Coventry gets down to street level for culture year
Coventry’s year as City of Culture, running from May 2021 to May 2022, opens two days before lockdown can be eased on its theatres and museums.
The opening event on May 15 is to be Country Moves, a city-wide epic that will last the whole day and involve local residents as well as professionals with an emphasis on youth in the multi-disciplinary production directed by Justine Themen, co-director of the local Belgrade Theatre.
“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” said Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry UK City of Culture. “Locally driven, socially resonant and globally connected. Tune in, take part, and when you can come and visit.”
The whole city is being encouraged to get involved, with 5,000 “city hosts” being recruited to meet and greet at events through the year, and 160 local small businesses have contributed £1.5m to the arts budget.
Coventry’s £30m programme as the UK’s City of Culture will make a feature of its streets and buildings, and the people who live and work in them. Local and international artists are being invited to create art for shop windows in the city centre for The Show Windows; In Paint We Trust will be a street art festival with new artworks and lighting transforming the city centre; CVX is a three day music festival curated by Coventry’s young people, and Terry Hall presents Home Sessions by the lead singer of Coventry’s band The Specials will bring together local legends of music and art with contemporary innovators; local communities will be involved in a musical, The Allesley Silas, based on the novel Silas Marner by Coventry-born George Eliot.
Looking beyond Coventry and the UK, Youthful Cities, created in partnership with the British Council, will link Coventry's young artists with those in Beirut, Bogota, Detroit and Nairobi
The arts programme will be augmented by capital developments in the city centre, including the £82m refurbishment of the railway station scheduled to be complete by May 15, the former Coventry Evening Telegraph building becoming a hotel and the former Ikea store, bought by the city council, reopening as a national collections centre museums and galleries storage and display resource providing a home for the Arts Council Collection.
As well as Arts Council England, the BBC has announced a commitment to the year of culture with events on television, radio and online. Antiques Roadshow is to come from nearby Kenilworth, the BBC’s annual festival of poetry and the spoken world Contains Strong Language swill come from the city, there will be a biographical documentary about the Coventry composer Delia Derbyshire, creator of the Dr Who theme, and the BBC radio station CWR and Midlands Today will broadcast daily through the year. The Turner Prize and Booker Award for novel writing will both come from Coventry.
Warwick Arts Centre is to have a full programme of music, visual arts and theatre from May to May supported by the Coventry City of Culture Trust, including an exhibition inspired by Eliot’s novel Middlemarch.
And Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre will be at the centre of much of the activity with a programme that will include a showcase of young diverse voices in a unique version of Like There’s No Tomorrow, a National Theatre Connections play that gives voice to young people’s climate concerns, a festival new plays presented by Paines Plough, and four new plays.
‘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” said the City Council’s leader George Duggins. “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."