The Wirrina

The old Wirrina building, the former Peterborough and District Youth Stadium, will be demolished on Saturday morning at 6am. What now for the people of Peterborough? Paul Stainton talks to Council Leader Marco Cereste at 08:25 on Tuesday 5th November 2010.

PS: (TAPE: Bye Bye Wirrina.) Yes it’s going to get knocked down on Saturday. Six o’clock in the morning the Wirrina will be gone. But we’ve started a campaign again this morning. We’ve got a habit of doing this. Not only do we want to keep the original sign and put it next to our Corn Exchange sign in Reception, which we’ve kept, .. Pete Teague’s still here by the way. We’ve kept the Corn Exchange sign. We’re going to keep the Wirrina sign. But we’ve started a campaign this morning. We want a Wirrina. It sounds like a great idea. It sounds like just what the Big Society is all about, a sort of community centre for the whole of Peterborough. Something that kids can do on an evening, like the old Wirrina. It would be great, wouldn’t it? Well let’s speak to Council Leader Marco Cereste. He’s┬álive in Brussels where he’s representing Peterborough City Council at a conference. Marco, thanks for picking up this morning. Thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.
MC: Tht’s alright. It’s a pleasure Paul. How are you?
PS: Good. Now we want a Wirrina Marco.
MC: Aah fabulous. Yes I’m sure it’s a great idea. I think it’s a great idea. All we need to do now is find a few million pounds to fund it. It would be great. Yes.
PS: Well Councillor Swift and five others mortgaged their house back in the day.
MC: Aah. It was a great project, it really was. It’s just a shame it sort of went the way it went. So but we can’t leave it as it is, as you can imagine. It’s something that’s got to come down. It’s got to be sorted out. And then we’ve got to make good use of the site, especially in these difficult times.
PS: Yes. Why did it end up falling into such disrepair though?
MC: I don’t know. I think there was a series of .. it sort of .. the charity I think the charity couldn’t make it pay. Then myself and Councillor Thorpe put together a scheme to build a multi-purpose arena on the site, and that was refused by the local authority. Then there was a whole series of other planning applications which were also refused by the local authority. And I think, after a while, everybody sort of gave up and said well no-one is going to allow us to do anything with it. And in the end I think the Council bought it back.
PS: Oh right. OK. I see. So the Council owns it at the moment then?
MC: Yes I believe so yes.
PS: What are we going to do with it then, if we’re not going to have a venue like the Wirrina?
MC: Well at the moment the Wirrina needs to come down. And we are completely, as you can imagine, what we’re working on at the moment is a complete reorganisation of all of our land assets. So we’re doing a full review of our land assets as a local authority, and we’ve got to sweat the assets, so that we can mitigate the effect of these cuts.
PS: But the Wirrina was difficult to put together in the first place, as Councillor Swift said earlier, and it really was, six councillors, you know, mortgaging their houses, that drove it forward. That’s the sort of spirit we want, isn’t it? We’ve got a lot of local business leaders in Peterborough, yourself included. Surely we can get that sort of spirit together and get a venue like this going, couldn’t we?
MC: I think it’s a great idea. And if there’s the will out there that wants to do it, I would support it, be happy to join your campaign and put my hand in my pocket as well. But I certainly couldn’t afford to do it on my own. These days you’d probably need more like a hundred business people putting their hands in their pockets.
PS: Yes. Pete Teague’s with us. He’s the guy that used to spin the tunes at the roller disco. He was duty manager.
PT: I was, yes.
PS: Does that fill you with hope.
PT: It would be nice. All I would say is if Marco and all the councillors could just keep the spirit of the Wirrina in mind. Because obviously there’s got to be something there for the youth to do.
MC: I absolutely agree. I absolutely agree. And that is one of the issues that we have got to address as we rebuild the whole of the town centre. We need to have some sort of facility for the youth. And I agree with you entirely, I mean, one hundred per cnt. So it’s very much something that we would support, and something that we would look to try and help provide, as we start redeveloping the city.
PS: This sounds to me like the Wirrina was a community that looked after people. They looked after the young kids, they looked after the older kids. You said earlier Pete ..
PT: That’s right.
PS: .. it gave you a sense of growing up.
PT: It gave me the thought of buying my own house, it gave me the thought of having my own business, it gave me the thought of being part of a bigger community. And I think that’s the spirit we must really retain with the Wirrina. Another building, absolutely what Marco just said. But we need to keep that spirit going somewhere in the city. Because we owe it to the youth of today, to be honest with you.
PS: Very difficult and austere times, but like I say it was difficult with Charlie Swift and the boys back in the day. Will you be canvassing for support for our campaign Marco within Full Council?
MC: Yeah. I mean one of the things we could do, of course, is we could begin, if there are enough people who want to get together and really talk about this issue, and take it forward, there are a few, and luckily only a few, empty buildings in the city. You know, and we could start thinking about running stuff from there, a place for kids to meet, and talk, and learn. It was a great idea. It’s the sort of thing that we could do. So I leave it to you Paul. If you can get enough people supporting it, I’m there to help, you know.
PS: Bless your heart. Thank you for that. I need another job. (LAUGHTER) I’m pleased that you’re receptive Marco. Because I honestly do think, without any tongue in cheek or anything else, it sounds like it was a great idea. And it’s relevant today I think more perhaps than it was back then.
MC: I think it’s going to become more and more necessary. And that’s why I’m here in Brussels. I’m here to promote the city. I’m here to .. you know the American Ambassador’s coming onto our stand here in Brussels. And I’m looking for investors to come and invest in our city, so that we can do all these nice things, and I’m for it, you know.
PS: He’s Marco Cereste. Big on him for coming on the show this morning, and joining a campaign to keep something, keep the spirit of the Wirrina going. Wouldn’t it be great? What do you think? Can we keep it? Can we keep the spirit alive? Can we get enough people together to put a community centre like that together, where people can go and do things on an evening, on a weekend, where kids can learn how to be grown-ups, and take some direction, get them off the streets? How do we do it? Who’s up for it? Put your hand in your pocket then.