‘How do you solve a problem like Peterborough’? Ode to Peterborough: Not in the South, not in the North, Not in the East, not in the West. Not in the fucking Midlands

Convener(s):Keely Mills

Participants: Mark Smith, Roddy Equeld, Sally Christopher, Chris Grady, Kate Hall, Hannah Clarke-Stamp

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

How to inspire existing artists in the city? How to develop an audience that seems to not be ‘there’?  How to produce work with no alternative arts venue?

Most people’s experiences of Peterborough is in transit on the train a place on their normal journey, they may have stopped at the station and got a train, bus or taxi somewhere else. Sometimes it feels like the people that live and work in the city have done the same! How can we change this?

Find and tailor your work to those audiences that are hungry for Theatre and the performance arts, be relevant to them and their lives, show them what makes them distinctive from other cities or towns. ‘Eastern Angles’ are already producing work that is touring the rural parts of Ptown and are also producing and devising new work which is about Peterborough with great success. Nurture the huge amateur theatre scene and aspire those performers to create more work.

Nurture the new and old communities that are co-habiting in the city but are not interacting on a cultural level by bringing in the work that may bring them together. EA have asked Rifco arts to come into the city in the future and this will be beneficial to the huge Asian community. Ptown has a huge Polish community so we need to be engaging with those groups more, Theatre companies that were suggested for this: David Lane based in Bristol and the Polish work he programmes. (Other suggestions greatly received please email me at ‘[email protected]’). I realise now that EA and other artists need to be doing more of this and working with those community groups to develop their audience and address their needs. We cannot expect to do this over night either.

P’Bronx has three performance spaces, but they offer work which are normally programmed such as Blood Brothers… and sometimes it is hard for new work to get a platform, so the EA approach of rural and community venue touring is great because it brings the work to the audience who find it hard to get into the city centre late at night. The idea of street theatre was suggested and one company that would was suggested to be good to research was ‘Street Diversion’ and ‘Walk the Plank’. (Other suggestions greatly received please email me at ‘[email protected]’).

Also it was suggested that using disused shops would be good and ‘Changing Spaces’ in Cambridge was suggested. (Other suggestions greatly received please email me at ‘[email protected]’).

How to develop P’bronx’s audience?

  • Ripple effect, concentrate on and build on those already there.
  • Offer ourselves to a school with a theatre space, create work for the whole family
  • Viral marketing so for example: capture those people travelling in and out of Peterborough on the train platform with clever and unusual  marketing
  • Take an opportunity to build a hub in a local library
  • Explore the idea of a carnival- suggestion ‘Carnival Arts’ Luton

How to inspire the other local artists that are in the city? Many other local artists are either lacking aspiration due to thinking that another city has it sorted so why bloody bother. They don’t seem to have good links with the local council, cultural trust or arts council as well as other funding bodies. Maybe if those artists get out of the city and experience new things and understand that other towns and artists are facing the same dilemmas as  they are, it will stop the moaning and also they can pass on any knowledge gained onto others. Join together and act as a collective to create a power that can be heard in and out of the city and thank goodness we have the RSA and the ‘Citizen Power’ scheme at the moment so they are definitely helping us to do this!! Hold events which raise the national profile of the local councillors and invite them!  Have our own regular ‘open space’ events which uses a venue regularly to galvanise us and we can pass on knowledge, Invite D&D to P’bronx!

I have to admit I had a huge and difficult question to ask of everyone and thanks to all the peeps that helped me with this, what I have realised is that we are now on the right path to solving the problem that is Peterborough.

The moral if there is one is: Be proud of your place and where your from in the  here and now and you may not be in the prettiest city but it can be yours!