Coventry shares the love after taking the helm as City of Culture
When the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport named Coventry as 2021’s City of Culture, it proved it believed in the West Midlands city. And thanks to National Lottery funding, Coventry is now sharing all the amazing things about the city that they already knew and wanted others to see.
The UK City of Culture title is so much more than just a badge of honour. Previous winners –Derry/Londonderry in 2013 and Hull in 2017 – have enjoyed major economic boosts after holding the title, thanks to an increase in local investment and tourism.
But for the people of Coventry, there’s more at stake than the bottom line. As it bid for the honour – eventually beating off competition from the likes of Paisley, Stoke, Sunderland and Swansea to take the 2021 title – another aim of the Coventry City of Culture Trust was to galvanise the community into believing its own worth and to demonstrate the life-changing power of local culture.
As it named Coventry the winner of its quadrennial City of Culture competition, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) praised the city’s “diversity, youthfulness and the opportunities being so centrally located bring”, calling Coventry “a blueprint for how culture can be at the heart of social and economic recovery”. But is it proving as easy to convince the people of Coventry of the city’s numerous virtues?
That’s where the ‘Love Coventry’ project comes in. Launched by the Coventry City of Culture Trust and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, its aim is to bring the City of Culture status right to the doorsteps of locals across Coventry – and to shine a light on local stories in the process.
Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry City of Culture Trust, explains:
“Love Coventry events have taken place in all wards of the city, a partnership between our many different communities and artists, celebrating the creativity of our citizens and using the landscape of our city as our stage.”
The pandemic complicated many such efforts, forcing the start of Coventry’s official year as the City of Culture to shift from January to May 2021 to account for the lockdown and restrictions of early 2021 – and in order to make many of the Love Coventry events happen, thinking differently to circumnavigate the restrictions was necessary. The programme’s Window Wanderland took place between February and March 2021 and saw streets across Coventry and Warwickshire light up residential and business front windows with colourful artwork. Thanks to the tenacity of the Love Coventry initiative, the event was able to continue in a way that was Covid-safe and injected light, colour and community spirit into the difficult third lockdown. Window Wanderland proved to be such a hit, that it is returning again this year - not just in Coventry but also in parts of Warwickshire.
In an increasingly isolated and disconnected world, Love Coventry is bringing people together through a range of events and activities throughout the year, celebrating local talent and boosting spirits in the community. More than £1.7 million of National Lottery funding has gone towards projects such as the GENERATE Festival, which was held over five weekends in July and August last year. Supported by the Albany Theatre, the festival showcased diverse, talent from around Coventry and across Warwickshire, providing a platform for local arts groups to perform again in an inclusive, creative environment.
In an increasingly isolated and disconnected world, Love Coventry is bringing people together through a range of events and activities throughout the year, celebrating local talent and boosting spirits in the community
“Whilst holding the title of City of Culture during the pandemic has presented many challenges, it has also provided a much-needed boost for our communities, as we have been living through an unprecedented 18 months, with uncertainty, loss and hardship affecting many,” says Taiwo Owatemi, Labour MP for Coventry North West.
“The City of Culture has given people in Coventry the chance to come together and celebrate many of the things that make us proud of our city. We have been able to put on display the diversity and resilience of our communities in the ‘phoenix city’, as well as our rich cultural heritage and the huge talent possessed by many local people.
“We have showcased our city’s very own musicians, artists, writers and performers, as well as welcoming nationally and internationally renowned individuals and cultural events to Coventry for local people to enjoy.”
Labour’s MP for Coventry North East, Colleen Fletcher, added: “Winning City of Culture was a wonderful vindication of all the things I know and love about my city. I am delighted that our host year has given us the opportunity to celebrate our city’s cultural identity and showcase our cultural assets.
“We have shown the rest of the country and the entire world who we are and what we can do. We have seized the opportunities that being City of Culture brings to ensure the arts, creativity and culture bring our communities together and act as a catalyst to deliver a lasting social and economic legacy for current and future generations across the city.”
For 2022 the Love Coventry programme will continue to build on the work created with communities in the city including the return of Try It! sessions, which encourage local people to have a go at creative activities, while Radford Bubbles continues to provide a photographic snapshot of the Radford area of the city.
Love Coventry also features the Coventry x Volgograd digital table cloth, which sees the creation of a new tablecloth to build on the history of the two twin cities. The Digital Tablecloth will feature over 250 QR Codes printed onto the fabric. Each code will be assigned to a unique photo of either Coventry or Volgograd, which has been sent in by residents of the two cities through a community call out. Once completed, the giant tablecloth will be exhibited in Russia in March 2022, before embarking on a tour across various UK cities in April 2022.
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