Coventry’s annual Peace Festival returns this November promoting the city’s ongoing work of peace, tolerance and friendship.
The city is well-known around the world as a welcoming place and one recognised across the world as a city of peace and reconciliation.
The Peace Festival is a chance for the many faiths, cultures and communities that flourish within Coventry to get together and highlight all the ongoing work alongside special events that spread the word about Coventry’s role in peace and reconciliation worldwide.
These events, taking place from 1-15 November, all have the aim of promoting peace and tolerance of each other at their heart.
Here are a few of the highlights for the 2021 Festival:
The centrepiece of the festival is Gaia. Gaia is a touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram. Gaia measures seven metres in diameter and features detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface, which offers viewers of the artwork the chance to see the earth in its true three-dimensional scale. Visitors will have the chance to view Gaia in a deeply moving and free ticketed event held in the Cathedral Ruins. Gaia runs from 5-7 November.
On the 11 November, from 6pm, Coventry Cathedral hosts the Lord Mayor’s Annual Peace Lecture “Sounds of Unity” a reflection given by Coventry’s own Christine and Neville Staple as part of the RISING Global Peace Forum.
A very important part of the festival every year is the Remembrance Sunday Service and Parade which returns to the War Memorial Park on Sunday 14 November at 10.45am. This is followed at 3pm by the Communal Grave Service at London Road Cemetery, which also remembers those who lost their lives during both World Wars.
The Poppy Drop will be taking place on Armistice Day on Thursday 11 November in West Orchards Shopping Centre at 11am. During the 2-minute silence, 4,000 poppies drop from the dome of the shopping centre to commemorate the fallen.
Another highlight of the festival for many will be Verdi’s Requiem in Coventry Cathedral by the Coventry Cathedral Chorus on the 13 November at 7pm.
The Lord Mayor of Coventry, Cllr John McNicholas, said, “It’s inspirational to see all of the work that happens all year round in our city promoting peace and understanding. This festival helps to highlight how much work is going on and I hope it will inspire others to engage and celebrate all that is happening. I’m sure people will find something of interest in the programme and perhaps be inspired to promote the message further afield as well as in the city.”
This year’s Peace Lecture is being given by Christine and Neville Staple. Christine and Neville are proud of Coventry and of Music. The peace lecture will be part of the RISING Global Peace Forum.
Neville was a regular fixture at the Locarno Ballroom in Coventry, where he met the resident DJ there, Pete Waterman. Waterman briefly managed the Specials and would later write the foreword to Staple’s 2009 biography, Original Rude Boy. His early vocal style was mostly “toasting”—or chanting over a rhythm—a forerunner of rapping brought to Britain in the 1960s by musicians from Jamaica.
Neville honed his toasting skills in the sound system scene in Coventry during the 1970s, first on his cousin’s “Messenger Sound” and later his own system called “Jah Baddis”. In the Specials, Staple sang lead vocals on some tracks or additional and backing vocals alongside Terry Hall’s lead. He also contributed to the writing of many of their songs.
Christine “Sugary” Staple has been writing, producing and performing in film, video and music since her teens and is the wife and manager of the Original Rude boy Neville. She is especially known for bringing energy, charisma and fun to the stage during tours and shows.
Christine and Neville say “We would like to entitle our talk as ‘THE SOUNDS OF UNITY – YAHSO’. – We plan to relate to sections of Neville’s biography, the 2Tone Movement, relating to ska and reggae lyrics historically from the streets of Jamaica (people gathered together to hear the latest news lyrically toasted to them, as a form of audio news readings with music), across to the working classes of UK cities (initially), later combining punk rock attitude with Caribbean influences and rhythm.
“A whole movement that brought different cultures together, at a time when racial tension was at an all-time high (from mid 70’s into the 80’s). We will also relate to both Neville and my own experiences of growing up during these times and beyond and how music was key in bringing people together through common cause. We will also relate all of this to present day and some of the ways in which we, and others, encourage peaceful diversity through our music and events still”.
Our own Paul Maddocks is chair of the Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee. Paul said “Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace Committee has been promoting peace and reconciliation for over 40 years. We currently organise a wide variety of activities including not only the Hiroshima Commemoration but also the Lord Mayor’s Peace Lecture, Coventry Peace Award, Coventry and Warwickshire Schools Peace Poem, Coventry Peace Song, Coventry Peace and Justice Forum and we publish books and booklets including Coventry City Centre Peace Trail. Peace is such an important aspiration, especially at this time, and we hope that Coventry people will participate in and enjoy this coming festival.”
People who cannot make it to the Cathedral for the Peace Lecture can watch it online.