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In and around our everyday spaces we are used to seeing signs and notices, especially around the areas that adhere to strict scheduling and codes of practice.

Some signs inform us of things to come – the time the next bus is due, the days the shops will not be open. Others try to sell us things, like the new BigMac with 17 burger patties or the shiny Land Rover that wouldn’t even fit on your street. Last but not least, are the signs that impose on us the rules of the space we currently occupy – don’t walk on the grass, only pay in correct change, wear a face covering. Most are so engrained that we barely register their presence. They are everywhere. Maybe it’s time to see something new.

I’ve been speaking often about our urban places adapting to new requirements in my column In Her Place. The perfect example of this reactive adaptation is HIVE coffee shop and cafe located on Church Street, Blackpool. In magnificent fashion, HIVE has undergone several metamorphoses this year. As well as being flexible enough to cope with the ever-changing rules of play dictated to us by our government, during 2020 HIVE has operated as café, greengrocers, artisan market and art gallery. As Christmas plans withered like forgotten mistletoe, HIVE took to the street in a couple of cosy grottos, playing Christmas songs and selling mulled wine to masked shoppers. All this as well as boasting the best banana bread I have ever tasted. Hooray for HIVE.

With dynamics like these being practiced it’s no wonder the cafe also anchors a fabulous group of local artists that are passionate about mixing things up. As visits to art galleries, museums and theatres have dipped dramatically this year the HIVE creatives decided that it was about time to bring art out to the public in Blackpool.

In similar fashion to London’s ‘Art on the Underground’, this festive season HIVEArts are ‘HIVEjacking’ the 14 tram stops between South and North Pier, displaying local artists work in an open-air gallery-style.

Each shelter along the route is currently displaying large scale works from artists working in several disciplines, representing a cross-section of styles and imagery. With huge and continuing support from HIVE café and with further support from Blackpool Council and Blackpool transport the works will be on display from Friday the 18th of December 2020 to Saturday the 2nd of January 2021 on both sides of the tram tracks.

As creatures of habit, it’s often difficult to imagine the alternative potential uses in the everyday spaces we encounter. ‘HIVEjacked’ shows that simple interventions can be easily embedded into our regular experiences. As I stood within the tram shelter a photograph of a ballerina creating a well-formed pose juxtaposed my slumped, aching body and I suddenly became desperate to take off my backpack – I hoped the tram showed up soon. In another stop, an image of an elderly couple depicted in typewritten lettering became veiled suddenly by the crowd, who rushed to board the last service to Fleetwood.

The images presented in HIVEjacked sit alongside the usual signage of our world without trying to enforce or persuade. They are there for your viewing. Sure, knowing us we’ll probably still use the time stood waiting for the tram staring into the abyss of the 24-hour news cycle, but for the slightest moment, we might look up and see something interesting, something new.

Header photo by Dawn Mander

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  • Stephanie Cottle is currently a research student at UCLan working alongside the curatorial partnership In Certain Places. Her practice investigates place & the everyday experiences of the North West of England.

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