The Moment: forging connections across communities

When COVID-19 hit and lockdown happened, it affected us all. But there was one thing we at The Moment knew we did not want to do: stop. So, we kept going, publishing daily and weekly bulletins of news and community information, as well as producing a full (virtual) June issue. This was not to be a usual issue by any means – there were no venues open, no shows, no shops, no days out. So why did we do it? Here, Moment editor Toby Venables explains why we do what we do, how it forges and maintains vital connections in Peterborough’s communities and how – through crowdfunding – you can now get directly involved, helping us to do better for this city.

Let me start with some bold statements. How we feel about our city really matters. The image we project out into the wider world through the words and pictures we choose and the stories we tell has profound implications – to the way the world sees us, but also how we see ourselves – even to our wellbeing. When confidence falters, everything does.

For ten years we have worked tirelessly to foster a shared sense of ownership and community, to help create a better Peterborough for all. We do this largely through stories. Stories may seem fragile, even trivial things, but they’re quite the opposite. Culture, arts and heritage are the sectors that really bring communities together and create a sense of worth – but they are also notoriously difficult to monetise, which is why we have always passionately supported them. They face huge challenges in 2020 – but right now we need them, and they need us, more than ever. The fact is, if we don’t do what we do, no one will. And that’s why we need your help.

The Moment has doggedly supported these sectors for over a decade now, doing what we can to enrich the city’s culture and boost its profile. Unfortunately, we don’t stand to benefit from cultural funding – or any other funding – but we’re taking things in hand and opening up The Moment to crowdfunding. Take a look, and if you want to join us, please do!

From the very start, our mission was clear. We wanted to improve the standard of publishing in the city, raising it to a level that matched the real aspirations and expectations of Peterborough's communities. National mainstream media isn’t (for the most part) telling bigger, more compelling stories than local media because it’s better, or wealthier, or has more talented writers, designers and photographers. It does so because most local media just doesn’t think it justifies the effort. From a resource point of view, that makes sense. Local media has far fewer to draw on than the big titles. But what does this say to your readership? “You’re not worth it. This isn’t London. If you want the good stuff, go to the nationals...” Accepting scraps, acknowledging that we’re second best, just making do... That was precisely what we set out not to do. We were determined to be different.

Making a real difference, and doing right by Peterborough, meant that we were not content merely to entertain nor to reflect the city as it is. We have striven to become an active part of the culture of the city – a force for positive change. To that end, we have also invested heavily over the years – not just in terms of money, but in terms of our time and personal commitment. Ultimately, it’s about an attitude to the magazine as a whole, to the city – and to our readers. Peterborough is worth it. You are worth it.

Perhaps more important is the fact that we also look beyond the city and regional boundaries. We are reaching out to people – and for many businesses, tourists or others considering studying, living or working here, we may well be the first point of contact. Being instrumental in forming first impressions of Peterborough and its surroundings make it all the more critical that we present the city and its culture positively and with the confidence it deserves – and we take that responsibility seriously. It’s part of our mission.

This, we believe, is the foundation not only of a great city, but a structure that gives it the ability to grow greater and keep growing – helping young people achieve excellence in school and outside, encouraging new talent within the city and surrounding area, giving existing talent good reasons to stay and enticing other talented individuals, organisations or companies to the area. This is a feedback loop that can bring about real prosperity and significantly increase the city’s quality of life.

Put simply, any lack of aspiration can and will do serious damage to the cultural life of Peterborough and limit, not increase, its social and economic potential. It will also limit the potential for change and serve only to strengthen the divisions between different communities, whether those differences be social, economic or ethnic – this, at a time when so many are working to bring communities closer together.

Some time ago, long before COVID-19, we had a phone call. Our publisher and founder, Mark Wilson, answered, only to have the caller immediately hang up. He called the number back and got talking. The caller had lived in Peterborough all her life. A survivor of an abusive relationship, she was now the single mother of an eight-year-old daughter and suffered from acute anxiety and depression. The reason she had phoned was simply to say thank you – but she had lost confidence at the last moment. Until recently, she said, she had rarely ventured out in Peterborough, preferring to go to Cambridge or Leicester. She had originally picked up The Moment magazine in Queensgate shopping centre and it inspired her to join a gym. Exercise had kept her motivated. Nevertheless, making the phone call was a big deal for her. Had Mark not happened to call back we may never have known her story. After the call, she wrote to us. This is what she said:

"The Moment magazine is colourful and full of light: positive! Because of the magazine I now go into the city centre and Cathedral Square. I've not been there since I was a young girl, because I was scared about crime. The local news makes me scared to go out. I even took my daughter for a walk along the river embankment and couldn't believe just how beautiful it was: just like the pictures in your magazine and how the magazine describes. No other magazine makes me feel that way about my own city. It makes me feel comfortable and safe in my own city.

"It represents Peterborough as it really is: a really diverse and positive place. It encourages me to get out and about. All positives and no negatives. I only see grey and bland coverage elsewhere. Your magazine shines a very positive light on the city rather than the doom and gloom of others. It is a total contrast to the negative perception that so many people have of Peterborough. The city should be using The Moment to promote Peterborough nationally. I read the magazine to find out what is going on, and it’s all I need. I now have the confidence to go out, and the magazine keeps me motivated, just like my exercise."

To say we were bowled over by this is an understatement – but it confirmed, in just one message, that everything we were doing was worthwhile, and that it could continue to be. That it could, perhaps, do even more.

Now we are presenting a new way for people to get involved, and to help with this process. We are opening up the possibilities for those who wish to support us to do so directly via crowdfunding. Large or small, businesses or individuals, it doesn’t matter – if we can work together, everyone stands to benefit. 

For your donation, and for your perspective on our work, we give our heartfelt thanks.

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Mark Wilson 
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Orton Southgate, East of England, United Kingdom
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