Let’s be reasonable here – the posts on here about Peterborough are the undeveloped negative image to the picturesque photograph the city’s politicians and tourism board would have you envisage; just as unrealistic, sensationalist and inaccurate, but from the other side. Like all cities, Peterborough has its ups and downs, though I don’t think it’s too unfair to say that the bad outweighs the good.
So let’s get the good out of the way, first. Peterborough is usually mentioned in the same breath as its cathedral, which is a beautiful piece of historic architecture. Near the cathedral is a pretty decent-sized shopping precinct which, whilst not exactly spectacular, is larger than a lot of cities can boast, though the sheer excitement expressed by the local residents about the incoming Primark and the recent arrival of Nandos should give you some idea of where Peterborough stands culturally.
The pubs are good – if you know where to go. Charters is an old 18th century grain barge which had to shore up on the river bank and is now a real ale pub with a decent albeit overpriced Chinese restaurant above it. The Brewery Tap, meanwhile, is another real ale pub with its own microbrewery. Both pubs are superb – you’d be hard pressed to find a better pint of ale in the UK.
The problem with Peterborough isn’t with its amenities. Peterborough’s problem is, and always has been of culture. Put simply – there is none. The only cinema is in dire need of refurbishment and is your standard showcase of whatever Hollywood churns out. The vast majority of cinemas in the UK are, admittedly, like this, but presumably a lack of demand prevents any kind of independent cinemas from springing up, which is just one contributing factor to the distinct homogeneity of Peterborough’s culture.
In terms of music, it would be unfair to say that there isn’t an active music scene, but simply being active isn’t any indicator of quality. One of the other posts on Peterborough described its fashion sense as being 10 years behind London’s (an odd criticism if I’m being honest), but roughly the same can be said of Peterborough’s music scene. There are some fairly competent musicians and even some good ones, but bands in Peterborough are seemingly all stuck in a performative imitation of music which has long since gone out of fashion. The older musicians, predictably, either play pub-rock dross or an embarrassing rehash of 80s hardcore punk, which is probably to be expected and forgiven. Old bands are rarely, if ever, cool.
The youth, however, have no excuse for being out of touch and so it’s disheartening whenever I return to Peterborough to find that the young bands are still playing one of four genres of music: 1) a blend of 80s thrash metal and early 2000s nu-metal, 2) mid-2000s screamo, 3) early 2000s pop-punk and 4) mid-2000s indie synth pop. There is also 5) boring covers of obvious songs (Bruno Mars, Adele), but every city has that kind of dross. Unfortunately, most of these bands can’t even be recipients of the backhanded “Good At What They Do” award. The much-anticipated return of the Willow Festival (a free music festival which was a decade ago one of the highlights of Petraburgian culture) was a sad display of listless melodies, tired riffs and predictable structure. If you’re a musician in Peterborough and you’re reading this, take my advice: stop hammering away at trying to replicate the sounds you heard as a teenager. Keep abreast of the latest developments in music (it’s moving very fast these days), get some new influences and try to incorporate them into your music.
The nightlife in Peterborough is similarly dire, mostly catering to all things terrible. Every club offers basically the same mix of overpriced drinks and entry and a dark room that either plays blaring hip hop (it all sounds like Rhianna to me nowadays) or I Love The 1980s on shuffle play. The only alternative to the **** fare is The Met Lounge which can boast that it occasionally plays Foster The People. Whilst this is better, the place is still much too small and a total dive. The less said about Peterborough’s nightlife, the better.
Immigration does warrant a mention, if not because it’s such a well-worn theme that a few myths need to be dispelled about Peterborough’s recent large influx of immigrants. Peterborough’s problem is not immigration – it’s integration. The incoming Eastern European population are essentially ghettoised into extremely poor, crime-ridden areas in which there is basically a spiral of reciprocal violence and drug dealing. This has made several large areas of Peterborough essentially no-go areas after dark and contributes to a great deal of racism amongst the white British population, which aggravates the problem further.
Since I’ve lived in Peterborough for so long I can hear voices of residents in the back of my head telling me that my criticisms are snobby and elitist. Whilst might be to some extent true, it’s only really so if you think that a lack of variety and cultural stagnation are somehow more ‘pure’ or salt-of-the-Earth. I wouldn’t consider Manchester or Liverpool particularly upper-class, but there are in those cities at least some places you can go if you like coffee, wine, good food, music, literature, art, even roller skating or whatever.