Blog: Sarah & Millfield Triangle

A monthly blog from Katy Hawkins, Community Engagement Officer at Peterborough Presents. Looking at people and place, Katy will share some of our learning so far, writing about new friends and discoveries the PP team have made along the way.

Millfield Triangle & Sarah

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Peterborough Presents have known Sarah for awhile, but we got to know her properly when she got involved in one of our projects - the Women of Millfield - a film making course for women led by the brilliant feminist filmmaker Emily Steele. Taking place within Millfield, for local people.

Over the course of a 4 series of workshops, participants to the project were asked to make a film on a topic of their choice. We ran the workshops out of the Open Door Baptist church, in Millfield, led by Carol Knight - who works hard to make sure the church really is an open door to the community. And then finally - the opportunity to screen what we’d produced at the church, with an audience of 100+, it was a lovely night for all in attendance. You can read more about the project and watch an interview with Emily Steele here.

Sarah’s film focused on a recreation ground in Millfield - that contains an outside gym and children's play park - and The Lounge - an independent cafe/bar that overlooks the rec. This specific patch of Millfield - locally known as the Triangle -  being Sarah’s home.

In and around the Triangle area, Sarah is not only involved in this project but also - helping to plan the Millfield Festival (taking place on the same rec), the exciting stuff that has been going on at The New England project (facing on the rec) and is forever attending other creative sessions with organisations such as Learning for Wellbeing Peterborough hosted at the Alternative Education Curriculum building.

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I wanted to have a chat with Sarah about her relationship to the area, participating in the Women of Millfield, plus all the other creative initiatives she is involved in, and so we met at Carla coffee (a charismatic Portugese bar in Millfield) for a chat!

I asked Sarah about her relationship to the area, her neighbourhood….

Sarah describes, that having moved to the area 2+ years ago, it's been a slow (and rewarding) process of getting to know the place…pushing open door after door to see what lies behind - Portugese cafes, community centres, churches: and most importantly the people behind those doors.

Growing a relationship with her neighbourhood over time, she is now a regular at Carla’s and The Lounge, so much so that she doesn’t have to say her order anymore - they know what she’ll have: whether it's breakfast, or a soft drink on the way home in the evening - to soak up the lively atmosphere of Lincoln Road at all times of the day.

An appreciator of open Green space - and all the benefits it brings - Sarah has also been getting to know the recreation ground (featured in the film), now in tune with its flows and rhythms: 

  • The post-school bustle of children coming out to play

  • The daily field recliners, out reading books or looking at phones

And now she counts herself apart of a group of early risers who come out to use the gym equipment first thing, and the book-reading recliners. 

We spoke about what drew her to the Women of Millfield...

Sarah tells us she’s been in mental health recovery for awhile now (and is now doing well, after lots of hard work) - and throughout the arts and crafts have played a big role. She’s been involved in a number of courses and class including apolterasy hosted by Arts for wellbeing. 

The Women in Millfield for her was about getting involved in an arts project in her local community not explicitly about recovery or wellbeing; an opportunity to meet different people: and specifically, neighbours.

Sarah describes coming to the screening - with the two friends featured in the film (that she met through recovery), and how they could have never imagined, on meeting, that they would be involved in producing and starring in such a production!

Sarah’s film on the big screen during the premiere!

Sarah’s film on the big screen during the premiere!

What was Sarah’s film about?

The film documents Sarah meeting her friends one day in the Lounge on the Lincoln Road, and her suggesting that they spend the afternoon playing in the play park in the recreation ground.

Arriving at the childrens play park, Sarah gives her friends the task to play! The film shows them having an ace time climbing the apparatus - moving in ways you don’t in your everyday - laughing, exploring and being curious.

Exhausted, they then return for a milkshake at the Lounge!

The Importance of Play

Sarah describes that as the three of them near full recovery, and employment is back on the cards, the film is a reminder not get swept away with 9 - 5 work… and that play is a key component in a balanced healthy life! We can easily let play, and also being creative, slip down our to do list, seeing it as superfluous, when there are countless studies that tell of it’s importance...see here and here

It is important to take care of and give time all aspects of ourselves - physical, mental, spiritual and - as the film alerts us to pay attention to our child-like playful selves - (and a shoutout to our creative selves: from Louis Theroux: "If you stifle creativity you're only leading half a life" )

What else is Sarah up to?

Beyond this project Sarah is an active member of the Millfield Festival planning committee which takes place at the Recreation ground - co-produced by Peterborough Presents and the Millfield community including core members such as Rajni from Hindu Association and Saeed of Communities First.

The third year in a row, Sarah describes how the first year she attended as a bystander - observing and enjoying, the second as a volunteer and the by the third she is a key member of the planning committee.

Elsewhere Sarah is also very involved in the New England project - a former social club that had laid empty for years, now reclaimed (with the support of re:space) as a beautiful DIY community space - available for whatever the community need it to be: a meeting space, exhibition hall, or a space, as Sarah uses it, as a place to be creative alongside others, to paint quietly - and when ready, engage in some chatter...

What can we learn?

Sarah's story is one of small steps:

Of small steps towards

  • recovery, 

  • growing a relationship with your neighbourhood 

  • getting involved in community arts

Formula for success

Encouragement: 

Sarah talked of her Network of friends supporting and encouraging one another along the way to try new things, keep turning up.

Curiosity: 

it’s taken time - but through following her nose, allowing curiosity to guide, she’s developed a close, intimate and rich relationship with her neighbourhood

Small steps! 

Maybe the first time you attend something you don’t talk - just observe - see the lay of the land.

Sarah’s story is also about place - of the triangle - of how this small patch of Peterborough that contains so much. And with a little digging and you’ll probably find the same for where you live too…