The end of a Civic Society year that was heaven, hell and limbo

Moon exhibition at Peterborough Cathedral EMN-180710-184224009
Moon exhibition at Peterborough Cathedral EMN-180710-184224009

What counts as the end of year? Well actually it can be quite variable. For most of us the end of the year is December 31 st although if you’re in a school then July marks the end of the year while, confusingly, the tax year ends in April.

Even Peterborough Civic Society has an end of year and it is around now – our annual general meeting is on Monday, November 12, and by then all our members will have received an annual report detailing activities during the past year.

Much has happened this year and I am reminded of my Catholic upbringing, when I divide the year into three categories – heaven, hell and limbo.

First heaven (or as near to it as we Peterborians are likely to get) – the cathedral. Despite the severe financial difficulties experienced by our most esteemed building and its guardians, the cathedral authorities have done a great deal to improve matters for the general public. The new interpretation boards are excellent and the acquisition of the Tim Peake space capsule inspired, and the recent Museum of the Moon was indeed awesome. Thousands of new visitors will have seen our most distinguished building and will hopefully return again. The Civic Society heartily commends recent efforts to increase cathedral footfall.

Vivacity has been instrumental in arranging for the three Antony Gormley Places To Be statues to be re-erected in the city centre and these look imposing on the city centre skyline. They add yet more interest to the area round Cathedral and St John’s Squares.

Likewise, the Voice of the City – the artwork dedicated to Henry Penn, the esteemed bell founder – is a high quality addition to lower Bridge Street. People often stand, look and read, and no doubt learn, about a little-known piece of our historical jigsaw.

The Fletton Quays development is indeed promising. The completed Sand Martin House and surrounding area is impressive, a great example of how the old and the new can be sensitively blended. Let’s hope the rest of the development, including the restored Whitworth Mill project, is as good. We are reserving judgements on the new hotel and what that is likely to bring to the city.

The Society had a successful series of talks, from September to May, subjects including the Holme Fen Spitfire, Must Farm, the history of St John’s Church and the gardens of the National Trust.

In addition we organised summer visits to Delapré Abbey, Boston and Buckden Towers. Although we are mainly interested in all things Peterborough, we do like to explore, and learn about, other nearby places e.g. Northamptonshire, which surely has some of the best hidden gems in the country.

So, which things in the city are most hellish, or perhaps stuck in limbo? Well, the ongoing palaver surrounding the North Westgate development is surely the most frustrating. When oh when will anything meaningful finally get under way? Another, perhaps more general concern, is the national problem of the high street. Peterborough is not alone in suffering from real problems in filling retail units, and solutions appear few and far between. Current concerns include the future of the old Bridge Street police station, the Guildhall Walk access arguments, the Broadway Theatre fiasco, and of course the ‘Build The Bridge’ clamour.

Looking forward to next year what can we expect? Perhaps a citywide sculpture trail, or an extension of the blue plaque scheme.

Or even ….