Meet Eclectic Ballroom: "Don't moan that Peterborough doesn't have anything to offer!"


Eclectic Ballroom

As well as promoting some of the biggest acts to visit the city - such as Leeroy Thornhill from the Prodigy, and Don Letts from the Clash who is performing later this year - Zed Malik and his musical partner Jim Norton are responsible for creating their own evenings as Eclectic Ballroom, a distinctive disco/funk/soul act that has become a staple of the city.

With a background in fashion and branding, as well as performing at Glastonbury and many other venues across the UK and beyond for years, Zed has seen many things come and go - but is keen for people to look to the future, and the possibilities within Peterborough.

Covid changed many ways of operating, and the duo, and many creatives from across the UK, performed sets from their homes, from bedrooms, garages, kitchens and anywhere else that broadcast was possible.

Now live music is returning, but with many bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants still struggling almost two years on, Zed sees two issues in Peterborough; a fear of crime, and of opening their minds to new musical genres.

"My main concern is that since the lockdown everything became more difficult, and people were taking their time to come back out. 

"But the other thing is that when I talk to people the perception of fear in the city centre is still strong - 'too many foreigners'. There's still a feeling that you'll go out and get stabbed. That is a judgment that just isn't true.

"I've lived in Brixton, Newcastle - the problems are magnified in cities such as these. They all have their good spots and bad spots. Surely the more people that come out, the more the 'fringes' are pushed back that cause the problem.

"I speak to friends who live in Boston, Stamford, Deeping, and others and they wish Peterborough was still like it was 20 years ago. But you can only go forward; you can't go back. And you can't moan that there is nothing on if you don't support it.

"Don't get me wrong, I've kicked it in the past. But I just don't think you can moan that nothing's going on. Even if you don't think you'll like the music you can still support it, it might surprise you.

"We've worked hard here (in the Queen's Head) as a team to build this up, and the results since August have been fantastic. We nearly broke records."

With an influx of 3,000 students on their way in September, there will be a great opportunity for those invested in leisure, food, culture and entertainment to capitalise. 

The fear is that those students will become disillusioned with that side of the city, which will cause them to tell others not to bother applying.

Zed said: "People have to take risks because the energy will come from those students. Certain bars don't help themselves, and stick to a formula.

"We have an event coming up which is costing us £2,000 to put on. We're not doing it for financial gain, we're doing it because we understand the landscape in the city, and that our philosophy has a place here.

"The power group is the 25-55, and I think they've abandoned the city centre. It's not a warzone. Most travel to London for the big acts but we could get them here - but would we get the support to put them on? We have the same facilities as everywhere else."

Zed is in favour of the proposed new football stadium as a multi-use venue which could be used for different types of new daring events - one location of many that could be utilised.

"The Cathedral has an amazing space outside the front - why isn't that being used for concerts? I think it's that people don't have confidence in the people they're trying to attract."

Strangely, sets in Stamford, Cambridge and other towns and cities tend to often attract people from Peterborough, who would not go to the same set in their own city. 

So different thinking is needed, and Zed would like to put a music event on the top of Queensgate Car Park. He also has an idea for a connected 'Bar Festival', where several places would link together for a programme of acts and encourage drinkers and music lovers to pass from one to another.

"There is some talent out there in this city. But I wonder how the musicians feel when they can't sing the songs they want, because people want an original song?

"Why are people not turning up at open mics and saying that they've got an original song - why does it have to be an anthem? I don't understand why it has to be that way, because in other cities it's a mix. 

"I think the Ostrich and Charters are doing it. Warren at Charters, who is one of the most talented managers in the city, is doing it.

"Mixology pulled off one of the events of last year under the bridge (in Orton Mere); I can only imagine how many hoops they had to jump through to get that done.

"A  mature creative independent nightlife bringing people to the city benefits the economy. That means music, arts and culture.

"But there is no real events company in Peterborough, and that's a shame. People need to to come together who have the clout to back it and set up a company to let ourselves and others run events.

"People need to pull together in the same direction and give it personality."