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Arts and Social Change aimed to deliver high quality arts experiences to increase community engagement and build 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, and to foster an appetite to establish the city as a place for creative engagement.

These aims were realised through the following seven projects:

  • Creative Gatherings: a programme of 10 gatherings held in different spaces across the city, encouraged a mix of people to attend and to support an inclusive arts community.  This strand provided an anchor for the Arts and Social Change programme for the benefit of the creative community of Peterborough. Read more here.

  • Made in Peterborough: This was two commissions. 

    • 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 by 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 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 offered an opportunity for this community to create their own myths while connecting with both Peterborough’s history and their own responses to life and death.

  • Context Matters: two artist residencies. 

    • Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio 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’ appeared in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph every Friday from February to July 2012.  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 illustrates some of the unseen community work quietly taking place in Peterborough.

    • ‘How Morland Court Got Its Name’ was 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 had 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.  Joshua has created a booklet about the project available from his website.

  • Talking Arts: three public events that aimed to provide a space to discuss creative ideas and cultural ambitions. 

    • 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 is a background paper written for this event by Jocelyn Cunningham and Chris Higgins (co-director of The Map).

  • The Emissary Project was led by four ‘ambassadors’ representing the interests of Peterborough’s arts community.

    • 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.

  • Experiments in Place-Making explored different ways of working that could address locally identified challenges. It 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 Peterborough City Council Neighbourhood Manager in order to identify a local challenge.  This new approach presented an opportunity to explore creative practice as a resource in developing new responses to place making and in particular, a chance to experiment and develop innovative, collaborative practice. Read more here.

  • Dialogue in Action involved four collaborations with creative practice to support public service delivery.  It brought public sector professionals together alongside arts practitioners from different disciplines to explore new ways of working, and was led by local creative practitioner Diane Goldsmith.  

While 457 residents and local artists directly participated in the project, its reach was in the thousands. 

  • The programme resulted in an increase in local arts activity with pop up galleries appearing in multiple settings. 

  • New relationships are being sustained. 

  • Through the arts activity in the city outside of Arts and Social Change, there has been a burgeoning of projects situated within local communities specifically looking at engagement.  

  • There has been a change in the local authority’s willingness across departments to engage with the arts and creative process. 

  • Networking improved the self-efficacy of participants, their sense of belonging and the perception that they were supported and valued by their own community.

  • The programme was successful in demonstrating that creative change could be delivered despite difficult economic circumstances. 

 This RSA project was in partnership with Peterborough City Council and Arts Council England.