High Street Tales

Published: Wednesday, 24th February 2021

A new short story, In Between Days, by local writer Merrie Joy Williams and set in Woolwich, is released as a podcast today.

In Between Days is one of seven new works of fiction commissioned for Historic England’s High Street Tales, a new weekly podcast series and e-book inspired by local high streets.  

High Street Tales is the first project in a £7.4million Cultural Programme led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This programme of cultural activities is part of the £95 million High Streets Heritage Action Zone scheme, which is currently working to breathe new life into 68 English high streets including Woolwich. 

Cllr Sarah Merrill, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Growth, said:  

“Woolwich has a rich cultural and historic heritage that is waiting to be discovered in Merrie Joy Williams’ short story, inspired by reflections on the high street. Being one of only five locations in London selected to receive Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone funding is a great privilege and their cultural programme is an opportunity for us to reconnect with our high streets again 

“With all the exciting developments currently taking place in Woolwich from the forthcoming stateof-the-art leisure centre, to the refurbishment of Tramshed arts centre, and the opening of Woolwich Works cultural district the area certainly has a bright future ahead.” 

In her short story In Between Days, poet and novelist Merrie Joy Williams was inspired by her local community, who she spoke with to animate our vibrant corner of London. Her story explores the rich history of Woolwich through the eyes of its teenage resident, Karim.  

Merrie researched the history and development of Woolwich and then spoke to residents in person and online to hear their personal histories and desires, so that her story truly belonged to them.  

Poet and novelist, Merrie Joy Williams, commented:  

“There were so many things I learnt, but couldn’t share in 3,000 words, including one man who moved here from Italy, and worked in many local hairdressers for over forty years. There were heaps of intricate detail about the old market stalls, injured soldiers after the Falklands War, family days out, as children, many moons ago. I could probably write a book of stories now.”  

She continues:  

“Writing and researching this story in partnership with Spread the Word, on behalf of the people of Woolwich, has been a wonderful experience. They were generous with their time, insights, and open in that way that is special to South East London.  

“I’ve lived here over twenty years now, but through this commission learnt so much about the rich history of the high street over decades before that; not just through facts, but through the eyes and hearts of those for whom these memories form a part of personal legend.  

“I wanted to honour their frankness, and nostalgia for the things that have gone – quaint tea shops, cinemas, department stores, the arsenal itself. But also their hopes for new developments, like Crossrail and the emerging, burgeoning arts scene. It’s almost like Woolwich has lived one entire life, already. Its new one is adolescent -– quietly developing each day, though slightly unsure of itself.”  

Ellen Harrison, Head of Creative Programmes and Campaigns, Historic England, said:  

“Historic England is taking a unique approach in combining cultural programming, community engagement and physical regeneration to transform high streets across England. The Cultural Programme’s aim is for artists to work with local people to help them rediscover and express the pride they have in the places they’re from.” 

Listen to the podcast