For the last couple of months I’ve been working on a Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) engagement project. The idea behind this piece of work is to ask people their opinions about our city: including what’s good, what’s not so good and what they think we should focus our energy on here at PECT.
Any campaign like this needs a hashtag these days and ours is #Proud2BPeterborough. Why? Well we think there’s a lot to be proud of in our city – sure, it’s not perfect, but where is? And we hope that by asking the question ‘What makes you proud?’ it will compel people to think of what it is about this place we call home that makes us want to live here, in this small city on the edge of the fens.
Peterborough seems to me to be a place that doesn’t always take pride in itself. Anecdotally I hear people complaining about the place, the lack of nightlife, litter on the streets, homeless people and beggars and so on. These are also some of the issues that are coming up on the survey we’ve been asking people to take and on our social media.
Sure Peterborough faces some big challenges, and its important that these are recognised and addressed but unfortunately none of us has a magic wand where we can magically just wipe away all the problems we face and most, if not all, of the city’s issues are the same type of challenges that any growing urban space faces.
That said, we feel it’s really important to find out people’s opinions so that we can make sure that people are heard and that our future agenda responds to their concerns. We must try to actively seek solutions where possible by working together with other organisations in the city and most importantly with the people who live here. This piece of work isn’t the answer, instead it’s the first question, the first step towards understanding what we should be doing to help Peterborough become an even better place to live, work and play.
I did an interview with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about our campaign and it prompted me to think about what makes me proud. I started writing a list, and it just kept growing and growing! First I thought about the wonderful natural spaces we have; including Ferry Meadows, the Embankment and the river, the nature reserves, the woodlands, and our great community growing spaces like The Green Backyard, the Olive Branch and WestRaven community garden.
There’s also our beautiful buildings, like the Cathedral and the Guild Hall to name just two, visitor attractions like Sacrewell Farm and Flag Fen. Did I mention the pubs? There are some great new independent micro breweries that have recently opened up: Stoneworks and the Bumble Inn, and there’s Charters of course. In the area where I live the Coalheaver’s Arms and the Palmerstone Arms are both great traditional pubs where you always receive a warm welcome and a great pint!
I could go on and on about the great places in the city but thinking about what makes me really proud, what really rocks my boat about this town is not the growing number of great venues or all the summer festivals – it’s the people.
I’ve been so lucky over the last few years working at PECT to meet and work with people from all over the city who are doing a fantastic job of making this a better place to be. I’ll give you just a few examples (the list is so long I couldn’t possibly mention everyone): the Rivercare group who regularly go out and clean up the banks of our river, the Nene Coppicing and Crafts group at Bretton who have been bringing the woodlands at Bretton back into use, the WestRaven Big Local residents who are working tirelessly to open a community café and garden, and all of the people who give up their weekends and evenings to attend meetings, put on events, work in charity shops and soup kitchens.
These people and the hundreds like them across the city have something in common - they see what needs to be done and get on and do it. If there’s litter to be picked up they pick it up, and if there’s a way to bring their community together they’ll find it.
As Communities Team Manager at PECT it’s been my privilege and great pleasure to work with the people of our city over the past few years, and I’m truly grateful that they have given me cause to be proud of my city. I make no apologies for sounding sentimental and a bit gushing about this because it’s true, and I’d like to thank all the people working so hard to make this place a better place and ask others too to think about what can be done to encourage involvement, build community, and become #Proud2BPeterborough.
Karen Igho is Communities Team Manager at Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT). Please do get involved and let us know your thoughts by filling in the survey here.