Atlantic Road pop-up to host alternative high street


The award-winning Brixton-based international art project The Empathy Museum will bring a pop-up alternative high street to an Atlantic Road arch this autumn.

From Friday 22 September to 2 November, it will be open from noon to 6pm, Thursdays through Sundays, with an additional programme of evening events.

Visitors can explore Empathy Museum’s projects under one roof for the first time since it was founded in 2015.

Its giant shoebox hosting its Walk A Mile in my Shoes project was in Windrush Square earlier this year.

Installations in the Atlantic Road arch include a shoe shop, estate agents, library, advice bureau and town square – all transformed, says the museum, into “places of human exchange rather than commercial transaction”.

By night, the space will host conversations with some of London’s most galvanising activists, practitioners, researchers and makers, each focusing on how we can live better together.

Clare Patey, artistic director of Empathy Museum, asked: “What if our High Streets of the future had spaces for storytelling, culture, conversation, making, singing, listening, and participatory democracy?

“What if we put empathy, human connection and community nurturing at their heart? That is the dream of Empathy Museum and we are very excited to be opening our first ‘empathy shop’ in the centre of Brixton, our home.”

Empathy Museum said its re-imagined high street “arrives in London as a timely creative intervention after years of austerity and pandemic responses that have transformed the nation’s town centres”.

Making use of empty retail space, the arts project looks to the 13.9% of storefronts currently vacant across Britain, as well as analysis that suggests a 40% oversupply of retail space nationally, and asks how we can, instead, put empathy at the heart of the high street.

People in shoe shop setting
Image: Charlie Messenger

As well as the shoe shop where you can step into the life of a stranger and see the world from their point of view, it will house an advice bureau where you can give and receive the public’s words of wisdom on anything and everything; a library filled with other lives and stories – each selected by a person who thinks everyone else will love that book too; and an estate agent offering audio and photographic perspectives from frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.

Evening events include a book club with Jacqueline Crooks and her 2023 Women’s Prize finalist novel, Fire Rush; a conversation on writer and former Young People’s Laureate for London Momtaza Mehri’s debut poetry collection, with Sunday Times Bestseller author Caleb Azumah Nelson; a Story Exchange for Brixton residents hosted by Narrative 4; a talking and listening circle for NHS nurses facilitated by health psychologist Esther Murray; a workshop to imagine a better society with the locl Advocacy Academy; a discussion around Shame, the Criminal Justice System and its alternatives hosted by Restorative Engagement expert Charlotte Calkin; an intergenerational conversation among LGBTQ+ people of all ages led by Brixton Umbrella Circle; and a popular assembly with a topic voted for by visitors and facilitated by Jamie Kelsey, founding member of the world’s first Global Assembly.

Empathy Museum, the world’s first experiential art space dedicated to helping us look at the world through the eyes of others, was established in 2015 by public philosopher Roman Krznaric and led by Clare Patey.

It uses storytelling and dialogue to explore how empathy can not only transform personal relationships, but also help tackle global challenges such as prejudice, conflict and inequality.

The location for Empathy Museum’s pop-up is provided by The Arch Company, which owns and manages Brixton’s railway arches alongside other commercial space in Brixton and across London and the UK.

Empathy Museum was able to access this space through the company’s policy of allowing charities and community groups to make use of temporarily vacant properties.

The Arch Company also offer short-term hire of Brixton railway arches for pop-up businesses or events, as well as long-term rent of commercial spaces around London. More info at

Event details at