MP’S COLUMN: Peterborough is a city of growing cultural status

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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I think the Peterborough Civic Society do a great job and I’m proud to be a member, but I think their criticism of the plans for the new Fletton Quays development might seem a little harsh. Perhaps the project can be criticised as a little unimaginative, but at least something new and attractive will likely be built there, even if it’s not quite as good as we would like (at the moment it’s a rundown eyesore).

I, too, have had my disappointments over the years – I supported the aim of Peterborough’s own Renaissance Man, the late Dr Jim Deboo, to see a purpose-built live performance auditorium in our area, and just a few years ago I campaigned for a 50-metre Olympic-standard pool in the city – after all, Corby’s got one!

Sadly, neither has yet come to fruition.

They say the onlooker sees more of the game and it’s true. This week my colleague, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, visited Peterborough at my invitation to witness the progress in the Peterborough 900 appeal at the Cathedral (they’re now at almost three quarters of their £10 million financial appeal) and to see the city council’s innovative work in retaining its library provision. His visit, pictured, prompted me to think of how the cultural and artistic offering of the city has immeasurably improved in the last ten years, as he chaired an arts roundtable at which I sat in, and we reviewed ideas for improving arts provision

I pondered, which other medium-sized city can boast three theatre venues and another brilliant run of Bill Kenwright West End spectaculars at the Broadway, the Nene Park Trust, Ferry Meadows and Orton Mere, the magnificent Central and Itter Parks respectively, the finest Bronze Age settlement in Europe at Flag Fen with its own open air theatre, the Nene Valley Railway, newly refurbished museum and a thriving sports community with clubs like Peterborough Athletics, Netherton United Football Club, Peterborough Phantoms and the City of Peterborough Swimming Club (COPs)?

That’s not to mention our great new tradition of community singers and choral music, with the likes of Peterborough Youth Choir and the Peterborough Youth ensemble, our thriving further education sector and huge interest in the University of the Third Age, specialist niche retail stores like Art in the Heart in Bridge Street, wonderful community festivals like the Heritage Festival and the recent Harvest Festival in Cathedral Square, and active charity and faith communities promoting initiatives like the Street Pastors and homeless night shelters.

Fifteen years ago Peterborough was a cultural backwater but today we can hold our head high. There’s more to be done but the city has a lot to offer to local residents, businesses and visitors. The pint pot is definitely half full.