Citizen Power

Internationally-renowned artists, Joshua Sofaer and Grennan & Sperandio, will be working with two Peterborough community groups, Morland Court Residents’ Association and Peterborough Street Pastors to create new artworks. Over the course of the next year the artists will work closely with these groups in order to experience the work they do and develop ideas for the final artworks.

These innovative residencies, entitled Context Matters, are part of Citizen Power Peterborough, a joint initiative between Arts Council England, Peterborough City Council and the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA) exploring new ways of making the city a better place to live. Citizen Power Peterborough is made up of six strands of activity. The artist residencies are part of the Arts and Social Change strand, which aims to explore the role of the arts and imagination in building a sense of belonging in the city. The residencies are also funded by Vivacity, Peterborough’s culture and leisure trust, as part of a strategy to boost the arts in the city. Support and guidance for both artists and community groups is provided by Wysing Arts Centre.

The two community groups have been at the heart of the artist residencies from the outset – from helping to develop the artists’ brief, to playing a key part in the final selection of the artists. Through their experiences of working with the groups, the artists will generate new artworks that will be unveiled over the coming year. Joshua Sofaer and Grennan & Sperandio will also support the developing arts scene in the city, including the mentoring of local artists.

This announcement comes as the Citizen Power Peterborough partners mark the project’s one year anniversary with a report that outlines what has been achieved so far, and the impact it is having in the city. It shows that the Arts and Social Change strand

  • Has helped to successfully develop a mutually-supportive network of local artists in Peterborough
  • Continues to provide arts experiences for Peterborough residents through the commissioning of projects such as Take Me To, which brought people from different communities together to talk about what mattered to them about the city they live in – helping to build civic pride and belonging
  • Has helped to develop the city’s arts offer and infrastructure, working in partnership with Vivacity.

To read the report visit the RSA webpage.

Joshua Sofaer/Morland Court Residents’ Association
Morland Court Residents’ Association was formed in 2009 to address anti-social behaviour within their residential housing block and immediate community. The residents’ association aims to create a more positive environment in Morland Court, and by working with Joshua Sofaer, the group hopes to increase the positive awareness of their work. Paul Spencer of the Morland Court Residents’ Association said: “The Context Matters partners really have their finger on the pulse of community needs. My intuition tells me the next year or so is going to be an exciting and enjoyable time, with the placement of our artist here at Morland Court.”

Joshua Sofaer is a Cambridge-born artist whose work frequently involves collaboration and participation. Often using humour, he experiments with established forms of production – appropriating and reconfiguring the chat show, competition, lecture, or museum display. The aim of his art is often to enable people to see the world as a place of potential and become more active citizens. Recent projects include Street Hunt, a new commission for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival that encouraged people to discover the area through a street-inspired competition, and Viver a Rua (Take to the Streets), a project taking place in Portugal that will culminate in a city street being named after a Porto citizen. Sofaer is the first Artist Fellow of the Clore Leadership programme and has worked with institutions including Tate Modern and SFMOMA, San Francisco, and the Wunderbar and Edinburgh International festivals.

Joshua Sofaer said “I have been thinking about what art can do to bring communities together for some time. I believe art has the power to challenge established roles and behaviours because it allows people to ‘see things differently’. Having visited Morland Court, I have been really impressed by what the committee has achieved in the last couple of years. Now the task is to build up that sense of community. It’s a challenge but I’m looking forward to working with them to give it a go.”

Grennan & Sperandio/Peterborough Street Pastors
Established in 2008, Peterborough Street Pastors are trained volunteers from a variety of local churches that go out onto the streets of Peterborough on Saturday nights to make the city centre a safer and friendlier place to be. With a remit to ‘listen, care and help’, the group works in partnership with the local police and Peterborough City Council to assist local people – anything from picking up glass bottles to ensuring revellers get home safely. A representative of the Peterborough Street Pastors said: “We are really excited that Grennan & Sperandio will be working with us. It will be extremely interesting to see their view of our work and the city of Peterborough, and how they use their art to communicate to others. We hope that the people of Peterborough will enjoy getting a glimpse of what goes on in the city on Saturday nights.”

Simon Grennan & Christopher Sperandio are an international artist duo, one of whom lives near Wrexham, Wales and the other in Houston, Texas. In comic book form, and more recently through TV and community projects, they have transformed the stories of friends, relatives and strangers into familiar objects and events. The artists often use entertainment to explore what motivates people. Since 1995 they have developed projects in conjunction with leading museums in the US and Europe, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, and PS1, New York. They’ve even worked with employees of a Chicago chocolate factory, enabling them to design and produce their own chocolate bar.

Grennan & Sperandio said “We are very pleased to be working with Peterborough Street Pastors and Citizen Power Peterborough. Over the next couple of months, we’re going to be meeting the Pastors and compiling a whole range of impressions and information about their work and what inspires them to do what they do. We’re certainly looking forward to Saturday nights out in town, watching them work and getting to grips with Peterborough through their experiences.”

Media contacts:

Stacey Arnold, Communications Officer, Arts Council England
Natalie Jones, Senior Manager – Communications, Arts Council England

Citizen Power Peterborough is an initiative being led by Peterborough City Council, the Royal Society of Arts and Arts Council England. It has been designed to inspire people to share what is special to them about their neighbourhood, and to find out what is special to others. Citizen Power Peterborough aims to build connections between people and communities, get them more involved in public life and encourage active citizenship.

Citizen Power