Arts Council Brings Art To Peterborough Regeneration Plan

By Richard Moss | 22 October 2008
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a photo of a group of boxes with drawings on them

Story cubes used during a series of workshops exploring relationships in Peterborough. © Proboscis

An innovative new regeneration project has been unveiled today (October 22 2008) at a conference in Peterborough that brings together local people, arts and heritage organisations and an international cast of high profile professionals.

Perception Peterborough looks at how the city will develop over the coming years and was facilitated by a group of partners including Peterborough City Council, Arts Council England and the Museums Libraries and Archives Council. It is described as a ‘creative visioning project’ that aims to develop innovative approaches to the challenges and opportunities facing the city.

What marks it out from similar urban development projects is the involvement of organisations like the Arts Council, who as key partner and funder have brought local artists and a degree of creativity to the scheme.

“I think what we wanted to do was bring an element of creativity and creative thinking to the process – to try to look at the challenges and opportunities that Peterborough has going forward,” said Peter Thornton, External Relations Director for Arts Council East of England.

Local and national artists joined a roster of international thinkers and strategists such as the renowned political and cultural adviser Benjamin Barber and United Nations environmental adviser Jan Gustav Strandenaes.

The bold aim is to influence a range of initiatives - from the growth and development of the built environment and social cohesion in the city, to its 'green infrastructure' and use of environmental technologies.

“This is not an arts project, it’s not even a cultural project," added Peter. "It’s about trying to use a creative approach to look at some of the key issues and opportunities that Peterborough faces.”

a photo of a group of boxes with drawings on them

Each face of the cube graphically conveys an idea about Peterborough. © Proboscis

And there are many. Peterborough has committed itself to an ambitious agenda of growth over the next 15 years, which will entail the building of 25,000 new houses, the creation of 20,000 new jobs and an increase in population by 40,000. Perception Peterborough aims to inform and influence this process.

So far the scheme has seen four workshops examine a range of topics, the findings of which will help the city council and its partners develop future growth strategies.

One workshop supported the city’s aim to become the UK’s Environment Capital by developing new ‘green’ technologies and educating its citizens from an early age. Another group focused on how Peterborough underuses its physical spaces such as its river embankment, whilst another looked at interaction between the varied population that makes up the city’s demographic.

An education workshop emphasised the importance of the new university centre and supported moves for the university to promote environmental research, sustainability, finance and community needs to attract businesses and create new jobs in the city.

“When Arts Council East approached us with this exciting process it gave us an opportunity to focus the thinking of international experts and local people on how Peterborough can build an international reputation,” said Peterborough City Council chief executive Gillian Beasley.

“It validated our thinking on the city’s existing strengths and identified new opportunities that we can exploit as we pursue our objective to grow the right way for a bigger, better Peterborough.”

The Perception Peterborough initiative was supported by Arts Council England, East; Peterborough City Council; Opportunity Peterborough; the East of England Development Agency; English Heritage; Sport England; Museums, Libraries and Archives; and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

For more information about Peterborough’s plans for urban regeneration see www.opportunitypeterborough.co.uk