Two years on from the Harvest Festival - what’s the legacy?

The Harvest Festival meal in Cathedral Square
The Harvest Festival meal in Cathedral Square

This weekend will see the world of athletics return to London, and the Olympic Stadium, once more for the World Championships as we get another chance to see the best athletes around compete for medals, world records and the right to call themselves the best.

It has become a common question in the wake of the Olympic Games – what is the legacy plan? It was a crucial factor post-London 2012 and has seen the Olympic Stadium become the new home of West Ham United, while other facilities have been used for tournaments or opened to the public.

Well, we’re quickly coming up to our own milestone in Peterborough. It’s been two years since we hosted the Harvest Festival in the city centre. Hundreds of people converged across that weekend to celebrate the city and its connection to the countryside – I was proud to play my part that day and I can honestly say that it was a crucial moment in me deciding to step out on my own.

The Harvest Festival was a huge success, and helped Metal (the arts organisation Peterborough) win awards for their ingenuity. The lasting hope and legacy of the festival was that it would launch Peterborough as a foodie hub in the region – so how far have we come in that legacy after two years? Well, there are positives to be taken, but also work that is yet to be done.

New independent bars like Stoneworks, Bumble Inn and Puzzles have expanded the options for those on a night out in Peterborough – all unique and quirky venues offering a great selection of drinks as well as speciality nights of brewery takeovers or live music.

We have seen a significant growth in the selection of restaurants on offer in the city centre, with Wagamama and Turtle Bay most recently opening, as well as Middletons Steakhouse and a new pizza restaurant/pub The Queen’s Head opening in the near future. These have offered us a lot of new, exciting choices - but there are some areas where I think we need to keep pushing.

We still don’t yet have a weekly / monthly farmers market in Peterborough. This has always been discussed and has often remained an idea, but it would be a great offer to local people and could encourage visitors from outlying towns and villages.

While the likes of Stoneworks and Puzzles have boosted the independent bar scene, there is still a need not only for more independent offerings, but to support those that already exist. Many independent shops or restaurants can’t typically afford the higher rents that come with a prime spot on the Peterborough high street, which means we need to be willing to walk or drive that few minutes longer to ensure these places continue to thrive.

This is important because while the chains that have arrived in Peterborough have bolstered the local scene in a number ways – our independents are just as vital, and they rely on their customer’s and council’s support to keep going; whether that’s East, Pizza Parlour, The Pasta Shop, Stoneworks, or ourselves. Let’s keep working toward that legacy of great food across the city.

Lee Clarke is head chef of Prevost in Priestgate, Peterborough.