Heritage & Culture

Peterborough’s culture is for everyone

Mark Richards from Metal and Matthew Bradbury from Nene Park Trust talk about the new Cultural Strategy to accompany Peterborough’s growth plans through the next decade.

Peterborough is a paradox. A young, dynamic population, people who care about their families and their neighbourhoods, brilliant connectivity – whether trains or fibre – and heritage of international significance. New things are happening: over the last five years for example, the spoken word and performance poetry scene has grown massively, with some local poets now moving into film and digital work to find new audiences.

Yet all too often, we seem to punch below our weight. Not enough people yet know about the extraordinary Bronze Age boats found in the Fens, or the planned extension to the museum to house them. There’s a great live music scene and three theatres, but of course they are struggling now with the pandemic. Most of all, many of our residents think that not enough happens in Peterborough even during more normal times.

In the middle of last year, there was a survey asking what people missed. Theatre, dancing, music: all live events featured highly on wish lists. At the same time, respondents commented on the value of their own creativity during lock down: crafts, singing, writing and so on were therapeutic and cathartic.

So, culture really does matter. People are creative and some have found inspiration during these difficult months. Many of us want desperately to go to the cinema with friends or dream of live gigs once such things are possible again.

A group of arts and community organisations have got together with the City Council and Arts Council England to draw up a new cultural strategy. Collectively, we aim to support the growth that’s planned for Peterborough, while building a stronger cultural life for everyone who lives, works or visits here. Over the next three months it will draw on all the information which already exists about what people want to make, do and see. Then, in whatever ways are possible, there will be consultation and events to confirm the priorities over the next ten years.

There’s a lot we know already. We have audience information from previous surveys and consultations carried out by Vivacity and Peterborough Presents. The monthly Cultural Forum, which brings together artists from across Peterborough, has plenty to say. There is the research done for the big investments and growth planned till 2040, and commercial bodies are able to share some of their data too. We don’t want to waste people’s precious time telling us what we already know. But as the strategy comes together we will need a wider conversation about our city’s opportunities and strengths, as well as what people want to see.

From festivals in Cathedral Square to those in our local neighbourhoods; our sculpture collection, choirs and vibrant libraries, film clubs and poetry slams; artists in residence at Nene Park; or online and postal projects supporting families through lockdown – there is already a lot going on here. The new strategy will build on Peterborough’s strengths, and create the new opportunities we will all need to find joy and connections in the future.

If you would like to get involved in the development of the Cultural Strategy, the Culture Forum meets fortnightly on Zoom on Mondays at 4pm. It is open to everyone interested in the arts and culture in Peterborough.

To find out more and to sign up, visit www.jumpeduptheatre.com/culture-forum

Why is a cultural strategy important and why now?

‘This is the right time for a strategic rethink. As we emerge from the challenges of Covid and what will clearly be a reset of demands and aspirations we must be able to embrace change by providing a framework for practitioners, venues, and partnerships to fully realise their potentials.

In doing so, this involves empowering all communities and cultural interests in our diverse City, investing in fantastic new opportunities like The Vine; whilst also supporting and promoting the existing assets like Flag Fen, The Museum, and the Must Farm Boats, not only reinforcing local appeal but achieving a regional, national, and international reputation.

There are exciting times ahead and it’s important as a City we embrace the challenges and see the realisation of a dynamic Cultural Recovery and a stronger more resilient Peterborough.’

Cllr. Steve Allen, Peterborough City Council Cabinet Member for Housing, Culture and Recreation

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