Graham Casey on a cultural strategy for Peterborough

rocky_horro07:19 Monday 23rd February 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Peterborough’s new cultural strategy for the next five years goes before the City Council Cabinet for approval later. The proposals aim to increase the number of people taking part in cultural events, attracting people with talent, and making better use of the city’s green spaces. The hope is that the Council can achieve this despite investing less in Vivacity, the Trust that runs cultural services in Peterborough. Councillor Graham Casey has been driving the development of Peterborough’s cultural strategy 2015 to 2020. Now Graham, I think one of my favourite sentences in the strategy document is that this strategy “is not about spending more money.” Because you’re actually having to try and do more with less, aren’t you?
GRAHAM CASEY: We are. Yes. Good morning Dotty. Yes it’s difficult times really, and I’ve always been aware that culture has been one of the soft targets for cuts. But actually people involved in culture are incredibly creative people, and we’ve just got to use that creativity to keep doing what we do best, and that is actually providing cultural services to the city.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what are your goals for the next five years?
GRAHAM CASEY: Well our first priority, our vision, is to raise the profile of culture in the city. We want to bring local, regional, national and international acclaim to the city for its cultural activity.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Now obviously in Peterborough you have Vivacity, which is the trust that runs all the cultural services. As a model, do you feel that that is working for the city?
GRAHAM CASEY: I think it could work better, but as a model I think it’s a very good one. The idea I think behind it is so that it has the opportunity to raise funds on its own, and not be at the beck and call of Council cuts. And I think this is where crunch time is really for them, so they can say, right, we want to drive culture. We’ve got to look at other ways of raising our funding, so that we don’t feel threatened by what the budget is.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I suppose there might be some people Graham who say, you know, it is a tough time at the moment, and services are being cut, some services which a huge number of people really do need as necessities. So why do we still need to put things like theatre and drama and music and art, why do they need to be put on the same level as some of those essential services?
GRAHAM CASEY: Now I think culture is fundamental to all of the things that we hold dear, to being human beings. I think it allows us to connect with our humanity. So actually I think it is fundamentally and critically important, especially at the moment. But also it has to be able to stand on its own two feet as well. Now I know unfortunately it happens during Cabinet this morning, but there is a discussion on Radio 4 this morning about funding for cultural activities, which I won’t be able to listen to. But it’s a big debate going on at the Arts Council at the moment, and certainly locally it’s a big debate. But I certainly feel that it’s incredibly important for the residents of the city.
DOTTY MCLEOD: The City Council has taken a decision to reduce the amount of money that Vivacity is going to have to play with. Do you worry about how that will affect the cultural scene in Peterborough?
GRAHAM CASEY: No, because I know that the plans laid out in the cultural strategy for bringing the various organisations together and working smarter should work.
GRAHAM CASEY: And that’s certainly my intention. (THEY LAUGH)
DOTTY MCLEOD: Graham, good to talk to you this morning. You can catch the chat on Radio 4 on Radio Player after your Cabinet meeting, so you don’t need to miss out altogether. Councillor Graham Casey there, who’s been driving the development of Peterborough’s culture strategy for the next five years. It’s expected to be given the nod at a Cabinet meeting later on today.

Peterborough’s Cultural Strategy 2015 – 2020 pdf file