Keely Mills, Creative Producer with Peterborough Presents

Hello I’m Keely, I work for Peterborough Presents & I want to chat to you about what it has been like working for them, our new working partnership with Nene Park Trust and more about the projects we are developing.

Before that, what is Peterborough Presents?  Formed in 2014, Peterborough Presents is an arts organisation producing arts based projects across Peterborough that we like to believe are fun, different and relevant to people’s lives. We create art right on people’s doorsteps, and in 2020 we were working in Millfield, Hampton, Bretton and Orton with plans for festivals, murals, workshops and fun things for people to do.  I was busy and was gearing up to get even busier.

Then Covid cast its very long shadow and with the first Lockdown the Peterborough Presents team, including me, were furloughed. I thought at first, yes a break - a chance to write that novel!

As the days turned into weeks, it grew harder to be cut off from what I love to do. Plus there was no novel in sight.  There were of course the highs; the extra time for walks and the precious moments in my garden. But I had gotten off the merry-go-round and I was worried about what the merry-go-round was going to look like when I got back on it again.

Another anxious blow in that time was that our hosts, Vivacity, were unable to support us any longer. As such, we needed to find a new home. Lucky for me and Peterborough Presents, Nene Park Trust were able to step in, taking on that role, and because of this we were able to get back to work more quickly. Now we had a new host, one that is aspirational, thoughtful and professional, oh, and we got a new office with a view to die for! It was time to pick up where we had been cut off.

One of the first projects that I picked up was Barefoot Walking with the artist, Sandra Keating. We had commissioned Sandra in partnership with Nene Park back in 2019. Sandra had already led a set of successful events that year, where participants, through mindful barefoot walking, practised the simple act of grounding. Grounding and connecting to nature in this way has a number of health benefits and provided visitors with a new way to explore the Park. When I worked with Sandra at that time I took for granted the access to such a beautiful place, the little conversations with strangers that make the day better and being in nature with other people.

Maybe this is why when I worked with Sandra Keating again back in May of this year on ‘Finding Balance’ (a new set of barefoot walks), suddenly, I was grateful to be bringing people back together, socially-distanced of course. It was life affirming to see people connect with Nene Park in a different way, to watch them talk about their experiences through Covid restrictions and be amazed at their resilience.

Many of the participants shared their barefoot memories and mindful techniques and how these have helped them to feel better. Sometimes there were no words but just people being together in the sunshine, remaining silent and being thoughtful of every step they took. Sandra has recorded these moments in film, photos and audio and Peterborough Presents are about to release these as a video, online exhibition and an installation at Ferry Meadows from early October to December.

As for the future, again we have lots of things planned. It’s busy once more but this time I am taking each step with more thought and appreciation.

To find out more about Peterborough Presents and how we are collaborating with Nene Park and our projects across the City, go to: www.peterboroughpresents.org

Peterborough Presents is a Creative People and Places programme and is supported by a consortium that includes NPT, Metal, Peterborough City Council, PCVS, Eastern Angles and Creative Lives.