Route Map to the City of Culture

The City of Culture Trust has announced its latest plan for the Year of Culture, which now starts on 15th and runs for 12 months.

The programme will start under Covid restrictions and will expand as restrictions are lifted later in the year.

The opening event is called Coventry Moves. It starts the Year of Culture on 15th May. There are no details but it is described as “An audacious day full of extraordinary surprises, it will be experienced in the city and around the UK from home, from dawn to dusk. Coventry Moves will provide a playful and engaging introduction to Coventry, its stories and its people.” The day will be broadcast on national TV and radio.

In July Terry Hall presents Home Sessions, curated by the lead singer of the iconic Coventry band The Specials, in a weekend of music and arts that blends international legends with contemporary pioneers.

In August CVX is a radical three-day arts activism festival curated by young people in the city with Positive Youth Foundation and the rapper JAY1, these will be some of the first music festivals presented in the UK under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

On 27th October “The Walk” will see a 3.5-metre-tall puppet of a young refugee called Little Amal voyage 8,000km from the Syria/Turkey border, across Europe and into the UK. Previously due to arrive in Coventry during the summer, Little Amal will now arrive in Coventry in October. It is a poignant and symbolic moment in The Walk, as Little Amal is welcomed into Coventry – a city of sanctuary and a city of welcome – by a participatory event designed with and for the local community.

The BBC is set to shine a spotlight on Coventry throughout the year and is bringing big events to the city, as well as delivering new content across TV, radio and online that reflects Coventry’s history, heritage and creativity.

BBC programming begins in March with the hugely popular The Antiques Roadshow at Kenilworth Castle, followed by a range of new BBC Arts programmes including a film looking at the life and work of Delia Derbyshire, a Coventry-born composer who helped create the famous Doctor Who theme music and who was a pioneer of electronic music.

Delia Derbyshire at the Radiophonic Workshop. Photo BBC

In September, the BBC Arts annual poetry and spoken word festival Contains Strong Language heads to the city for what is described as the biggest celebration of poetry ever seen in the region. 

BBC CWR and Midlands Today will be at the centre of the a Summer of Surprises celebrations, bringing special programmes and events straight into people’s homes throughout the year – telling the story of the people of Coventry and uncovering what makes and shapes the city.

Highlights of the Summer of Surprises will include:

The Shop Window project introduces audiences to Coventry’s post-war precinct and other areas of the city-centre. The curated project is a partnership with Coventry Business Improvement District. Local, national and international artists and architects will create artworks for shop windows, alongside the loan of artworks from national art and craft collections including Crafts Council.

In Paint We Trust (from May 2021 )is a citywide street art festival, will feature local, regional and national street artists, with 20 extraordinary new artworks transforming vertical and horizontal spaces across the city centre.

Several events embrace and celebrate the people who have made the UK’s city of sanctuary their home. Coventry Welcomes (14 – 20 June 2021) will present a week-long programme of music, dance, drama, food, literature, poetry, workshops, storytelling and more to mark national Refugee Week. Can You Hear Me Now? (June 2021) will be a new outdoor production by Stand and Be Counted, the UK’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary, who will launch this new show created with people seeking sanctuary in Coventry – locally connected, globally relevant.

Nest Residencies will mark the opening of the Daimler Powerhouse this summer (August 2021), a new creative hub for the start of City of Culture located in a former car factory in the UK’s ‘Motown’. The residencies, created with Talking Birds, provide time, space and conversations with other artists, and are designed to allow creative people to think, experiment and take a punt on one of those ‘What if…?’ ideas. The residencies will result in a series of commissions across the year.

Performances and festivals from the region’s best artists and creative communities will bring to life the streets and parks of Coventry. Music festival Sound Systems (October 2021) will celebrate Coventry’s sound systems culture, rooted in reggae and West Indian sounds and connected to its twin town of Kingston (Jamaica), with heats taking place over the summer. Local student, hospital and community radio will also be celebrated in Coventry Radio Takeover (August 2021) in partnership with BBC CWR and Voluntary Arts.

The Allesley Silas (July 2021) is a new, site specific largescale outdoor musical theatre production based on George Eliot’s Silas Marner, adapted by Coventry Playwright Alan Pollock and directed by Nick Walker, it will be created alongside local communities.

Broken Angel (from Autumn 2021) is a series of specially commissioned artworks which will reimagine a broken pane from Coventry Cathedral’s John Hutton West Screen window. The original window was smashed in an act of vandalism in early 2020. The new interpretations of the ‘The Angel with the Eternal Gospel’ will be created by leading contemporary artists working alongside community groups to explore themes of brokenness and reconstruction.

Providing collaborations between Coventry’s creative communities, Random String Festival (November 2021), is a two-week digital arts festival in partnership with artists locally and nationally to create a series of workshops, events and installations with a focus on the Coventry Canal. The festival will be headlined by Bishi, a singer, electronic rock-sitarist and performance artist.

A year-long season at Warwick Arts Centre opens in May 2021 with a programme of music, visual art, theatre and more supported by Coventry City of Culture Trust. A new stage adaptation based on Christie Watson’s best-selling memoir and Sunday Times Book of Year, The Language of Kindness (20-23 May 2021), will present an ensemble-style piece of dance-theatre and real stories in homage to nurses and frontline health-workers. Later in the summer, a community visual art project will commence to contribute to Middlemarch: The Other Side of Silence an exhibition inspired by George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch and the lives of women living in Coventry today at the Mead Gallery (7 May – 17 June 2022).

The Belgrade Theatre programme will include a showcase of young diverse voices in a unique version of Like There’s No Tomorrow (May-June 2021), a National Theatre Connections play that gives voice to young people’s climate concerns presented by Belgrade Youth Theatre. Paines Plough’s Roundabout auditorium will present a festival of new world-class plays and community-led activities in the world’s first plug-in, pop-up and play theatre (July – August 2021). The four new plays that will be played in repertory throughout the festival are Hungry by Chris Bush, Really Big and Really Loud by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, May Queen by Frankie Meredith and Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba, with music by Ben and Max Ringham.

Youthful Cities is a major international programme of activity that places young citizens, and a youthful mind-set, at the heart of its year of celebrations in 2021. The programme will develop links between civic and cultural organisations in Coventry (UK), Beirut (Lebanon), Bogota (Colombia), Detroit (USA) and Nairobi (Kenya). These international collaborations will see young citizens explore the big issues and challenges in their cities.  Through art, music, poetry, and digital storytelling this international exchange of ideas, activism and innovation will see young people engaging with their cities as they seek to make positive change happen for their and their family’s futures.

The British Council will bring its Prototype City initiative to Coventry. This international architecture exchange programme will address global urban challenges, including Coventry’s unique urban context, as teams from São Paolo (Brazil), Cairo (Egypt) and Aarhus (Denmark) work with UK architects to assess and propose new ideas for the city.

A series of British Council International Changemakers Bursaries will support the development of partnerships between cultural practitioners in Coventry and their international counterparts, to inspire bold and creative ideas for international digital collaboration.

From June, The Booker Prize Foundation will bring the world’s leading book prizes to the city. Highlighting the international symbolism and message of Coventry, the virtual announcement of the 2021 International Booker Prize winner will come from the city for the first time, a prize awarded annually for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. Following the announcement, the Coventry Big Booker Read will bring readers together to read the winning book and host the shortlisted author event for the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction later in the year.

In the Summer, UK City of Culture will embark on the School of Participation, a new pan-European project with the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. It will bring artists and creative practitioners from Coventry (UK), Graz, (Austria), Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Kaunas (Lithuania), Nov Sad (Serbia) together in a festival.

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