throughout the two years of the project.

Practical logistics and organisational support will be provided by QUAD/FORMAT, with input from partners.

Key dates/deadline and timeline

Open Call deadline: Midnight, BST – 29th August 2021

Short list contacted: Week commencing – 6th September 2021

Interviews: Week commencing 13th September 2021

Start date: Autumn 2021

End date: Autumn 2023

How to apply

Applications should be submitted to FORMAT/QUAD at [email protected]. Please put Picturing England’s High Streets – Leicester in the subject line.

The application should be submitted as one PDF document including the information requested below.

  • Please describe what interests you about this project and how you feel your experience as a photographer and interest in/experience of socially engaged practice would meet the brief.  (No more than 4 sides of A4)
  • Your C.V.
  • Up to 15 images. These can be examples of your work or the work of participants from past projects or documentation of an engagement process that you have led.
  • Please complete the Equal Opportunities Form and attach with your application. You can download the form here.

Selection process

The Open Call will have a jury involving partners representing QUAD/FORMAT, Leicester Heritage Action Zones team, Photoworks and Historic England.

Get in touch

If you have any questions please read the frequently asked questions via the link below or contact [email protected].

Equality, Diversity, Inclusion

We are committed to addressing equality, diversity and inclusion across all our work and we welcome applications from candidates of all backgrounds. The sector is experiencing one of the highest levels of loss of work in the face of Covid-19: the personal impact of this is often devastating; the loss of skilled and talented people permanently a very real worry for the future.

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the health and livelihoods of people from African, Caribbean, LatinX or South and East Asian heritage, those with disabilities or long-term health conditions, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and those facing intersecting barriers. These groups were already under-represented in the visual arts and photography sector and most likely to experience racism and marginalisation. We therefore particularly welcome applications from anyone from the groups above.

Is this opportunity right for me?

We have created this quiz to help you decide if this open call is right for you at this point in your practice. You should be able to answer ‘YES’ to all questions in the quiz with confidence.

Q1.    My artistic practice is socially engaged or I have a strong desire to work in a socially engaged way and I am willing to develop my practice through this project with the support of QUAD/FORMAT and I can provide evidence of my approach to and interest in working with people and communities.

Q2.    I have an interest in Leicester and the aims of the High Street Heritage Action Zones

Q3.    I am confident I can invest sufficient time to meet the expectations of this project.

Q4.    I am over 18 and not in full-time education.

There is more detail about who the opportunity is for in the FAQs. If you have further questions about your suitability for the photographer-in-residence programmes open call, feel free to email [email protected] and we will aim to get back to you within 3 working days.

Frequently Asked Questions

To find out more click here

Historic England Information – Large Print

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