Turn Left at the Polar Bear!

Those were the surreal instructions to get us to the meeting room at the Daimler Powerhouse when CovSoc visited The Nest and the Powerhouse this week. During our visit we met the Queen’s Corgis and two of her personal horses as well as the welcome return of the Lady Godiva puppet, who is awaiting a new dress.

Our guides were Derek Nesbit of Talking Birds and CovSoc member, Tara Rutledge of Imagineer Productions.

Talking Birds describes itself as a provider of “Theatre of Place” and is based at The Nest, which is conjoined with the Daimler Powerhouse. This year it is celebrating its 30th birthday. Talking Birds brings theatre and arts outdoors and into vacant buildings and sites. It has created a number of walking tours, some curated but others self-guided using mobile phone apps. We were also shown what is possibly the world’s smallest theatre – the inside of a whale!

The whale!

There is a rolling programme of two-week long artistic residences. These support artists with the early stages of project development although some do manage to develop work during this time.

Imagineer Productions  make extraordinary outdoor and site-specific work at the intersection of art and engineering, environmental and social change. They are well known as the creators of the amazing Lady Godiva puppet.

Maquettes for Lady Godiva puppet on display at Daimler Powerhouse

We visited as Imagineer were preparing for the forthcoming pageant to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in London on 5th June. We were able to see all the queen’s corgis as well as two of her favourite horses. Both corgis and horses were modelled on the real animals.

The Queen’s Corgis awaiting the pageant

We were also in time to see the fabulous Lady Godiva puppet recently returned from storage for a clean up and a new dress in preparation for the pageant. We were even given a short demonstration of Lady G’s movements.

Lady Godiva waiting for her new dress!

The Daimler Powerhouse dates to 1907 and generated electric power for the Daimler factory, one of the oldest car factories in the country. The building has been carefully restored, retaining many of the original engineering features. The restored building includes:

  • Rehearsal spaces with sprung dance floor
  • Studio spaces for artists
  • An aerial rig to allow aerial performances to be rehearsed and performed.
  • A vertical dance wall
  • Construction Space for large scale sets
  • Making spaces for the creation of artistic endeavors
  • Recording facilities
  • Outdoor rehearsal spaces
  • Accessible office spaces including hot-desking
  • Meeting rooms
Some of the original machinery

In addition to Talking Birds and Imagineer, there are three other permanent occupiers of the building: Highly Sprung – the high altitude urban theatre company, Open Theatre which works with young people with learning disabilities and Media Mania a music organisation that empowers and upskills young people.

The Daimler Powerhouse is owned by the Wigley Group and is the centrepiece of a new residential and cultural Canalside neighbourhood being created on the former Coventry Climax and Bus Garage site on Sandy Lane. The building is locally listed and within the Coventry Canal Conservation Area.

The restoration of the building has cost £2.5 million and was completed on time and within budget by Wigleys. Funding has come from the Cultural Capital Investment Fund, which is resourced from Coventry City Council and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal, as well as a range of other Trusts and donors.

The Wigley Group, contributed an additional £350,000 as well as agreeing a highly-discounted 20-year lease on Daimler Powerhouse. Additional funding has been raised from The Foyle Foundation, Medwell-Hyde, The Garfield Weston Foundation and The May 29th 1961 Charitable Trust.

CovSoc members touring the building

CovSoc members were very impressed by this development, which is not only the centre of Coventry’s cultural rejuvenation, but also plays a role nationally.

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