GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE Coventry 2021 sets off early to take on Covid

Coventry’s year as City of Culture has unofficially sprung into action a year early to help the city deal with Covid-19.

The official programme is not due to start until next May, but with the first lockdown in March the Coventry City of Culture Trust committed £100,000 and went into partnership with local and national organisations to create a programme to help with issues of loneliness, homelessness and mental health..

The projects, many of them specially commissioned, have been devised to give long-term benefits to Coventry’s communities, exploring new ways of working for education, health and social care provision and helping local people stay engaged with arts and culture. There were 427 hours of activity through the period and participation with 59 individuals and community groups reaching over 19,000 individuals through online workshops, events and digital content created for social media.

“These commissions were created with, by and for the people of Coventry” said Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry City of Culture Trust, “and whether that has resulted in a stunning visual album by an emerging musician, or a quiet moment of reflection by a care home resident, we know from speaking to those who have participated what an impact this has had.”

The projects have included:

  • Creative Packs for which the trust work with Crisis, the Belgrade Theatre, Grapevine, Arty Folk and Underground Lights, an independent community theatre for those experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. To support health and wellbeing through creativity, a free Creative Pack containing art activities and materials was distributed to members of Underground Light’s creative programme who would otherwise be unable to participate due to lockdown restrictions. These packs were extended to families living in temporary accommodation, homeless people living in hotel rooms, young people at the YMCA and refugees and migrants through…
  • Carriers of Hope which included
  • Front Room Sessions with a “visual album” of original songs and visual art by 32 creatives from across the city, was commissioned in April and released during lockdown. The album was produced by a team of local musicians, artists and technicians who lost income due to the closure of grass roots venues. Commissioned in April by the Trust, and it is available to stream free on Spotify and YouTube.
  • During Loneliness Awareness Week, Poetry by Postcard was created to combat the isolation felt by people living and working in care homes. Staff and residents of two care homes in Sovereign House and Beechwood Gardens wrote poetry and prose in response to “hopeful visions of a new normal”. A poem, How the dance remembers you, was written specially for the project by Joelle Taylor.
  • The Unplugged Series, developed the Positive Youth Foundation and funded by Youth Music, was an eight-week programme for artists aged 13 to 25 to combat the impact of the pandemic on arts and youth provision in Coventry. Young people were mentored by professional artists and educators at online workshops to produce music, poetry, photography and visual art. The artwork responded to their experiences and reflected on how young people can use arts and culture to spread positive messages.
  •  Coronavirus Resilience Fund
    As well as the projects commissioned, Coventry City of Culture Trust partnered with Heart of England Community Foundation to create the Coventry 2021 Coronavirus Resilience Fund. The Trust invested £57,000 to support 95 organisations and individuals in the Coventry & Warwick

“This incredible and diverse range of projects show the imagination and creativity of our city in responding to the huge challenges of a global pandemic” said the trust’s chief executive, Martin Sutherland. “Working with civic, charity and arts organisations, while supporting hard-hit creative freelancers, we’ve been able to make a difference in very difficult circumstances and reach a huge number of people across the city.”

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