Arts and social change

Arts and Social Change was part of the larger Citizen Power Peterborough programme and explored the role of creative practice in creating new connections between people and where they lived in order to strengthen participation in community life in Peterborough.

The primary aims were:

  • To deliver high quality creative experiences through the arts that builds and extends community engagement (and social capital)
  • To support and build a self-sustaining network of locally based artists who can both contribute to the artistic aspirations of Peterborough and play an active role in the arts community regionally and nationally
  • To foster an appetite to establish the city as a place for creative engagement

The Arts and Social Change project included seven sub-projects:

Creative Gatherings: building an inclusive network of locally based creative practitioners
Experiments in Place Making: locally based artists working within neighbourhoods
Dialogue in Action: public sector innovation with locally based artists
Context Matters: two artists selected and hosted by two voluntary groups
Made in Peterborough: two commissions bookending Citizen Power
Talking Arts: curated events of relevance to the city’s aspirations
The Emissary Project: exchanging practice with relevant arts practitioners across the U.K.

Five case studies written by Dr Richard Ings were commissioned by Arts Council England over the two and a half year lifetime of Arts and Social Change. A sixth paper, Knitting Together Arts and Social Change written by Director, Jocelyn Cunningham completes the programme.

A full evaluation of the programme is here and is supplemented by a documentary film.

Knitting Together Arts and Social Change

Knitting Together Arts and Social Change reflects upon the opportunities and challenges presented by innovative arts programmes that address complex social issues.

Image link to report PDF Knitting Together Arts and Social Change This report outlines the principles underpinning the Arts and Social Change programme within Citizen Power Peterborough, a two and a half year partnership between Peterborough City Council, Arts Council England, East, the RSA and the citizens of Peterborough. The report supplements the five case studies below.

Creative Gatherings

This strand provided an anchor for the Arts and Social Change programme for the benefit of all those who live and/or work in the creative community of Peterborough and was facilitated by Chris Higgins of The Map Consortium. Beginning in mid-2010, and held every few months until the end of the programme in the summer of 2012, a series of 10 Creative Gatherings provided a collaborative public space for the Peterborough arts community. They were held in different spaces across the city to encourage a mix of different people to attend and to support an inclusive arts community.


Image link to Creative Gathering report PDF The first case study, 'Creative Gathering; More purposeful together' (PDF, 1.5MB) illuminates this two-year programme in Peterborough which concluded with The Creative People’s Walk in July 2012 led by local artist, Tom Fox.

Experiments in Place Making

Experiments in Place Making was the first project in Arts and Social Change (delivered in late 2010 to early 2011) and encouraged locally based creative practitioners to (further) investigate how their creative practice can engage people with each other and where they live. Locally based creative practitioners were partnered with a Neighbourhood Manager in order to identify a particular local challenge. This new partnership presented an opportunity to explore and extend creative practice as a core resource in developing new approaches to place making and in particular, a chance to experiment and develop innovative and collaborative practice.

Image link to Experiments in Place Making pdf The Experiments in Place Making case study (PDF, 2.5MB) provides an in-depth look at each of the Experiments and their interaction with local residents.

Context Matters

The name Context Matters was chosen as a collective name for two artist residencies. A process curated by Donna Lynas of Wysing Arts Centre identified community groups who were eager to take part in this opportunity and play a central role in the selection of the artists.  This resulted in two artists being selected by two community groups in order to respond to their aspirations and challenges through art and dialogue.

Residency 1: Grennan & Sperandio and the Peterborough Street Pastors

Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio have created a series of comic strips in conjunction with the Peterborough Street Pastors - people who provide a helping hand and a listening ear to revellers on Saturday nights in the city centre.  The strip, entitled ‘Street Pastor Stories’ has appeared in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph every Friday since February 2012 running through to July.  It provides a rare glimpse of the personal motivations that move the Street Pastors to give up their own Saturday nights to go out and help others, and to illustrate some of the unseen community work quietly taking place in Peterborough.
Arts and social change cartoon
Credit: Grennan & Sperandio

Residency 2: Joshua Sofaer and the Morland Court Resident Association

The project, ‘How Morland Court Got Its Name’ has been devised by Joshua Sofaer alongside the Morland Court residents with the purpose of creating connections between residents and within the local community in Werrington. Citizen Power has a focus on ‘place’ and this project is interested in thinking about how you might use stories and folklore about the name of a place to activate a change in social interaction.  Joshua led a competition asking local residents to creatively respond to the question on how Morland Court got its name alongside a series of workshops designed to get the creative juices flowing.  Working with the landlord, Hyde Minster, the project will culminate in a new sign for the building being designed and built for the residents taking inspiration from the entries to the competition. Joshua has created a booklet about the project available from his website.

Both the Context Matters projects have involved local artists as an integral part of the process through a variety of ways including a mentoring programme, running workshops and in the production of artworks.

Image link to Context Matters report PDF This Context Matters: artist residencies case study (PDF, 1MB) gives an informed overview of these two residencies, their journeys to completion and thoughts from the artists and those involved.

The Emissary Project


Emissary: an ambassador, a messenger, an agent sent on a mission to represent or advance the interests of another.

The Emissary Project was the final project in Arts and Social Change that was realised through the Creative Gatherings. It centred on two key ideas: exchange and representation; exchanging practice and representing others in the creative community of Peterborough.  The project linked artists and cultural leaders in Peterborough with national exemplars of artistic practice and strategy.

Image link to Creative Gathering report PDF The Emissary Project case study (PDF, 212KB) describes the visits taken by Peterborough artists and cultural leaders and examines the learning that took place for the participants. 

Dialogue in Action

Dialogue in Action was the final project in the Arts and Social Change strand of the Citizen Power programme and fed into the Innovation Forum programme with city leaders. The programme positioned a ‘creative associate' within a project devised by participants in the Innovation Forum. This role was offered to support, inspire, challenge and make links to creative practice, acting as a catalyst for groups within the Innovation Forum, (as opposed to delivering an arts project). The role also served to strengthen an understanding of how creative practice can add meaningful value to projects that may have no arts as part of the delivery. This programme completed in December 2012.

Image link to Doing Together Differently pdf The Doing Together Differently (PDF, 220KB) is the final and fifth case study by Richard Ings. It describes how participants in the Innovation Forum worked with creative practice and offers examples of the projects that city leaders developed alongside the creative associates in Dialogue in Action


Talking Arts

The Talking Arts programme was a series of three public events in Peterborough that explored core themes in the Arts and Social Change programme. They were:

Cross Pollination: How can artists help us to think about complex things like the environment? This event was held in October 2011 at Peterborough Town Hall and featured Marcus Coates talking about his work , The Dawn Chorus, artist Andy Holden speaking with his father, ornithologist, Peter Holden about their collaborative project on birds' nests, Sophie Antonelli, co-director of The Green Backyard in Peterborough. This event completed the RSA’s Arts and Ecology programme.

Art at the Heart:
Peterborough's Cultural Ambition. This event explored with city leaders the significant cultural assets in the city and the opportunities to exploit and share these in far more connected and creative ways. It was chaired by John Knell and took place in July 2012.

Leading a City Differently: the arts, partnership and public services was held at the RSA in February 2013 and invited city leaders to describe how creative practice had influenced innovative leadership in the city. Leading a City Differently: the Arts, Partnership and Public Services (PDF, 69KB) is a background paper written for this event by Jocelyn Cunningham (Director of Arts and Social Change) and Chris Higgins (co-director of The Map).

Made in Peterborough

Made in Peterborough was the commissioning programme of Arts and Social Change with two commissions that bookended Citizen Power.

The first commission was undertaken by Encounters with support from artist architect, Nicolas Henniger. Artists conducted a selection process with council and voluntary services staff to identify residents who might not normally engage in civic or city-wide activities. After a series of artfully conducted ‘getting to know you’ workshops, participants were invited to host a very personal tour for others in their small groups – visiting places in their neighbourhoods that mattered to them and sharing their stories. Rather than looking at the city as defined by geographical, civic or community-created boundaries, the city was ‘mapped’ by individuals and their experiences. The stories to emerge from the tours ranged from humorous to incredibly moving, and reflected the remarkable history of Peterborough and its future aspirations. View the slide show from this event.

The second commission is with artist Joanna Rajkowska who created The Peterborough Child, (an imagined archeological excavation revealing a ritual burial site of a small child) in response to the rich archeological resources around the city. This was created in the summer of 2012 for installation in the 'CAN-do' area – the Central and North wards in Peterborough. It is an area of the city where there is a rich mix of cultures but with many core challenges. It is often felt by the residents to be a 'forgotten part of the city'. The Peterborough Child offers an opportunity for this community to create their own myths while connecting with both Peterborough’s history and their own responses to death. This work is part of an ongoing engagement programme now managed by the city.