The Coventry Society’s first Heritage Conference took place on Saturday 19th October 2019 at the Old Grammar School in Bishop Street. It was attended by representatives of more than twenty Coventry historical, preservation, amenity and local interest groups and organisations.
Coventry Society Chairman, Paul Maddocks, welcomed Councilor Jim O’Boyle, City Council Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration who gave the Keynote Address, “New City Old Faces”, describing how many of our much-loved City Centre buildings and facades have been saved by creatively re-purposing them to be fit for the requirements of the twenty first century.
Next Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust, gave an overview of the future of Coventry Buildings in the care of the Trust. He explained that the trust began with The Charterhouse and had expanded to include a number of other historic buildings in the City. He informed the conference that all of the buildings in the care of the Trust must be self-sustaining with any income that they generated needing to be enough to cover staff salary and maintenance etc. His presentation included an insight into plans and work being carried out to enhance and bring back into use many of our historic buildings and environments.
Cheneine Bhathena, Creative Director of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, was the last speaker before lunch and her presentation was entitled “The Role of Heritage in the City of Culture”. She introduced the theme, City of Spires, City of Industry, City of Dreams. She pointed out that 40 million people live within a two hour drive of Coventry and the aim was to inform people form all over the country, and the World, about the identity of the City and its people.
After Lunch, Paul Maddocks talked about the role and some of the history of The Coventry Society as we approach our fiftieth anniversary. He explained that the Society is not only about the preservation of historic buildings but is also very much involved in trying to influence the quality of planning within the City and stimulating public interest in the built environment.
The day concluded with a range of presentations from some of the local groups and individuals involved in heritage work. Victor Riley of the famous Coventry Car manufacturer talked about the importance of establishing a Coventry Motor archive as he feared much material of historical interest could be discarded into skips.
Gabrielle Edmonds-Baker of the Stoney Road Gardens Project showed just how much work, and money, is needed to conserve a unique collection of buildings on a historical allotment in the heart of Coventry.
Other equally fascinating and informative presentations were given by representatives from The Willenhall History Group Photography Project, The Medieval Coventry Project, Coventry Archives, St John’s and the Allesley Park Walled Garden.
Commenting on the Conference, Paul Maddocks said that he felt that by bringing together such a number and range of groups, the Coventry Society was able to provide a conduit for shared knowledge, experience and support and he is looking forward to future similar events.