I like to compare the artists of Peterborough to a special breed of hothouse flowers: with some TLC and the right environment, the results are original, even exotic. A small city like ours gives the creative community room to grow, instead of withering in a never-ending competition for limited resources. What makes us mighty is the diversity of artist-generated, grassroots incubators, and resources that are available just around the corner and for next to nothing. This is the first in a series highlighting where you can encounter some of Peterborough’s rare species.
Mysterious Entity’s Artistic Director Em Glasspool is a seasoned theatre professional who MCs a monthly playwriting show-and-tell, Script Club. Local pro actors perform cold readings of scripts in development. Anything goes, from traditional to experimental. Then everyone, including the audience, is invited to give constructive feedback on the work.
It’s a wonderful way to discover new work, and to learn about the writing process up close and personal. Some scripts, like Simon Turner-Semchuk’s When I Sorrow Most and Quinn McGlade-Ferentzy’s Sinking’s Better Than Standing Still, have gone on to be full-fledged productions mounted at The Theatre on King. To quote Glasspool, “First rule of Script Club: be there. Second rule of Script Club: always talk about Script Club.”
The Darkroom Project
The Roy Studio on Hunter Street houses Canada’s longest continuously operating darkroom, since 1856. You might think film photography is a thing of the past, but The Darkroom Project has revived the subtle craft of the analog photo.
A nonprofit that grew out of Gallery in the Attic, the Darkroom Project provides members with all the paper, developing trays, lights, enlargers, and chemicals you need, and fellow enthusiasts will get you up to speed at monthly Newbie Nights, so you can boldly go where Instagram filters cannot. Members can show their work in the Gallery, which also hosts unique music and cultural events in the historic space.
Tucked away in Charlotte Mews, Curated is a charming example of the new retail: post-consumer and community-minded. Owner Melinda Richter has a keen eye for handmade or vintage curios, tchotchkes, wearables, books, zines, and artwork, and offers professional appraisals if you’re looking to declutter.
Along with workshops on collage, knitting, electronic songwriting, or jewellry making, she also hosts quirky, family-friendly events like her Listening Party series, where the audience brings their own headphones, “slippers, and your favourite blanket,” while guest DJs spin the tunes. Also not be missed is the Show and Tell Poetry series, which would do the Beat Generation proud – finger snapping optional. You can also find some of her wares on Etsy if you don’t want to leave the house.
Under the umbrella of Fat Plant Assembly, Richter along with co-organiser Bennett Bedoukian also books experimental, avant-garde, and improvised music into the Spill and Garnet.
The Sadleir House Library
All libraries are not created equal. Hunkered down in the Trent University student owned and operated Sadleir House is the idiosyncratic Sadleir House Library. Special collections housed within the library are:
- the beloved DVD collection of the now defunct Have You Seen… movie rental store;
- a formidable political science and social justice Alternative Resource Library, combining the resources of OPIRG Peterborough, the Trent Queer Collective, and the Centre for Gender & Social Justice;
- a tasty little poetry section (including issues of the legendary literary gem The Peterborough Review);
- the theatre production how-to library of the Theatre Trent Collection;
- and the collection of the Centre for Pixel Culture, which studies video games as cultural texts.
You can search the catalogue online (which includes the Artspace library), or drop in to browse the collections. When the Peterborough Public Library just won’t do, the Sadleir House Library has your back.
Peterborough Academy of Circus Arts
Trained at the Montreal-based National Circus School, and a member of the fire-spinning PyroFlys, Thomas Vaccaro is a founder and Creative Director of the Peterborough Academy of Circus Arts (PACA).
In addition to Cirque du Soleil-inspired multimedia performances at Market Hall, PACA offers workshops, social circus youth camps, and free-form recreational sessions called circus jams in techniques like Cyr wheel (a giant hula hoop that turns you into a human gyroscope), aerial silks, acrobatics, or how to juggle poi (spinning weights). If you’ve always wanted to run away to the circus, you don’t have to go far.
Script Club photo by Elizabeth Fennell. Peterborough Academy of Circus Arts courtesy PACA. All other photos by Ann Jaeger.