The Dream Catcher is devised by myself and Andy Campbell of One to One Development Trust working with our team Dean Hinchliffe and Terry Campbell. The Dream Catcher is a digital work created with film, text, imagery and sound, woven together as a projection and Virtual Reality installation. We have been commissioned by Jumped Up Theatre and Platform 8.
Our creative practice is about supporting people and communities, exploring and reflecting on their own their stories whilst pushing the boundaries of technology in innovative ways. We have an extensive and diverse portfolio of work.
I grew up in Peterborough in the late 1970s/mid-1980s. I went to secondary school, socialised and had my first proper job. Then, due to unexpected events, my life changed. I "escaped" to Bretton Hall College in Wakefield and embarked on a creative path which I've been on since. My connection with Peterborough has been ongoing, with varying degrees of engagement and focus at different times of my life. The Dream Catcher is an opportunity to explore the City of my youth as it is today.
I've always liked dream catchers, that symbolic sacred hoop used as a talisman to protect us in our sleep. Originating from the Native American Ojibwa tribe, the dream catcher was positioned to catch the morning sun and hung above the bed, attracting and catching all sorts of dreams and thoughts in its webs. Good dreams pass through and gently slide down the feathers to comfort the sleeper. Bad dreams are caught up in its protective net and destroyed, burned up in the light of day.
A dream catcher is a good metaphor for what we are hoping to explore in Peterborough. We aim to create a piece of artwork that is aspirational, giving its contributors and its audience space to reflect on the 'now' and on their dreams for the future.
Our commissioner Kate Hall extended a call out to artists to contribute and help kick-start discussions. We invited other people who are pioneering innovation and opportunity. What our contributors have in common is that they are all 'enablers' and 'doers'.
Football was part of my growing up. Revisiting POSHs APAX Stadium a while ago, I was surprised to find The Allia Business Centre, an amazing resource for local entrepreneurs. We made links quickly and are delighted that The Lab at Allia is supporting the Dream Catcher project. It's exciting to bring people to Allia that haven't explored its potential before. That's what we do as enablers and artists: bring people together. We facilitate connections, increase opportunities.
In The Lab, we interviewed our contributors. Key themes emerged around the cultural change slowly sweeping through Peterborough. A place of opportunity and ambition, still in its infancy, reaching out with open arms offering pop-up events, workshops, talks, films, spoken word, theatre… Increasing cultural activity running in traditional and non-traditional cultural spaces.
This Peterborough I'm hearing about is a very different place to what I knew. Culture for me in Peterborough was going on school trips to the Key Theatre – well once anyway! I grew to dislike what I perceived as “Peterborough's parochial blandness”. Still, there were highlights: Saturdays at the Wimpy, Andy's records, hanging out in Cathedral Square, the newly opened Queensgate and The Still pub.
On day two of filming we started in Bretton. Memories came flooding back of spending most of my weekends with my best friend in Bretton. The network of newly planted walkways I remember exploring are now so cultivated and lush. It felt like these very pathways were the strings in a dream catcher, weaving a web of access through the estate.
People were more than happy to chat; mixed conversations ranging from the usual “it's shit here”, to people whose lives are being enriched by involvment in current arts projects.
Onto Hampton. I took my Mum here in 1999 to the newly opened Tesco's flagship “biggest in the UK” store. Mum was beside herself in giggles at the staff whizzing round on roller-skates. The skates have long gone, but not much else has changed. Going down the escalator in the food hall you come to the Undercroft.
Underused and empty for years, now - with intervention of Eastern Angles and other creatives - it is starting to find its own vibrancy. I am excited that in three months we will be launching the Dream Catcher in this space.
The River Nene, Key Theatre, Lido, METAL and the Cathedral all make great shots, especially on a sunny day. I was almost euphoric with this 'new' Peterborough I was seeing. It abruptly halted when an elderly disabled house-boat owner, struggling with a huge backpack, turned up on the river bank. He'd returned from a trip away to find his barge broken into and trashed. The despair of his situation and the chaos of a group of men drinking under a tree – who we talked to while waiting for the police – was a reality check on another aspect of Peterborough.
The friendliness of Millfield was engaging; the smells from the Portuguese café tempting. I remembered the smell of sugar beet, that sickly waft that used to fill the air. Lincoln Road was vibrant, noisy and welcoming. We talked to a homeless man trying to earn enough money for one-nights' lodgings. He was sketching an impressive Rolls Royce car parked up outside a shop in the hope its owner would spare a few quid in exchange for the results.
We headed towards the Fens. The wide-open sky was grey as the sun sunk. Wind kicked up as we filmed the combines and tractors billowing harvest dust in great clouds across the empty roads.
It was beautiful. Far from bland.
This is Peterborough; a city of diversity, of opportunity, of noise and stillness, of nature and ideas. A place where dreams are made and aspirations shared.