From the end of lockdown to the return of major events, Coventry 2021 sets out how it will pace and scale its programme in the coming months

Coventry Moves, on 15 May, will be experienced as a collective moment in Coventry and around the UK, kick-starting a cultural movement as restrictions lessen 

Coventry is ready to welcome visitors, as prospect of city breaks and day trips return

Today, Tuesday 2 March 2021, Coventry UK City of Culture Trust shares an update on preparations for its year of culture, which starts on 15 May 2021 and runs for 12 months.

While the country continues to face major challenges, Coventry City of Culture Trust and its partners have announced further details of the programme as the UK moves toward a phased road to recovery.

Coventry has always been a symbol of rebirth. Of movement. Of hope. It is the city that rose from the ashes of the Second World War, a city that rallied through music when others were divided. This year, of all years, it will summon that same spirit and encourage audiences to celebrate the city, its residents and its place on the global stage.

As the first major cultural programme of its scale, breadth and length to commence since the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020, it will start under restricted conditions and phase its events as the loosening of restrictions in the UK takes place.

An opening, epic, city-wide moment, Coventry Moves, heralds the start of the year on 15 May. An audacious day full of extraordinary surprises, it will be experienced in the city and around the UK from home, from dawn to dusk. Coventry Moves will provide a playful and engaging introduction to Coventry, its stories and its people. The creative team behind Coventry Moves are Justine Themen, Director; Ruby Pugh, Designer; Mydd Pharo, Wildworks, Visual Dramaturg; Jenni Jackson, Movement Director; Benjamin Burrell, Music Director; Dan Jones and Composer (Collective Moment). The team also includes five Creative Associates – Hannah Beck, Sebbie Mudhai, Marius Mates, Sibongile Mkoba and Hazel Mcintosh – who were originally involved in the Young Creatives Programme and will be mentored throughout the delivery process.

As restrictions ease, a Summer of Surprises will allow citizens, and visitors once restrictions ease, to enjoy events, experiences and culture once again.

In today’s announcement the Trust, and partners involved, reaffirmed their commitment to delivering on their promise. To build and deliver a wide ranging, innovative and entertaining year-long programme and secure a longer term legacy by transforming the city and supporting its diverse cultural sector to thrive. Coventry UK City of Culture will present new perspectives by giving voice to those seldom heard, encouraging action and engaging with new and innovative technologies.

All events are being planned in a flexible and responsive way, to allow them to be presented throughout 2021-22 in line with the guidelines at the time they take place.

Coventry City of Culture Trust reaffirmed its commitment to present several major and ambitious undertakings, previously announced last year. These include Terry Hall presents Home Sessions (July 2021), curated by the lead singer of the iconic Coventry band The Specials, in a weekend of music and arts that blends international legends with contemporary pioneers. Along with CVX, a radical three-day arts activism festival curated by young people in the city with Positive Youth Foundation and the rapper JAY1 (Aug 2021), these will be some of the first music festivals presented in the UK under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The Walk (27 October) will see a 3.5-metre-tall puppet of a young refugee called Little Amal voyage 8,000km from the Syria/Turkey border, across Europe and into the UK. Previously due to arrive in Coventry during summer, Little Amal will now arrive in Coventry in October. It is a poignant and symbolic moment in The Walk, as Little Amal is welcomed into Coventry – a city of sanctuary and a city of welcome – by a participatory event designed with and for the local community. The Walk is a Good Chance Theatre Production (UK) in association with Handspring Puppet Company, Cape Town (South Africa). Produced and presented in Coventry by Coventry City of Culture Trust.

Coventry UK City of Culture 2021’s Principal Partners are Coventry City Council, West Midlands Combined Authority, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Spirit of 2012, Warwickshire County Council, The University of Warwick, Coventry University.

CITY ACTION AND A NATIONWIDE INVITATION 

The BBC is set to shine a spotlight on Coventry throughout the year and is bringing big events to the city, as well as delivering fantastic new content across TV, radio and online that reflects Coventry’s history, heritage and creativity.

BBC programming begins in March with the hugely popular The Antiques Roadshow at Kenilworth Castle; followed by a range of new BBC Arts programmes including a film looking at the life and work of Delia Derbyshire, a Coventry-born composer who helped create the famous Doctor Who theme music and who was a pioneer of electronic music.

In September, the BBC Arts annual poetry and spoken word festival Contains Strong Language – a partnership between the BBC, Coventry City of Culture Trust, Writing West Midlands, Nine Arches Press and a special collaboration with young voices from Beirut (Lebanon) – heads to the city for the biggest celebration of poetry ever seen in the region.

BBC CWR and Midlands Today will be at the centre of the celebrations, bringing special programmes and events straight into people’s homes throughout the year – telling the story of the people of Coventry and uncovering what makes and shapes the city.

As activity in the city has been ramping up, audiences around the UK will get their first experience of the City of Culture through a major creative partnership with the BBC for its opening event, Coventry Moves, as well as live streaming and other initiatives. Though details of this unique day will remain a closely-guarded secret, the project will, through TV, radio and online activations, bringing Coventry Moves to homes across the Midlands, the UK and the world. The day-long event will tell the story of Coventry’s pioneering identity; how its history, youthfulness and resilience continues to shape its future and give voice to the many people that call the city their home.

 Throughout the summer, events will take place across the city that explore the stories and heritages of the people who call Coventry home. As the city reopens following the easing of restrictions, there will be a variety on offer for day trippers and city breakers to enjoy. Cementing Coventry as the number one city visit destination for 2021 / 22

Following the citywide opening, the programme will kick-off with a Summer of Surprises Highlights will include:

  • The way people interact with city centres is adapting. The Show Windows introduces audiences to Coventry’s post-war precincts and other areas of the city-centre (from May 2021). The curated shop window project is a partnership with Coventry Business Improvement District with curator, Charlie Levine, and RIBA. Local, national and international artists and architects will create artworks for shop windows, alongside the loan of artworks from national art and craft collections including Crafts Council.
  • In Paint We Trust (from May 2021), a citywide street art festival, will feature local, regional and national street artists, with 20 extraordinary new artworks transforming vertical and horizontal spaces across the city centre. Delivered in partnership with Coventry Business Improvement District and led by Coventry organisation Street Art Strategy, it features globally renowned artists from Coventry, Bogota and across the world.
  • Several events embrace and celebrate the people who have made the UK’s city of sanctuary their home. Coventry Welcomes (14 – 20 June 2021) will present a week-long programme of music, dance, drama, food, literature, poetry, workshops, storytelling and more to mark national Refugee Week. It is being created with Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, Counterpoint Arts, the Belgrade Theatre, and over 20 community partners. Can You Hear Me Now? (June 2021) will be a new outdoor production by Stand and Be Counted, the UK’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary, who will launch this new show created with people seeking sanctuary in Coventry – locally connected, globally relevant.
  • Nest Residencies will mark the opening of the Daimler Powerhouse this summer (August 2021), a new creative hub for the start of City of Culture located in a former car factory in the UK’s ‘Motown’. The residencies, created with Talking Birds, provide time, space and conversations with other artists, and are designed to allow creatives to think, experiment and take a punt on one of those ‘What if…?’ ideas. The residencies will result in a series of commissions across the year.
  • Performances and festivals from the region’s best artists and creative communities will bring to life the streets and parks of Coventry. Music festival Sound Systems (October 2021) will celebrate Coventry’s sound systems culture, rooted in reggae and West Indian sounds and connected to its twin town of Kingston (Jamaica), with heats taking place over the summer. Local student, hospital and community radio will also be celebrated in Coventry Radio Takeover (August 2021) in partnership with BBC CWR and Voluntary Arts
  • The Allesley Silas (July 2021) is a new, site specific largescale outdoor musical theatre production by From the Heart Theatre. Based on George Eliot’s Silas Marner, adapted by Coventry Playwright Alan Pollock and directed by Nick Walker, it will be created alongside local communities.

Later in the year:

  • Broken Angel (from Autumn 2021) is a series of specially commissioned artworks which will reimagine a broken pane from Coventry Cathedral’s John Hutton West Screen window. The original window was smashed in an act of vandalism in early 2020. The new interpretations of the ‘The Angel with the Eternal Gospel’ will be created by leading contemporary artists working alongside community groups to explore themes of brokenness and reconstruction.
  • Providing collaborations between Coventry’s creative communities, Random String Festival (November 2021), is a two-week digital arts festival in partnership with artists locally and nationally to create a series of workshops, events and installations with a focus on the Coventry Canal. The festival will be headlined by Bishi, a singer, electronic rock-sitarist and performance artist. It is curated by Coventry digital arts collective Ludic Rooms and supported by the Canal & River Trust and National Lottery Project Grant from Arts Council England.

Nationally acclaimed cultural institutions, the Belgrade Theatre and Warwick Arts Centre, prepare to reopen their doors, today revealing key programme for the opening months of the year of culture.

A year-long season at Warwick Arts Centre opens in May 2021 with a programme of music, visual art, theatre and more supported by Coventry City of Culture Trust. A new stage adaptation based on Christie Watson’s best-selling memoir and Sunday Times Book of Year, The Language of Kindness (20-23 May 2021), will present an ensemble-style piece of dance-theatre and real stories in homage to nurses and frontline health-workers. Later in the summer, a community visual art project will commence to contribute to Middlemarch: The Other Side of Silence an exhibition inspired by George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch and the lives of women living in Coventry today at the Mead Gallery (7 May – 17 June 2022). The project is led by Dawinder Bansal, an artist whose work celebrates the ‘hidden’ lives and ‘unhistoric acts’ of communities.

Coventry City of Culture Trust is supporting the Belgrade Theatre, the first all-new, permanent professional theatre to be built in the UK after the World War II and a pioneer of the ‘Theatre in Education’ movement, to expand their civic role in the city. Their programme will include a showcase of young diverse voices in a unique version of Like There’s No Tomorrow (May-June 2021), a National Theatre Connections play that gives voice to young people’s climate concerns presented by Belgrade Youth Theatre. Paines Plough’s Roundabout auditorium will present a festival of new world-class plays and community-led activities in the world’s first plug-in, pop-up and play theatre (July – August 2021). The four new plays that will be played in repertory throughout the festival are Hungry by Chris Bush, Really Big and Really Loud by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, May Queen by Frankie Meredith and Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba, with music by Ben and Max Ringham.

COV & THE WORLD

As the birthplace of the post-war twinned city movement, Coventry is no stranger to international exchange and partnership. With the British Council, Positive Youth Foundation and Coventry City Council, Coventry UK City of Culture Trust today announced Youthful Cities, a major international programme of activity that places young citizens, and a youthful mind-set, at the heart of its year of celebrations in 2021. The programme will develop links between civic and cultural organisations in Coventry (UK), Beirut (Lebanon), Bogota (Colombia), Detroit (USA) and Nairobi (Kenya). These international collaborations will see young citizens explore the big issues and challenges in their cities.  Through art, music, poetry, and digital storytelling this international exchange of ideas, activism and innovation will see young people engaging with their cities as they seek to make positive change happen for their and their family’s futures.

An additional partnership will see the British Council bring its Prototype City initiative to Coventry. This international architecture exchange programme will address global urban challenges, including Coventry’s unique urban context, as teams from São Paolo (Brazil), Cairo (Egypt) and Aarhus (Denmark) work with UK architects to assess and propose new ideas for the city.

A series of British Council International Changemakers Bursaries will support the development of partnerships between cultural practitioners in Coventry and their international counterparts, to inspire bold and creative ideas for international digital collaboration.

From June, UK City of Culture will work with The Booker Prize Foundation to bring the world’s leading book prizes to the city. Highlighting the international symbolism and message of Coventry, the virtual announcement of the 2021 International Booker Prize winner will come from city for the first time, a prize awarded annually for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. Following the announcement, the Coventry Big Booker Read will bring readers together to read the winning book and host the shortlisted author event for the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction later in the year.

In the Summer, UK City of Culture will embark on the School of Participation, a new pan-European project with the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. It will bring artists and creative practitioners from Coventry (UK), Graz, (Austria), Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Kaunas (Lithuania), Nov Sad (Serbia) together in a festival.

Given our ever-changing global context, and the growing move towards digital engagement, these projects will continue to evolve the city’s spirit of internationalism when travel is increasingly restricted. Full details of the participants and projects will be announced at a later date.

COVENTRY’S READY WHEN YOU ARE

Coventry City of Culture Trust and partners today updated on progress towards transforming the city centre to welcome visitors from across the UK, as the prospect of day trips and city breaks returns.

Coventry City Council revealed the dramatic ways in which the city has been preparing to welcome visitors. Coventry has always been bold and ambitious in moments of great change. After WW2, internationally renowned architect Donald Gibson was appointed to create the masterplan for the city, and in a similar spirit, renowned artists are now being engaged to reimagine the changing face of the city centre. Once again, creativity will play a vital role in the city’s renewal, and is at the heart of Coventry’s public realm improvements and capital infrastructure projects.

For the first time, an in-house Public Arts Curator has been embedded within the City Council-led Regeneration Programme ensuring that artists are truly embedded in the infrastructure programme. From the Railway Station landscape to city centre lighting, street furniture and a children’s playground – artists will weave their magic across the city through artworks, installations and commissions to enhance the daytime and night-time economy. Commissioned by Coventry City Council and led by Creative Giants, The council are using a blend of local, national and international artists and design studios including Angry Dan, Baker & Borowski, Carrie Reichardt, Charis Esther & Luisa Freitas, Christopher Tipping, Creative Giants, Harpreet Dawett (HKD Media), Julia Snowdin, Kim Hackleman, Matt Chu, Michael Batchelor, Morag Myerscough, Studio Morison and Zoë Power.

Coventry City Council have also set out the major capital projects underway, including a £5.6m transformation of Coventry’s St Mary’s Guildhall; a regeneration project that will see the Grade II* listed Drapers’ Hall brought back into regular use as a centre for music performance and education through a partnership between Historic Coventry, The Princes Foundation and Coventry Music; and a host of developments and improvements to Coventry Cathedral.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP, said:
‘Coventry UK City of Culture is shaping up to be truly spectacular. The festival will catapult this fantastic city onto the world stage and offers a fantastic chance to bring people together both in the city and across the UK through innovative events and installations. I look forward to witnessing it first hand as we build back better from the impact of the pandemic.’

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry UK City of Culture, said:
‘Coventry was once the capital of England, and this year we’re the city of culture. After the year our citizens and communities around the world have had, our people-powered programme is a much-needed celebration and show of hope for the future. Locally driven, socially resonant and globally connected. Tune in, take part, and when you can come and visit.’

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said:
‘We’re excited and proud for Coventry to have its year in the spotlight with a programme peppered with moments which are both spectacular and meaningful – not only for the local community, but for the national stage.’

Councillor George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council, said:
Four years ago we were awarded the title of UK City of Culture 2021, and that exciting programme of events is due to start in the spring.
We have all been through a very difficult time, but as you look around the city and see the transformations including new features and art and the plans beginning to take shape, you can feel the anticipation growing. Coventry is a wonderful vibrant city with a fascinating past and a brilliant future and we can’t wait to open our doors to the rest of the UK and share the exciting events announced today and so much more. This is a year Coventry has been waiting for and we are ready.’

Skinder Hundal, Director of Arts, British Council, said:
‘As the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations, the British Council is delighted to be an International Partner for Coventry City of Culture. Coventry’s cultural programme echoes our own mission, supporting existing international connections and helping broker new relationships between the people of Coventry and people from wider locations across the world using arts and culture. We look forward to working with the wider city to ensure a lasting international legacy and enduring relationships beyond 2021.’

Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands and East, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
‘We are pleased to have awarded Coventry City of Culture £3 million for their Green Futures Project. Part of this award will enable a special opening ceremony to a ‘summer of surprises’ to mark the start of this special year for the city. The National Lottery Heritage Fund has made a number of significant investments in Coventry in 2021 and we are proud of the innovative ways that the Coventry City of Culture team has responded to the challenges they have faced in recent months’.

Article courtesy of Coventry UK City of Culture Trust

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