Peterborough Cultural Strategy Enquiry

As a city, Peterborough has suffered from a lack of confidence in its cultural and heritage assets. Post ‘new town’, the city is continuing to evolve and change with significant regeneration planned under a developing strategic city framework. The challenge is to ensure that culture can support city development in a way that benefits all its diverse communities and strengthens and promotes the cultural and heritage offer to visitors.

Peterborough Cathedral Square

We undertook a Cultural Enquiry process to support the city’s thinking about strategic cultural development. Pre Covid, we led a deep dive assessment with the city’s cultural and strategic stakeholders to understand the key challenges and opportunities. Digital industries are growing, and there is scope to more fully support wider local cultural and creative industries, as well as a need for affordable workspace for artists and other creative professionals. Peterborough struggles with low paid jobs, low educational attainment and homelessness, yet is within the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, an area of significant economic strength. The city has much to offer those living, working and studying locally, and visitors from further afield, but the varied offer can be more effectively communicated.

Diwali festival

Peterborough is looking to maximise opportunities for employment and learning for the whole community, with Phase One of a new University planned to open in 2022. Cultural development work in Peterborough can support young people to access pathways to creative and cultural skills.

A campaign is underway towards the creation of a new Business Improvement District for the City Centre.  We advocated for businesses to support increased cultural activity in and around the public realm including existing and new festivals, as well as looking at how to build cultural capacity for activity outside of the city centre.

“There is so much happening in Peterborough that once drawn together into a strategic plan can add up to so much more than the individual parts, to create a stronger cohesive city identity.”

Susie Gray
Must Farm Finds, Cambridge Archaeological Unit

Together with local partners, we took a broad definition of culture. As well as seeking to support local cultural providers such as theatres and creative companies, we considered Peterborough’s rich heritage landscape. This includes Nene Park, Flag Fen and the ‘John Clare Country’ initiative to protect surviving fragments of Clare’s countryside making this accessible to local people.

Notably, in 2016 ‘bronze age Pompeii’ finds from the remains of two houses were discovered at a quarry site in Peterborough. The City Museum’s ambition is to present these, attracting international visitors. We worked with Town’s Fund Board to ensure the Museum expansion was part of Peterborough’s successful Town’s Fund bid, alongside further cultural investment proposals including the creation of a new cultural hub.

In 2019 Peterborough City Council declared a Climate Emergency. We talked with stakeholders to determine how a cultural strategy can support city ambitions to mitigate and raise awareness of environmental challenges.

Blink, Vivacity 2019

We were commissioned by Peterborough City Council, Vivacity (the council’s then charitable partner for culture and leisure) and Arts Council England SE. The enquiry was broad ranging and exploratory and laid the foundations for a different more ambitious approach to placing culture at the heart of the city’s strategic development and to consider how to increase engagement and participation in culture for the city’s many residents, students, workers, and visitors. Working closing with a steering group, and engaging a wide range of stakeholders in dialogue, we established a set of key recommendations and steps towards the development of a cultural strategy to root local ambitions into a strategic plan, and including proposals for governance and funding.


Peterborough 2019-2020
Client: Peterborough City Council, Vivacity & Arts Council England SE