Coventry’s exciting events programme, should it land UK City of Culture in 2021, would see 21 streets across the city given the opportunity to shape and showcase City of Culture right on their doorstep.
The city’s initial bid document for the prize is now being judged by a panel of experts and, while the programme remains largely under wraps, the team has revealed some of the distinctive ideas that they hope will help to clinch the title.
With over 200 projects submitted so far, alongside workshops with people from all over the city, the team behind Coventry’s bid is looking to put together the most ambitious programme yet that could only happen in the city.
One element of the programme, should the bid be successful, would see the celebrations take to the streets as part of Coventry’s first ever Streets of Cultures celebration – an opportunity for communities to take the spotlight and take part in City of Culture right outside their own door.
From Wainbody to Wood End, a city-wide celebration would see 21 streets given the means to explore what City of Culture could look like to them. It could be anything from front gardens landscaped by an artist to a documentary film about their road or it could include a food festival, pavement poetry or a new street choir.
The project has been devised to create lasting relationships between neighbours and communities, decreasing isolation and increasing pride.
Another innovative programme idea that has been submitted as part of the bid is a weeklong Shop Front Festival which would take over shops in the city centre with dance, lighting, music, visual art and performance from Coventry, the UK, Europe and the USA.
The former Fishy Moores ‘chippy’ in the city is home to the first ever Shop Front Theatre and in 2018 it will help stage a pilot Shop Front Festival, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Artists Julia Negus, Chris O’Connell and others are now working with the Business Improvement District to look at how they could make the city the festival in 2021.
The team behind the bid has also revealed its idea to create the Coventry Ring Road poem – the first 2.2 mile poem that can only be experienced in full by travelling around the ring road.
On top of that, local arts company Motionhouse Dance, who are performing in Aarhus European Capital of Culture in September and wowed audiences at the Coventry Godiva Festival 2016 with their gravity-defying diggers, will create a large-scale dance spectacle on the roof of a Coventry car park.
Programme Coordinator Emma Harrabin said: “Although we are able to release some of the exciting ideas that are coming out of the city we are in a competition so must keep most of our cards close to our chest.
“We are still open to new ideas and our work in the community will continue right up to the submission of a final bid document in the hope we are shortlisted in June.
“Although we will only be able to include 30-40 ideas in the document itself we expect the year itself to consist of over 1,000 events so this is just the beginning.
“We have been blown away by the ambition and creativity that has come out of the city already and are excited to see how the programme continues to progress.”
Laura McMillan, manager of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, added: “Coventry is a city of reinvention that has been moving people by cycle, car and jet engine for centuries and is now moving people through culture.
“Our programme will celebrate the diversity of our city, shining a light on the contribution of our communities and young people to Coventry. Coventry’s City of Culture year will bring surprise, spectacle and wonder and will create memorable moments that could only happen here.”
Young dancer and choreographer Louis Lewinson, a member of the Trust’s Executive Group, said: “Opportunities like this don’t usually happen for people like me, I want to bring the City of Culture messages to where I live and make sure that everybody feels like this bid is for them.
“People need to see that their voice is important and should be heard, be that on social media, at workshops and events or in their own communities on the streets.”
Coventry City Council, The University of Warwick, and Coventry University are Principal Partners of the bid and are providing significant support. The Ricoh Arena is Bid Sponsor while Jaguar Land Rover, Adient, Friargate, Coventry Building Society, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Airport, PET-Xi, SCC, Pertemps, and CEF (City Electrical Factors) are also Bid Development Sponsors.
Shop Front Festival has been supported by a grant from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.