Now you’ve read Part 1 of our guide, you know a little more about pop ups, so it’s time to decide whether to pop up. Pop ups can be used by an organisation, a business, or an individual artist as an alternative to having permanent premises. And they can be used to help plan or move towards having permanent premises. Pop ups aren’t new – they’ve been around for years, and there are recorded examples of them being used by artists since the mid-20th century.


Why you should consider a pop-up space

There are a number of reasons you should consider a pop up:

  • In a pop up, you can engage with new customers and local audiences;, as well as creating a deeper connection with people you know online.
  • You can quickly and easily try and test new ideas in a pop up, without the investment in a long lease or permanently fitting out a shop.
  • Pop ups let you scale things up – they’re good for group exhibitions, for small gigs, or for community workshops that are hard to do if you usually work from home.
  • A pop up can help you test a new location – finding a spot with the right footfall for what you’re doing before you move in permanently.


Engaging with the community

In the arts, we often hear big organisations talk about ‘engaging with hard to reach audiences’. People who pop up regularly will tell you: there are no hard to reach audiences if you take art to the places where people live.

Any pop up will reach a wider audience than a traditional gallery, museum, or theatre, as they’re happening where people already go and in spaces they’re comfortable entering. But pop ups in neighbourhood shopping parades or even just outside the main shopping drag are great ways to reach different audiences.


Finding the best location

The location for your pop up should serve the aims you want to achieve, and we’ll cover that in more detail later in this guide. So the first rule is: don’t fall in love with a space and build your entire project around that (unless that’s your particular purpose – maybe you’re a site-specific theatre company!).

Once you have planned your project, you can find a location that’s the right size, and that serves the audiences you want to reach.

Do your research around the local area and look firstly for gaps in the market, and what other businesses are operating nearby. Talk to people on the street, in the local cafe, and in nearby shops.

Think about how your audience will get there, too – you might need to consider public transport or cycle routes, for example. And do remember their access needs. A first floor space might look great, but if your audience is older or disabled, people are going to struggle to get in.


Pop-ups in Dorset

Dorset is a county full of a variety of empty spaces that are perfect for pop ups. A few good examples of how Dorset supports pop ups include:

A project known as Pop-up Poole was run by the Borough of Poole and The New Leaf Company, and supported more than 80 start up businesses.

The Dolphin Shopping centre in Poole also lets out empty shop space as part of  their Eco Hub initiative; the local community are welcome to run activities relating to sustainable practice and wellbeing and utilize the space throughout the year.

Brewery Square is a vibrant addition to the heart of Dorchester with a range of pop-up shops on display throughout the year. Read more about their retail opportunities here.

As well as this, many of the museums and churches in Dorset encourage people to run markets or put stands inside their spaces in order to promote the work of locals.

An example of a pop-up shop in action is Ink and Page set up by Kim and David Squirrell in Bridport. They run regular art and craft workshops as well as selling handmade products.


Useful Tip – Elevator Pitch

The most important thing is – your pop up needs to happen for a reason. It needs to have a clear aim.

An elevator pitch is a short summary of what you want to do, how you’ll do it, and why that’s of benefit. It comes from business, and it is based on a simple premise: you have got in a lift with somebody you know could help you make your idea happen, and you have the duration of the lift journey to sell it to them and get them onboard.

So –
What’s the problem your pop up addresses?
How does it offer a fix to the problem – what does it actually do?
Why is that of interest to anyone else?

Write your elevator pitch in Plain English – no sector-specific jargon. It needs to be short and memorable. Avoid over-used words that don’t mean anything – like exciting, unique.


(c) Dan Thompson