Eldon Street HSHAZ Case Study


  • Increased public profile of Eldon Street and the activities of the HSHAZ
  • Empowerment of young people through creative careers learning, high profile participation in community activity and engagement with high quality artists
  • A greater appreciation for the history of Eldon Street and of Barnsley
  • A greater appreciation of the impact on the people of Barnsley in learning about their cultural heritage
  • Strengthened partnership working between local authority teams


Barnsley Bright Nights is a two-day free winter lights festival featuring illuminated artworks, performances and happenings across the town centre. Started in 2018, the festival is now an established and eagerly anticipated highlight of Barnsley’s award-winning town centre cultural events programme.

The event starts with a luminous spectacle in The Glass Works Square. It continues with a light art trail with local, regional, national and international artworks at cultural venues across the town centre. The festival finishes with a large-scale, illuminated parade with specially commissioned artworks and community groups taking to the streets. The events are coordinated by Barnsley MBC’s Events Team. Since 2021 the parade has included Eldon Street as part of its route. This decision was made due to the close working partnership between the HSHAZ and the Barnsley MBC Events Team, and the desire to promote Eldon Street and the new Glassworks Square as part of the festival.


To place Eldon Street at the centre of local consciousness through involvement with one of Barnsley’s biggest and most popular events through high quality community participation projects.


Below is some of the activity funded by the HSHAZ as part of Bright Nights.

The Eldon Beast and illuminated Eldon Street buildings at the Bright Nights parade. Image: James Mulkeen

Sunset neon

In 2021, a temporary neon artwork by Patrick Murphy and poet laureate Simon Armitage was installed at the back of the Parkway Cinema for the Bright Nights festival, to illuminate an otherwise dark and underused alley that was a priority for improvement through the HSHAZ. The words for the artwork were from a new poem that Simon wrote as part of his residency with the HSHAZ, and link back to stories of Eldon Street shops like Harral’s jewellers where Barnsley couples bought their wedding rings, and Frank Bird’s who have sold wedding suits on Eldon Street for many years. The intention was for the artwork to be temporary, but it had such a positive reception that it has been turned into a permanent installation.

Sunset neon installation at Bright Nights 2023 with Simon Armitage. Image: James Mulkeen

The Eldon Beast

The idea of the Eldon Beast is a result of a range of HSHAZ-funded outreach activities into schools and the community to create mythical creatures for a game, a co-created activity, engaging and empowering local people. This was then extended into a participatory project at Trinity Academy St. Edwards school in 2022, in which learners worked with professional puppet maker and artist Sue Walpole to create an illuminated beast to parade through the town at the closing event for Bright Nights. The Beast made a second appearance at the 2023 Bright Nights, continuing and building upon the invented myth.

An artist was commissioned to create this game for Eldon Street based on the mythical story of the Eldon Beast, which we've discovered will be a great way to extend the reach of the project and engage with a diverse range of communities. [There was a] community engagement event in the town centre that engaged over 150 families to raise awareness of what we're doing and involve the public in designing the characters.” (Sara Mair, Fusion)

The Secret Blues of Eldon Street

The Secret Blues of Eldon Street alternative heritage plaques scheme is another example of the HSHAZ’s person-centred collaborative approach to cultural engagement. Designed by students from nearby Horizon College, the trail of 14 plaques tells some of the forgotten stories of Eldon Street. A team effort, the students visited Barnsley Archives to discover the stories, as well as talking to project staff and members of the Barnsley Civic Trust. Some plaques were hosted in shop windows, with others attached to buildings on Eldon Street and the Victorian Arcade. The Blue Plaques were launched as part of Bright Nights in 2022.

The Eldon Lights Project

In 2023 Milefield Primary School in Grimethorpe worked with AmazeLab, a maker and qualified science teacher who specialises in creative approaches to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths), in workshops over several weeks to deliver a light-based making project. Learners made their own apparel to which they attached light up foxes (to link to ‘Fox on Eldon Street’, the poem created by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage in Barnsley: An Unnatural History) that they had built. The project covered several curriculum topics including maths, design, electronics and coding.

Pupils from Milefield School at the Bright Nights parade Image: Sara Mair (Fusion)

As part of the workshops the artist also explored the heritage of parades on Eldon Street and creative careers with the learners. The school displayed this learning on displays for the learners and teachers to reflect on over the term.

Our mission was all about creative careers. We were really trying to inspire young people in an area of Barnsley that is an old pit town where some of them hadn't really left that area of Barnsley, and they weren't really sure what was out there. And even from workshop one, the young people [said] 'Oh, wow, I didn't know I could do that. This is absolutely amazing. I could perhaps do that now'. (LeonieArtist)

It ticked off quite a lot of objectives. (James McClure, Headteacher, Milefield)

I’m proud to be part of an event like Bright Night, and a Barnsley citizen. (Family)

The learners then took part in the parade, with their parents/carers accompanying them. This was the first time that many of these families had attended Bright Nights and for some, visited town centre cultural venues such as Lightbox @ the Library. The school reported that the project resulted in the highest levels of engagement with parents and carers that they had ever seen and is presented as a beacon of excellence in the school Academy Trust.

“Being part of the event and seeing the confidence in my child grow [was the best part], they’ve struggled at school and they would never have dreamt of doing this and being around so many people but everyone has been so lovely their confidence has increased so much.” (Family)

In 2023 students from Trinity Academy (who were originally involved in the Eldon Beast project) also worked with Sue Walpole to make illuminated puppets of key historical buildings on Eldon Street, including Barnsley Civic, the Parkway Cinema and the Queens Hotel. These were also included in the parade with the Beast. The young people involved in the project learned about the buildings and their stories, and took a real sense of ownership over the puppets (and buildings) they had worked on.


Over the past several years Eldon Street has featured more and more prominently on the Bright Nights programme. In 2020 (when the festival could not take place due to Covid) a series of window displays were installed on key buildings along Eldon Street. In 2021, the ‘Sunset neon’ artwork by Patrick Murphy and poet Laureate Simon Armitage was installed in the alley between Eldon Street and Mandela Gardens, 2022 featured ‘The Secret Blues of Eldon Street’, and in 2023, ‘Cinevelo: The Swinging 60’s’ by Polite Light Collective outside Parkway Cinema and ‘The Usherette’ walkabout performance by Fettle and Fable Theatre were both located prominently on Eldon Street. The participatory projects organised with and for schools and the community have often culminated in the Bright Nights events, bringing audiences to the event who hadn’t been before, and in some cases bringing Barnsley citizens who had never, or who rarely, visited the town centre into the area, many who described a renewed sense of pride in the heritage of  Barnsley

Cinevelo: The Swinging 60’s. Image: James Mulkeen

[Through attending Bright Nights] I’ve found out where Eldon Street is, and it looks nostalgic, lovely. (Audience Survey)

Through the schools work, learners had a valuable opportunity to expand their perceptions of the kinds of creative careers that they can aspire to, through careers workshopping and, crucially, through interacting with local, successful professional artists and makers.

The greatest success for me was…for the kids that were doing it is the engagement, the involvement and the sense of community, and also the spotlighting of art and how art can be used in these cultural processes. And specifically, it's been nice to have working artists coming in and working with the children, having the children talking to those artists and seeing that…there are specific careers in art they can do, and they can physically talk to somebody doing that job. (Chris Dyer, Head of Art, Trinity Academy St Edwards)

The active participation and co-created processes employed by the HSHAZ have resulted in citizens of Barnsley who have begun to feel a sense of ownership over their heritage and they way in which the story of Barnsley is told. Partnership working between the HSHAZ and the Barnsley MBC Events Team has evolved the way that the Events Team are now approaching their events planning, weaving in those stories of recent history that speak to Barnsley citizens the most.

By placing their historical stories in that narrative, as a gift to the people, gets them to buy into it. I’ve found what Tegwen and the team's done has been good for us to listen to… as how we can get that acceptance, and that support. (Matt Mitchell, Events BMBC)

While likely the result of a mixture of factors, there is no denying that Barnsley is thriving as a town centre, and Bright Nights is a key part of this. Footfall at the core events for Bright Nights in 2023 was recorded at 24,000, a 45% uplift on the pre