Vicky and Aryana set out on a journey of returning and reconnecting inspired by conversations and using verbatim quotes from local people, friends and family.
The people make the place
Once upon a time there was a city with an appetite for change,
Everyday people worked and played but now felt the moment to turn the page.
One day the people came to talk and find a way to connect,
Because of that they shared their aspirations and frustrations.
And so they hoped for a rebirth of a brighter future for their city.
And finally they discovered that whatever happens,
The people make the place.
The People Make the Place – Aryana Ramkhalawon & Vicky Wild
20th March 2020. 12.55. London to Peterborough. One way ticket. Home.
Moving back to Peterborough was a mixture of emotions. We had been living life in the fast
lane. Dream chasing and burning the candle in some dingy London basement bar spending half
your wage on a quirky cocktail in a jam jar. Then we found ourselves back here. Suddenly
everything was slow. Life felt flat. As flat as the Cambridgeshire Fens. We didn’t know what to
Something had to change. We needed to connect with people. So we started to uncover the
past and see our city with fresh new eyes. A rebirth, you could say. It’s amazing how open
people can be when you reach out. We wanted to know how they were feeling about the city.
What inspired them? And what did they hope for in the future?
So we got to work.
First stop. Old work colleagues. Something over Zoom. 10 years to catch up on. And soon, it
was like I never left.
“What’s good in Peterborough then, you two?”
“Come on, there must be something…”
“Ok, I like cars. I do car meets. The Apex car park, we can pack that out. Sometimes it gets an
unfair bad rep but people come from all over the country. From all walks of life. Restoration
American vehicles. Shows and competitions. Peacocking little kids in their power wheels. It’s
family friendly.. And I’ve made a lot of friends that way.”
“Do you think we’d be welcome there?”
“Yeah, why not, anyone can come. A lot of women do it nowadays”
“And me. Football. I like it cos it’s tribal, me versus you. I’ve become attached to Peterborough
football club. I live here. I should own it. When I went through hard times, it was the community
here that helped me through.”
Second stop. Community leaders. People we’d never met, but we’d heard great things about.
“So what does Peterborough need?”
“You need to do something different, not rolling out the same thing. And understand the cultural
needs so every party is catered for. Fun, shared experiences.”
“When it comes to the wider community, I would be keen to explore bringing together all parties
with stuff to do. We need stuff to do.”
“Young people will always turn up when there’s pizza.”
Third stop. Family Members. Uh yeah, it’s been a while. Socially distanced roast dinner in the
“How do you feel about the city?”
“It’s not terrible like a lot of people make out but it does also leave a lot to be desired. It doesn’t
feel particularly welcoming for the average person who isn’t familiar with the area.”
“Ok, what would you like to see then?”
“I think having something that encourages people to use Peterborough as a whole would be a
step forward. I’d like to see a variety of things. Different things. I mean I’ve got Stormzy on my
Ipod but I’ve also got Beethoven. Like food markets with artisan goods, handcrafted toys and
sustainable products. I’d like to abseil off the cathedral. Yeah I really, really want to do that. I
think they did it before but it stopped. Remember the big moon in the cathedral, that was good.”
Fourth stop. Unresolved dates. Tinder time! But it wasn’t Tinder, it was Hinge. Same thing.
“Where do you like to go out?”
“Ishtar. The shisha bar. It’s packed with people from all parts. You hear people laughing and it
makes you happy. Shisha is like the anti-mic, whoever doesn’t have it will talk. Everyone
catching up. It’s a chill out.”
“I like comedy at The Cresset. You can be right at the front as it’s an intimate venue. You
wouldn’t have that opportunity in bigger cities. I like to be right at the front and getting roasted.
But my favourite thing to do is watching anime films. I’m a weeb. I wish there were screenings
here, it’s got a huge following. Can you let the council know about that?”
“Great. It’s a date”
Fifth stop. Old school mates. Facebook. Friend request. Blast from the past. Bought a house
and moved back here for good.
“So let me get this straight, you have a remote job and you can work anywhere in the world, yet
choose to make Peterborough your home. Why?”
“I love the area. It’s brilliant. I’d like to see more culture invited into the centre of town but I see
myself staying here. Definitely. Peterborough is beautiful in its own right. I like to be around what
I know. The people I know”
Final stop. “It ain’t where you are. It’s who you are with. In the pub with your best friends
carefree, crap jokes. Sat on a bench in Hampton watching the swans or fun times with your
family in Ferry Meadows doing something new. It ain’t the place you go. It’s the company you
Yeah. The people make the place. I like that. The people make the place.
Findings and recommendations
- Rural Inclusivity – Our discussions showed that young people on the outskirts of the city can feel cut off from the action. Due to the limited public transport services in the evening, it can be more difficult for them to attend events in the centre.
- Subtitles – Subtitled screenings at the cinema are often held at obscure, inconvenient times such as 11pm on a Tuesday night. Increasing the availability of subtitled events at earlier times could improve attendance from people with hearing impairments.
- Promote Local Talent – Our findings show that there is an appetite for greater promotion and support of local talent in Peterborough. Providing more opportunities will give people a sense of pride and entice them to stay in the city rather than go to other areas to live, work and socialise. Although a reliance on big names to bring in the crowds can be tempting, it often means that increased ticket prices can be prohibitive for many young people. Local artists such as Charley Genever (poet laureate), Keeley Mills (poet laureate) and Tom Fox (Lamphouse Theatre Company) are recognised and known for making a positive impact locally. We know that people look out for them and want to see them develop their work.
- Better Advertising – Our conversations highlighted that the volume and placements of the advertising for cultural events in the Peterborough area need improvements. Our focus group knew of Peterborough museum but did not know what else was out there for them. It seems that young people are most likely to discover events through social media and want a greater insight into what they should expect e.g. what will a theatre show be about, or what is the genre?
- Popularity of Festivals – In particular, food festivals are remembered fondly as a great way of bringing people together and celebrating something positive. There is a desire to celebrate and discover more about other cultures and community groups this way. It appears to be most favoured when these events happen centrally as this is the most easily accessible neutral territory for these people to come together. A varied event with lots of different types of activities seems to be key to public enjoyment.
- More Community Spaces – Our research showed that community owned spaces such as Green Backyard improve the sense of pride for the city. People would like to see more of them rather than feel like everywhere is being transformed into new flats.
- Open Mic/Live Music/Comedy Nights – There seems to be an appetite for joy, laughter and an intimate sharing of talents. Night life is lacking and people want something with more substance than just the option of a pub or nightclub.
- Celebrate Charities – We found that there is a lot of great charity work happening in the city with many people giving up their free time to volunteer. We feel that achievements of local heroes could be championed more as it makes people feel proud and valued.
- Improve Consistency – New initiatives have often met with excitement but they need to be consistent rather than funding being continually pulled as this seems to be deflating for all involved.
- The People Make the Place – There is clearly a need for more opportunities that unite people together from all areas and communities within the city. When people connect, it can transform perceptions. The people are the most impactful feature of Peterborough.
With thanks to
The Nene Park Trust, Metal Arts Peterborough, Centre 33, Veejay Kaur, Chris Majid, Bradley Wilson, Omar Kamal, Wayne Garrison, Kalhana Colombage, Robin and Jenny Jones, Ross, Emma and Jasper Percy Jones,