No cultural desert in Peterborough says city council

One of the Vivacity services which the trust runs Photo: (c) John Moore
One of the Vivacity services which the trust runs Photo: (c) John Moore
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Culture is thriving in Peterborough according to the driving force behind a new plan to increase arts activities in the city.

Peterborough City Council is trimming over £700,000 a year from the budget of Vivacity which runs the city’s library, culture and sports services.

The decision prompted a fierce backlash from Vivacity with the trust’s chief executive Kevin Tighe warning that the heart of the city was being ripped out.

However, those warnings were described as over the top by council cabinet member Councillor Graham Casey.

As he launched the Peterborough Culture Strategy for 2015-2020, Cllr Casey said there was much to be excited about for arts and sports lovers.

“This aims to make culture in Peterborough more than the sums of its parts and work towards a common goal,” he said.

“We want to bring local, national and international interests into Peterborough’s culture and make it a reason for people and businesses to move here.

“We need to bring to an end talk of Peterborough being a cultural cold spot or desert.

“I’m saddened and frustrated by the doom-mongering. There’s so much to celebrate.

“We need to stop being down on ourselves.

“We have transformed the physical side of Peterborough in the past few years and culture should be a core component of the city agenda.”

The culture strategy, which was approved by the council’s cabinet today (Monday February 23) has three priorities according to Cllr Casey.

They are, he said, to “increase participation and enjoyment of our activities and celebrate our diversity, attract talent and develop and promote it, and make the best use of places and spaces for culture.”

Cllr Casey will chair a new culture board which will include representation from Vivacity and Opportunity Peterborough.

Lisa Roberts, strategic client manager for culture and leisure at the council, said: “This should not have a financial impact on the council.

“Since 2012 the council has invested just under £800,000 on cultural projects.”

Miss Roberts and Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald both suggested that Vivacity could do more to increase external funding to make up for their loss of funding.

The funding hit, which comes as the council looks to save £25.3 million to balance its budget, has led to fears that the Arts Festival and Heritage Festival in Peterborough could both struggle to continue.

Cllr Casey, though, insisted: “Groups can get funding from other means. I would like to raise aspirations.

“I’m very hopeful that Vivacity will raise money to continue with festivals.”