Shelagh Smith Chair of Peterborough Culture and Leisure Trust talks about the launch of their new brand for the enterprise called “Vivacity”. Broadcast at 08:10 on Tuesday April 27th 2010 in the Paul Stainton Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Peterborough. The guest host is Andy Gall.
ANDY: Andy in for Paul this morning. Plans for Peterborough’s new Culture and Leisure Trust Vivacity have been unveiled. The Trust will take over the running of Peterborough’s libraries, museums, sports facilities and the Key Theatre from the first of May. Earlier, Kevin Tighe the new Chief Executive of Vivacity explained why the change had been made.
ANDY: Oh. It’s not there. Sorry. I do apologise. We’ll try and get that bit of audio for you in a few seconds. But we can now speak to Shelagh Smith who is the new Chairman of the Trust and joins us now. Good morning Shelagh.
SHELAGH: Hello. Hello Andy.
ANDY: Sorry about that. Apologies for the funny way we got to you this morning.
SHELAGH: That’s OK.
ANDY: But I’m sure we’ll be fine at the end of the day. So as a Trust, what are your aims please?
SHELAGH: Our aims are to improve and support the whole cultural offer in the City of Peterborough. As you said in your intro. we’ll be taking over the libraries, sport, arts and heritage portfolios. And we believe that culture in its broadest sense should be at the heart of the city and the heart of its development. And that’s what we’ll be pushing, by improving those services and getting more people involved in experiencing them.
ANDY: Is it about .. to try and explain it, because we talked about it briefly in the first hour, the whole sort of philosophy of Vivacity is that’s its more of a kind of unifying of these different sections.
SHELAGH: Yes. It’s bringing them together so they all form now one company. So the number of people using, for example, the Jack Hunt swimming pool, is going to be really important to what happens at the Key (Theatre). And we’re going to be able to market all of our facilities around the city by using that sense of us being part of one family.
ANDY: OK. So how will you achieve all of this though? Is it something that’s been succesful in other counties as a template, or have you .. is this something that you’ve just invented yourselves?
SHELAGH: No. This has been done in many cities across the country. I think about a hundred and twenty councils have done it so far. Not all as comprehensive as this one. Some of them have just if you like moved their theatre into a trust, or their sports facilities, or a combination of these. I think there are only three councils that have moved libraries in with that cultural package. But of course libraries provide the foundation for our culture. It is the place where you can go and see and feel and touch it, and learn about it. So we think it’s an important part of that package.
ANDY: And just looking at other facilities, for exampe, the Key Theatre, for a moment.
ANDY: Yesterday we spoke to a local promoter who said that sometimes people in Peterborough just don’t seem interested in some types of events. Is that fair?
SHELAGH: Well ..
ANDY: Could it be argued that it’s just that they didn’t choose, they didn’t cherry-pick the right events for the demographic, for the people who .. what they wanted to see?
SHELAGH: Well I think we’ve got to work really hard to get the people of Peterborough to come and support live performance. There’s nothing quite like live performance. And if people want it they’ve got to support it. And that’s a combination of getting the right performances, and people being willing to challenge .. to try new challenges, so to try events that maybe they wouldn’t have thought of going to.
ANDY: That’s hard, isn’t it?
SHELAGH: Part of our job is to market it more successfully.
ANDY: Some people have spoken to me in the past and said, you should go and see an opera.
ANDY: And I’m sure I should go and see an opera.
ANDY: But there’s some part of me, I don’t know what it is, that makes me just stop at the point of actually buying the ticket and going and seeing an opera. So how do you get people like me to go? And I’m sure that it would be a nourishing and culturally enriching experience, but why am I falling short?
SHELAGH: I can give you a very good example of .. I think your attitude is very similar to a lot of people in Peterborough. And in the mid nineties one of the things I was able to do was to bring Glyndebourne Opera Company to Peterborough, not to put on an opera, because I knew that wouldn’t work, but to work in Peterborough for fifteen months, with all the people in Peterborough who make music, who sing, who dance, who have an interest in the history of Peterborough, and together, six hundred people from Peterborough took part in that opera. So I know that in Peterborough we can do amazing things, but it is about, we’ve got to touch the right spot. We’ve got to get people at the right .. giving them the right opportunity so that they have the confidence to take part. Because they can do amazingly ambitious performance.
ANDY: That’s it. I think it’s a good idea to give something a local hook, isn’t it? Then you can draw more from people.
SHELAGH: Yes. And allow people to take part in a way that’s comfortable .. (spoken over)
ANDY: Maybe we should get Paul Stainton to feature .. get Paul Stainton to feature in an opera. I don’t know. When the fat lady sings at the end.
SHELAGH: Well I’m sure he would do very well.
ANDY: Draw people in through familiarity, you’ll get bums on seats. Now this promoter that we spoke to also said that the entertainment industry was a very expensive one.
ANDY: And it’s wise to have a trust funded by public money, when you only need ..or is it wise sorry to have a trust funded by public money when you only need to look at the Cresset and the Broadway to see what can happen? So again that’s a similar question, but looking at the accounts and everything. It’s a tightrope walk, isn’t it?
SHELAGH: It is a tough balance. And it’s a balance between recognising the importance of culture in a city and what it can do to develop a city. You only have to think about where you want to go at a weekend or for a night out. I bet your bottom dollar that you’ll want to go to a city where this is that offer. So there is a recognition that it is important to the public life of the city, but also we’ve got to .. we need to match that with people supporting it, and finding private money to do interesting and exciting things that are (talked over)
ANDY: It’s frustrating because talking to you, everybody knows that sitting down in a commonsensical way that you know looking at sport, looking at leisure in general across the board is so life-enriching that it’s so important that we get it right.
ANDY: Now you’re also planning improvements to the Museum. Can you tell us just briefly what that entails.
SHELAGH: Yes. In January we have plans for a multi-million project to completely revamp the Museum and bring it into the twenty first century. Much more interaction in terms of the artefacts that we have in there. It’ll be a completely awe-inspiring experience. But it is going to take us about nine months to do that complete overhaul, and that’s starting next January.
ANDY: And if people want to find out a little bit more about Vivacity and the whole concept of the Trust, is there somewhere they can go?
SHELAGH: Yup. there’s the website. There’s the telephone numbers I left with Ben your producer, a whole leaflet which gives all those details and the telephone numbers, as I say, website address, so that people can log on. And what we will be setting up are chat rooms, so that people can give us their ideas, and help us together build culture in this city.
ANDY. OK Shelagh Smith, thank you very much for talking to us this morning.
SHELAGH: It’s been great.
ANDY: And that’s the new Chairman of the Trust.