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The city must address a “cultural deficit” among its youth, consultation finds, as it eyes a bid for UK City of Culture 2029.

Peterborough's festivals and its youth population have untapped potential, the strategy suggests

Peterborough will showcase locally led culture in its “year of recovery” from Covid-19.

A new cultural strategy aims to make the city a major cultural destination over the next decade. 

Recently selected as a priority place for investment by Arts Council England, Peterborough is considering a bid for UK City of Culture status 2029. 


Draft proposals, developed a strategy group that includes Arts Council England, City Culture Peterborough, Jumped Up Theatre, Norfolk & Norwich Festival Bridge and artists’ lab Metal, were accepted by city councillors last week and will go before the full council in December.

They include animating public spaces during the recovery year, making better use of existing cultural infrastructure and improving youth participation in the arts.

If approved, the strategy would be supported by £250,000 funding per year to boost Peterborough’s creative industries and tourism and provide residents with more opportunities for cultural engagement. 

Cabinet member for culture Councillor Steve Allen described the strategy as “a major piece of work which we believe will deliver huge benefits to the city for years to come”.

“Culture is vital for improving people’s livelihoods and boosting the economy, which is why it is important we reach out to as many people as possible to make sure they can enjoy the benefits.”

Rich diversity

A £22.9m grant from the Government’s Towns Fund will help build a new library and cultural venue – The Vine.

Among Peterborough’s existing cultural attractions are Flag Fen, the only place in the UK where Bronze Age remains can be seen in situ, three theatres – New Theatre, Key Theatre and The Cresset – a cathedral, and a museum and art gallery boasting objects of national and international importance. 

It also hosts several cultural festivals that the strategy says could be better resourced and promoted to “publicise the stories of Peterborough across the year”.

Its Heritage Festival, one of the UK’s largest, should be revamped to become more inclusive, celebrate the city’s “rich diversity” and inspire new festivals to grow, the strategy says. 

A new organisation, provisionally named the Peterborough Cultural Alliance, would be established to guide the strategy’s implementation. 

“This strategy will make sure we can build on all of these in future years and make Peterborough a cultural hotspot for the area,” Councillor Allen said.

Artist residencies and business start-ups are an ambition of the strategy too, to grow confidence and skills among Peterborough’s residents. 

New artwork by local and visiting artists would be commissioned, and new efforts to work with partners in health, care and education settings are key element of the strategy.

Youth first

Peterborough has a “cultural deficit” among people under 25, council papers say.

“It is clear that young people do feel excluded from venues that exist, not seeing events or exhibitions which reflect their interests or concerns.”

A priority of the strategy is encouraging their involvement in artistic programming more relevant to them.

Rather than top-down leadership, the strategy recommends creating a young people’s panel with decision making powers now by working with organisations inside and outside the cultural sector.

In consultation, young and disabled people stressed the need to “do stuff locally”: hyperlocal cultural events could be used to connect neighbourhoods and build new audiences.

However, the council stresses the importance of “not making undeliverable promises”.

“Young people, minority communities and rural communities are particularly disadvantaged in multiple ways within Peterborough’s cultural life; these groups are therefore seen as central in promoting culture in the future.”

Environmental sensitivities are a focus of the strategy too, ensuring that the city’s open spaces and buildings reach their net zero carbon pledge by 2030.

Young people should be at the heart of that work, given the impact of climate change on that generation, the strategy says. 

Image of Louise Bryning