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A Festive Message: "It's easier to see the positives now than last year for the Cresset"

Head of Cresset Commercial Activities Penny Hansen reflects on a challenging year but looks ahead to 2022 and the joy that arts, entertainment and culture can bring.

When Peterborough Matters asked me to give my reflections on 2021 and thoughts for the coming year, I have to say I laughed. Because when I did just that at the end of 2020 I was hopeful, optimistic, and a whole year later it almost feels like we haven’t moved!

The media is full of talk of lockdowns and variants, restrictions are creeping into our daily lives and our customers have begun to make the hard choices to stay home and not risk visiting public spaces in the run up to Christmas.

In the face of this, as we battle our way through a December which at times has been more filled with anxiety than festive cheer, I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic! So I decided to wait. To see how the landscape looked as we got closer to Christmas. And now as I write this on Christmas Eve it’s easier to see the positives.

The main difference is that as I’m sitting, back at home in my spare room once again, typing this, there are hundreds of families in our theatre enjoying Beauty & the Beast. And unlike last year, they are able to laugh, to cheer, to boo and to enjoy a full scale pantomime on Christmas Eve! That feels pretty good I have to say. And looking back we’ve had some great times this year.

We’ve staged comedy, music, dance, musical theatre and spoken word in the theatre, with star names including Russell Howard, Steve Hackett, the Drifters, Russell Brand and more all gracing the stage and playing to packed houses.

We’ve hosted weddings, birthday parties, engagements, anniversaries and Christmas parties in our function suites, with people finding new delight in shared celebrations after a year without.

And we’ve welcomed the community back into the building – using our Culture Recovery Fund grant to help Goldhay Arts stage their biggest ever show, supporting local theatrical groups with rehearsal spaces, seeing over 150 young people auditioning for our pantomime, and welcoming local residents back to the shops, services and into The Fayre Spot Bar & Restaurant.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s visited The Cresset this year, whether you’ve bought a ticket, made a donation, popped in for a drink or attended an event, your support is appreciated and we hope to see more of you soon.

So, although it’s been another challenging year, and, quoting myself from last year’s Peterborough Matters article, “we can’t foretell what will happen next year”, there’s still hope. There’s still joy, and fun, and some really bad pantomime jokes.

And I think there’s a newfound value of collaboration. We’ve worked closely this year with The Key Theatre and the New Theatre, and hope to continue those relationships. We’ve supported the City Centre Animation project ‘Unlocking Peterborough’, and will continue to participate in the Culture Forum and the ongoing work into developing and delivering a cultural strategy for the city.

And we continue to develop our relationships with community groups, arts organisations and businesses across the city. Because as I think we’ve all come to understand, arts, entertainment and culture is important to everyone. It brings joy, and I for one think you can never have too much of that.

Hope you have had a Merry Christmas, and here’s to a joyful 2022.