It’s the biggest Christmas party in Peterborough – happening all over the city centre, lasting the whole season, and largely free. TOBY VENABLES discovers how the council’s Christmas preparations are about far more than just the switch-on of the decorative lights
One of the first things that happens,’ says Peterborough City Council’s Events Officer Justin Beaumont, ‘is the arrival of the tree in Cathedral Square.’
Apparently, this requires a fire crew to be in attendance – but not, I hasten to add, because of any potential fire hazard. ‘Once it’s in place the Mayor goes up an extendable ladder and places the decoration at the top.’
Who knew? Not I – and I can only hope that this dizzying duty was communicated to Councillor June Stokes in advance of her standing for office. But while it’s the switch-on of the lights that gets most of the attention, this rather less grand affair seems to capture the real spirit of the celebration; it’s not big, it’s not showy, just a public servant and the emergency services working together to create a bit of magic for the city.
Justin’s core responsibility at Peterborough City Council is overseeing commercial activities that take place in the city’s streets, including markets and street entertainments. When major outdoor events take place, however – seasonal celebrations, festivals, or big occasions like the Perkins Great Eastern Run – Justin’s responsibilities, and the logistical challenges for the whole Commercial Operations team, expand dramatically.
The city’s Christmas celebration is a huge sustained effort – one that is expected to unfold seamlessly, with little or no disruption to the life of the city
The fact is, though, Peterborough now has such a rich calendar of events that there’s hardly a time when such things aren’t happening – and even when they’re not, they’re being planned. Of the Perkins Great Eastern Run, Annette Joyce, Head of Commercial Operations, says: ‘The event doesn’t stop and start. It’s being planned all year round. It is the biggest event in the city, which closes down a lot of the roads – almost 200 junctions.’ While the city’s Christmas celebration may not seem as challenging, it is, nonetheless, a huge sustained effort – one that is expected to unfold seamlessly, with little or no disruption to the life of the city.
It’s the Commercial Operations team that makes this happen, and their remit is astonishingly wide, covering not only events – both large and small – but day-to-day services such as managing car parks, parking enforcement and the bus station, tourism, retail, markets and…