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This year some of the city’s best attractions are celebrating anniversaries, and always keen for a good party, The Cresset is no exception.

This community hub and theatre venue is set to celebrate its 40th birthday with a big free party on Sunday August 12 – and we’re all invited.

Back in the day when we were still in flares, wearing badges and sporting some dubious haircuts – 1978 saw the official opening of the Bretton site by HM The Queen on March 22.

The Queen attended with Prince Philip and toured the building meeting with staff, clients and volunteers before unveiling a commemorative plaque which you may well have clocked in The Cresset reception.

We’re always up for a ‘bit of a do’ at ESP so when we met up with Head of Commercial Activity Penny Hansen to find out what’s planned she had a glint in her eye and was clearly excited about celebrating this milestone.

“This is our chance to thank the community, remember why it was set up and to mark the fact it’s a unique community hub,” said Penny.

“What’s nice is that we’re still true to the ethos of what it was set up for. This party is an opportunity to thank everyone for all their support – that’s why it’s all free.

“A lot has changed – much for the better – so come along and let’s look forward to the next 40 years.”

There’s been a huge amount of investment recently – check out the fantastic refurb of The Fayre Spot pub for example – and now they’re working with the city council to acquire the freehold for the site which will give more opportunity for future investment into the building, facilities and community.

“We’re very excited about it,” says Penny. “This will give us much more control over our own destiny. With the freehold we can apply for more funding for projects and it’ll give us sustainability.”

When it was created The Cresset was a brand new concept and was designed to offer a community hub at the heart of what was Peterborough’s first new township. It was a joint venture between the Development Corporation, Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and nine voluntary organisations. The ambitious plans included a library, youth club, theatre, events venues, day care centres, sports facilities and a Church, as well as over 70 flats managed by the YMCA.

It’s incredible, but 40 years on many of these services are still in operation and The Cresset still remains true to its original community purpose. The commercial side of the business has developed out of necessity, with changes to funding opportunities in the 80s and 90s but it still offers space and facilities for the elderly, disabled, young people, and many charity and community groups throughout the local area.

The Cresset is completely self funding but in 2014 it merged with what is now YMCA Trinity Group, which has secured the future of the building and the organisation for the future and brought the considerable investment we’ve seen.

So – back to the party! On Sunday August 12 everybody’s welcome at a great afternoon of live entertainment and family fun from 12 noon – 5pm and all for free!

The day includes Goldhay Arts, music with a ukulele band, X Factor star and super talented local singer Nicole Lawrence, City Sounds Disco and Dave the Clown plus loads more family fun.

There’ll also be a charity book stall and tombola, free candy floss and popcorn, a caricature artist, a cash bar and hot food available so you can make a day of it.

As part of the Peterborough Celebrates campaign marking 900 years of the Cathedral, they’re hoping to serve up 900 cups of tea/coffee on the day so pop down, grab a cuppa and your free slice of birthday cake!

They’re keen to hear your stories from the last 40 years. Were you there on March 22 when The Queen visited? Did you attend events at The Cresset in the early days? Or maybe you worked at The Cresset or one of the partner organisations. Whatever your memories, get in touch via their Facebook page, or email


  1. 1973 – the Cresset company was founded, and plans began

  2. 1974 – Work begins on the site

  3. 1978 – Official Opening

  4. 1981 – The Beacon public House opened

  5. 1988 – The 10th anniversary celebrations welcome The Duke of Gloucester as guest of honour

  6. 1992 – A new development, including shop units and a three storey office block Haywood House, was added to the building

  7. 1993 – The Beacon closes and is replaced with The Fayre Spot, a much larger public house with street access, opened by Masterchef host Lloyd Grossman

  8. 1995 – The theatre is upgraded with the installation of tiered seating, allowing for increased entertainment programming

  9. 1996 – The first Christmas panto, The Wizard of Oz takes place

  10. 1997 – The purpose built Dance studio is opened, with National Lottery funding, in the space previously used as a snooker club!

  11. 1998 – The first Cresset comedy club takes place – and still runs today!

  12. 1999 – The Cresset function suites are licensed for civil wedding ceremonies

  13. 2001 – More refurbishment, as the new Milton Suite is officially opened by hypnotist Paul McKenna

  14. 2002 – Sainsburys new superstore opens, and the demolition of the old Bretton Centre begins, making way for the new ‘retail park’ style centre we see today

  15. 2003 – The Cresset celebrates 25 years, with a rebranded logo, and half a million invested into refurbishment

  16. 2004 – The Cresset receives Arts Council funding for a brand new play Roundabout which is produced by local creatives, and charts the history of Bretton, the first new township

  17. 2007 – Bretton Woods School closes its doors for the last time, The Cresset no longer playing host to their sports and community education activities

  18. 2011 – A rocky period for the theatre results in a change of business model and programming strategy as The Cresset works towards increased stability

  19. 2014 – The Cresset merges with the YMCA, ensuring a secure long term future for the building and the business

  20. 2017 – The busiest year yet for the theatre, as The Cresset plays host to over 150 live performances, including a record breaking panto!

  21. 2018 – More refurbishment as The Cresset invests £250,000 into a full remodelling of The Fayre Spot Bar & Restaurant

  22. 2018 – The Cresset celebrates 40 years at the heart of the community, and looks forward to the next 40!

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