So, the city has a whole year packed with celebrations... You’ll hear no complaint from us on that score. But what is the broader significance of Peterborough Celebrates? What does it really mean for Peterborough, and how will it change things? The Moment talked to Leader of Peterborough City Council John Holdich OBE, and Gillian Beasley, Chief Executive of Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire CC...
This year we’re celebrating Peterborough past and present, but what does this mean for the future? Will Peterborough Celebrates have a legacy?
John: The heraldry of Peterborough is ‘Upon this Rock’ and the celebrations surrounding the Peterborough 900 campaign will bring that to the fore. I would like to think that the legacy of Peterborough Celebrates will be increased economic prosperity within the City. Peterborough Cathedral is a magnificent building built 900 years ago, and not nearly enough people are aware that it even exists, let alone its age. It is critical that we seize the opportunity of Peterborough Celebrates to bring visitors in to the city and the surrounding area, making it a major destination for tourists – not just the Cathedral but the other attractions as well, both current and planned for the future. The celebrations for Peterborough 900 will, I hope, be a good start to this goal.
Gillian: Peterborough Celebrates is about having pride in our city. The aim is to continue with the campaign each year, but with a different theme every 12 months. So, for example, the focus in 2019 could be Peterborough Celebrates business and the following year the theme could be on schools, charities or anything that we as a city want to draw attention to in a positive way. The launchpad for establishing the campaign could not have been any better.
Our beautiful Cathedral had a landmark anniversary in 2018 and Peterborough Celebrates was born. We’re more than halfway through the year and the response from residents, visitors, businesses, schools, community groups and charities has been amazing. One of the campaign’s simple aims was to introduce the Cathedral to residents who have never visited it before. Hundreds of people have set foot in the Cathedral for the first time. Some of them have lived in the city for years but haven’t appreciated the Cathedral until now. This underlines how, through the campaign, the Cathedral has become more accessible and the public has a stronger appreciation for the marvel that stands in the middle of our city.
Does Peterborough need to feel more proud of itself?
John: I was born in this City and I am extremely proud to be a Peterborian through and through. I firmly believe that we do not recognise and appreciate how good this City is and what it has to offer both its residents and our visitors.
Gillian: Over the last 10 years I have seen the city grow and develop dramatically, however, there is a definite buzz around this year and lots to be proud of. The city is growing at a rapid rate, with new townships in the Hamptons, lots of business and investment, leading to some of the lowest unemployment rates in the UK, thriving tourism and rising house prices. Of course, these are all things that have been gradually improving for a number of years, but 2018 seems to be the year that we actively see all the hard work paying off. Plus, we’ve got several exciting developments on the way, including the Fletton Quays redevelopment, which is due to open imminently, with offices, a Hilton hotel and sky-bar, a gin and whisky distillery and leisure facilities.
Do you think Peterborough Celebrates will also help bring the city’s diverse communities together?
Gillian: Peterborough has a long and proud history of welcoming newcomers to our city, built up over generations. Our ongoing Syrian Refugee resettlement programme is just one example of this, as well as a packed calendar of annual events and festivals, such as the Italian Festival, Polish Festival, Diwali Festival and the Faith and Food Festival. Because of this, the city has been chosen as one of five areas to participate in a government programme aimed at improving community integration and we’re awaiting the outcome of a bid for government funding for this in the autumn. This would give additional funds to boost English language skills, increase opportunities for women to enter the workplace and increase employment opportunities and meaningful participation in community life and activities.
Throughout our history, we have had a diverse population in Peterborough, which has come together as one city. It’s this that makes Peterborough the vibrant and exciting place to live, work and visit that it is today. Clearly, the Cathedral has always played its part in helping to integrate our communities. This year with the 900 celebrations that focus has been even stronger and the Cathedral is being properly recognised as a home to all of us.
John: Peterborough Cathedral itself has certainly proved to be open and welcoming to all walks of life and religions, contributing in no small way towards the cohesion of this city.
What have been your highlights in the year so far and what are you most looking forward to?
John: The Cathedral and Peterborough Celebrates has reached out to many groups in a significant but unassuming way. The highlight of the year will, I believe, be Tim Peake’s rocket landing in Peterborough! This will bring large numbers of people to the city who will then have the opportunity to visit our wonderful Cathedral and the surrounding City Centre area.
Gillian: We had a fantastic start to 2018 with a fireworks display to mark the Cathedral’s 900 celebrations. A large crowd gathered in Cathedral Square and I remember thinking how special the evening was and how this was the start of a memorable year to come. In the spring I took part in the abseil down the side of the cathedral and that was a special day. To abseil and raise money for charity is one thing, but to navigate yourself down the side of such a majestic building that has been here for 900 years is something else! Thousands of pounds was raised for the Cathedral, which will help ensure it’ll be standing proud for another 900 years at least!
But the best is yet to come and I’m personally looking forward to the cathedral’s exhibition of Tim Peake’s spacecraft – The Soyuz – which will be arriving in August and stays with us until November. The cathedral and the city are extremely blessed to have such an historic spacecraft on display. It’s never been to a cathedral before and Peterborough is one of a handful of venues where the spacecraft can be seen. Tim Peake’s space suit will also be on display and there’ll be a virtual reality experience for visitors to enjoy too. Fingers crossed Tim may also be making an appearance, which will be the icing on the cake to what will be a unique occasion and one not to miss!