Push to make Peterborough City of Culture despite it being ‘a bit of a black spot’

Councillors are keen to develop Peterborough as a city of culture despite it being referred to as a “bit of a black spot”.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 12:34 pm
Hull was previously City of Culture

Speaking to members of the Adults and Communities Scrutiny Committee, cabinet member for housing, culture and recreation Steve Allen said: “I’ve lived in Peterborough all my life and to be honest with you I don’t know why it is that we’re perceived as having little or no cultural interest here.

“There’s no doubt we are a bit of a black spot when it comes to culture; but we feel this is just the way people think of us because we’ve never promoted Peterborough as a city of culture.”

A report on developing a cultural strategy for the city was presented to the committee which has recently taken on the council’s culture and leisure portfolio.

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Cllr Allen added: “We’ve learned a lot from Liverpool, Londonderry and Hull who all successfully had the title City of Culture, and in the case of Hull it attracted more than five million people, brought £200 million into the city and created more than 800 jobs.

“Just imagine if we could do something like that in Peterborough – and we have the attractions to do it as well with the cathedral, our Roman heritage, Flag Fen and many more.”

Another councillor said: “You’ll pardon me chairman, but I’ve read your report and it seems to me a bit ‘same old, same old’.

“For the past six or seven years, even when we’ve had something like £7 million to develop cultural activities through Metal Arts and Vivacity, many projects have failed including the promised arts centre.

“I look at your ‘new’ policy and I simply don’t see that many changes from what has been proposed before, I’d love to be reassured that we have a handle on it so that we can improve it, but how can you convince me that this time you really have something new to offer the people in terms of cultural activities?”

Cllr Allen said: “It hasn’t been good enough in the past, and I would say that re-negotiating our contract with Vivacity is absolutely vital to our achieving many of the things that we have outlined in this report. 

“Equally, as you’ve mentioned, it’s just as important that we listen to the needs of our other partners like Metal and the Arts Council.

“So I share your concerns about what it was in the past, but I also firmly believe that with the help of our partners and the will to achieve it we can identify Peterborough as a cultural city, we can bring people to our wonderful city and we can generate support and interest from those interested parties who will all benefit, just as Hull did.

“That’s why I’m looking forward with renewed enthusiasm and absolute faith in the report that we’ve prepared for you tonight.”

The report states that potential areas of focus which are emerging include:

. Supporting creative and cultural industries

. Supporting young people to access creative opportunities and experiences

. Exploring ways to increase community participation

. Building a sense of Peterborough’s culture and heritage

. The role culture can play in environmental challenge.

Members acknowledged the report and the ongoing work to try to raise cultural awareness in Peterborough.

Further updates will be expected later in the year after the council has concluded contract negotiations with its cultural experience partners.

Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service