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Updated: Oct 7, 2021

ESP’s Man About Town, Pep Cipriano is back and ready for a taste of café culture and an impending visit to a Peterborough pub beer garden… hopefully!


It’s been the talk of the town for years but finally there seems to be a focused effort to create a café culture backdrop to our city centre that’ll be allowed to flourish and live up to the potential Peterborough has always had.

We’ve had the main coffee chains roasting away for a number of years but the aroma has slowly begun to shift towards independent coffee houses opening their doors and it’s the uniqueness they bring which is key.

The diversity of what these handful of small coffee shops offer to the city centre is at the core of café culture. Restaurants too have created dining space outdoors but the small businesses in particular need a helping hand when it comes to keeping this vibrant vibe sustainable.

That helping hand has finally arrived thanks to a £800,000 boost from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. This money will be invested into creating a café culture scene for our city centre and the project is being delivered by Peterborough Positive – the city’s new business improvement district – comprising of city centre businesses, Peterborough City Council and Queensgate Shopping Centre. Four concept Covid-19 safe pods and outdoor seating areas will be opened in Cathedral Square, St John’s Square, Bridge Street and Westgate throughout April and May.

I checked out the work in progress outdoor seating area for Bean Around and although a tad crude for my liking, I know owner Gareth has the imagination and guile to give it a continental feel once it’s complete. The good news is that it’ll seat 16 customers and accommodate six people standing.

In addition to outside seating for some businesses, we’re going to see improved lighting and free public access Wi-Fi and about time too.

One of my other favourite coffee stops, the Lightbox Café on Bridge Street, will have a similar outdoor area from April with a covered ceiling and ventilated sides. It’ll mean we can enjoy coffee and food outside during the day and a beer or cocktails alongside a tapas style menu, in the evening.

St John’s Square will see the introduction of a new communal area where we can plonk ourselves down and tuck into food and drink from the surrounding cafés, pubs and restaurants well into the evening.

Over at Westgate in June, the excellent Banyan Tree restaurant will also boast an outside pod for serving daytime and evening food and drink.

This café culture project is just what our city centre needs to help it bounce back from the pandemic. And, more importantly, it’s a step in the right direction in creating an inviting city for would-be university students who need another good reason other than excellent transport links and affordable rent to come to Peterborough and stay here at weekends. Down the years, so many initiatives in our city centre have either run out of steam, been an anti-climax or just never got off the ground. We have to be an all or nothing city and I just hope our café culture rollout is a shot in the arm like a double espresso instead of barely hitting the spot like a skinny late. BEER GARDENS ARE BRACED! Let’s face it, if the sun is shining on April 12 then it’ll be standing room only in beer gardens and if the weather’s good that following weekend then get there early. With beer gardens reopening millions of us have already made plans to meet one another for the first time in months.

crossed that no last-minute potholes appear on Boris’s roadmap because I’m starting to feel the onset of social anxiety and need to be around people again soon before I start talking to a volleyball named Wilson.

In the city centre Wetherspoon pubs, The College Arms and The Draper’s Arms will be open from 9am to 9pm (Sunday to Thursday inclusive) and 9am to 10pm (Friday and Saturday). They’ll offer a slightly reduced menu from 9am to 8pm seven days a week but you can still get breakfast, burgers, pizza, deli deals, fish and chips and other British classics. We’ll be able to order and pay through the Wetherspoon app but orders and payment can still be taken at the table for those of us without the app. Test and trace will be in operation and there’ll be plenty of hand sanitisers available too. What am I looking forward to the most? That’s easy, companionship that isn’t starring at me through a video screen. I’ll drink to that.

SHAKATAK BACK IN THE ‘BORO We all know Love Won’t Be Denied by Len Boone is our city’s first anthem and we recognise Peterborough’s connection with Erasure and of course there’s Shades of Rhythm, plus there are other notable links with famous music I’ve haven’t mentioned. But what is it with Shakatak and Peterborough? I’ve always had the impression they’ve played here on a regular basis but it’s actually been 22 years. Maybe it’s because they’re heavily promoted when they come to town or perhaps it’s because I remember them headlining the Willow Festival in 1999.

Either way, they’re back, this time as part of their 40th anniversary tour at the Key Theatre on October 24. Shakatak were part of the 1980s UK Jazz Funk scene, which had a big following in Peterborough with regular club nights at The Fleet Centre and The Grove in Woodston, along with Slickers Club at The Cresset. This gig’s sure to bring back some memories of a night-scene era in our city, which in my opinion had it all. There’ll be a comforting waft of Old Spice and Pino Silvestre in the air I can promise you. Tickets start at £22.50 and you can book here SHAKATAK 40th ANNIVERSARY TOUR at The Key Theatre event tickets from TicketSource GOING NUTS FOR A NEW SPREAD! Last month it was a weekly fudge tart (yum) and now peanut butter and jelly is steering me towards a lockdown cardiac arrest. If you need an excuse to pop into the new Lidl on Sugar Way then look no further than the US’s finest. Now I know why they have the highest obesity rate in the world. God bless America. BEING HAPPY AND ALL THAT JAZZ According to a study by fans of jazz music are happiest of all – twice as happy as pop fans apparently. Music has been scientifically proven to improve our wellbeing, but jazz? I was 16 when Jazz last made me happy. I sprayed some on myself before I took my girlfriend to the cinema to see Internal Affairs, staring Richard Gere and Andy Garcia. It didn’t end well, she said the scent was too overwhelming (it wasn’t, it’s because I practically bathed in it). I was a Fahrenheit (Dior) man from there on in. STREET ART ADDS CHARACTER I was pleasantly surprised to see a bit of street art brighten up my weekend walk to Central Park for a weekly coffee fix. I’m not clever enough to know what the artwork is painted on (I think they’re telephone or digital TV exchange boxes) but what I do know is that they look fab. The reference to a famous donkey – Jimmy – whose memorial is in the park is brilliant. This kind of expression of art is normal in so many UK cities and in very recent years, Peterborough has started on its catch-up journey. It’s good to see we’re slowly chipping away at some of our parochial barriers that for so long have stunted the creativity and character of our residents instead of showcasing it. More please. MY WORD OF THE MONTH: ATTICA The sign to this short-lived nightclub is still displayed above its Broadway entrance in the city centre. This is usually the part where I reel off a bunch of amusing words associated with Attica. But I can’t, I only went once. Not because I didn’t like it, just because I can’t remember it being open that long. If anyone reading this has its story and photos please ping them my way. CIAOS OUT

  • Dave’s Boat Tours LTD – roll on June!

  • Sharon – when’s our next walk?

  • Jo – it’s been emotional

  • Hamza – time to get it printed!

  • John – thanks for the Cat N talk

  • Butch – coffee?

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