Photography students from the Northern School of Art preparing for a show of their work at Empty Shop in Hartlepool. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

‘Meanwhile spaces’: empty shops become a creative force across UK

From hat-makers to carpenters, art centres to gift boutiques, new life is coming to properties abandoned in the retail slump. Meanwhile seems such a bland word. Ostensibly, it is a scrap of time between one event and another. But in every hard-boiled thriller, it is where the real excitement lies: meanwhile, our hero shimmied down the drainpipe; meanwhile, on the other side of town… … there’s an empty shop. Businesses have gone bust. They haven’t been able to pay business rates; they haven’t been able to compete with Amazon; the…

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