Coventry’s official Lady Godiva Celebrates her Ruby Anniversary

Pru Porretta MBE

Pru Porretta MBE said “I rode in my first official Godiva procession on 12th June 1982 which started from the War Memorial Park, 6 miles around the city then back to the War Memorial Park.”

Coventry has had a tradition of Lady Godiva Procession’s as far back as 1678, but the tradition gradually faded out and stopped in 1962. So there was a twenty year gap until 1982 and it was decided to revive this tradition for the Coventry Carnival. Interviews were held with young woman who had offered to take this task on. It would entail not only the ride but to be the official Godiva for the year and spread the story of the self sacrifice that Lady Godiva had made for the Coventry citizen’s many years ago and promote Coventry. Pru Porretta was chosen. Little did she know that she would still be in demand as Lady Godiva 40 years later.

Pru reimagined the role of Godiva as a strong female leader seeking social justice and working with other female heroines from different cultures to empower their communities and to celebrate diversity across those communities collaboratively.

Pru Poretta’s first appearance as Lady Godiva in 1982

Lady Godiva is most remembered for the famous folklore story of her ride she was alleged to have made to free taxes. “Ride your horse from one end of the town to the other, naked”.

To commemorate 40 years service as Lady Godiva, Pru Porretta is inviting friends and people who know her to an event at St. Osburgs Church on 12th June, starting at 12.00 noon with Holy Mass. This will be followed by a community gathering in St. Osburgs Church hall, for the rest of the afternoon.

This article first appeared in Coventry Action for Neighbourhoods (CAN) newsletter 14/5/2022, courtesy of Paul Maddocks

Coventry Food Festival

Coventry will be having its own Food Festival from 17 – 19th June 2022.

The event is being organised by the city’s BID team (Business Improvement District) and follows a smaller event in 2019.

Top local chefs Glynn Purnell and Paul Foster will lead a programme of food and fun activity from Friday, 17th June to Sunday 19th June.

The pair will help judge a ‘Coventry Cook Off’ competition running across both Friday and Saturday, compered by a local comedian, which gives local restaurants a chance to cook in front of a live audience, with the winner receiving their prize from Glynn Purnell on Saturday afternoon.

Alongside all that, there will be entertainment and a food market, while music lovers will be able to party the night away on both Friday and Saturday, with top acts performing at the Assembly Garden.

Food has a special ability to bring people together.  There will be something for everyone from cheese to chutney, scotch eggs to brownies. There will be food choices from around the world including Indian, Mexican, Greek, German, Chinese, and many more. There will also be drinks available with beers, ales, wine, gin, lemonades, slush and more.

Glynn Purnell, who occasionally hosts the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, is planning to open a restaurant in Coventry and recently launched pub and restaurant The Mount in Henley-in-Arden, will take to the stage for two free demos on Saturday, 18th June.  Fellow Saturday Kitchen regular Paul Foster, who runs Stratford-based Michelin-starred restaurant Salt, will also take to the stage to headline the festival on its opening day.

The Coventry Food Festival will take place from 11am to 5pm on Friday, 17th June, 10am to 5pm on Saturday, 18th June, and 11am to 4pm on Sunday, 19th June, with music acts performing on the Friday and Saturday nights.

The RAF is also bringing a full-sized Spitfire plane and cockpit to Millennium Place [at the front of Coventry Transport Museum]. The iconic aircraft will be visiting as part of a tour across the Midlands highlighting and celebrating the area’s rich RAF heritage.

A tour of the rare blue reconnaissance Spitfire PR. XIX will be stopping off in Coventry on 18 and 19 June to coincide with Coventry Food Festival. Families are invited to get up close to the aircraft and hands-on with the interactive activities on the ground.

There is more information about the Food Festival here.

Citizen’s Assembly on Arts and Culture

Our friends at Talking Birds have convened Coventry’s first Citizen’s Assembly to look at arts and culture in the city.

Fifty residents were selected from across the city to explore the question: “How will arts, culture and creativity shape a better future for Coventry?”

The Assembly participants worked together over a period of six weeks during October and November. They listened to the varied opinions of expert witnesses, and they also listened to their peers – people they had not met before taking part in the Assembly. They debated together – discussing the issues, talking about change. They imagined a better future for our city and drew up, and voted on, a series of recommendations.

The recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly “sketch a better future for Coventry: one which is green in every sense and offers a democratic, regenerative, generous, equitable and collaborative life for all its citizens; where there is a real democracy of access to the arts as creator, participant and audience; a city that is a pleasant place to live – verdant, green, welcoming and future-facing; and where the arts are fully integrated into all communities.”

The Assembly came up with nine recommendations, as follows:

  1. Encounters with Arts and Culture: A city-wide scheme that provides an inclusive, accessible, rounded and easy to navigate menu of opportunities for every Coventry resident to encounter arts and culture close to home.
  2. Cov Art Pass A scheme that gives all young Coventry residents aged 15-25 a pass for free travel, and entry, to arts and cultural events in the city.
  3. Make Something Happen Fund: A small funding pot available to Coventry residents to enable them to put on creative and cultural events in their neighbourhood. These might just be up to £200 and the application process should be very simple and transparent.
  4. Neighbourhood Creative Hubs: Network of inclusive Neighbourhood Creative Hubs designed to connect, integrate and educate communities.
  5. The People’s Telegraph: There is a need for a new, efficient, co-ordinated, decentralised, people powered channel for sharing information about events and opportunities that people can get involved in (as audiences, participants, artists) and getting information right out into communities/ neighbourhoods.
  6. City Centre Garden: Establish an accessible, central Botanical Garden as a destination for locals and visitors alike, a place for people to get close to nature and a new green heart for the city centre. This might repurpose or adapt an existing space or form part of a new development, but should be free to access and within easy reach of transport links.
  7. The Ring Road as a Work of Art: Use art to beautify the ring road, improve connectivity between the centre and outlying areas and create a more inviting environment.
  8. Green Ways: Create a network of pocket parks and green spaces – connected by walking and cycling trails throughout the city, incorporate art and sculpture, build new parks and incorporate existing ones.
  9. Lighter & Brighter: adding bright, beautifully designed and environmentally considerate lighting to dark places across the city, to make us feel safer and improve the night-time economy.

The recommendations have been presented to Coventry’s Cultural Compact and several were put into the Cultural Strategy, currently in consultation.

Talking Birds is now working with Assembly members, to create pilot projects that test out the recommendations in neighbourhoods across Coventry, and start the work of making the Citizens’ vision a reality.

Pop-up trials for the environmentally friendly lighting will take place over May and June and Talking Birds held a mock-up arts hub on May 6 as part of Coventry Opens.

The project is supported by Arts Council England, Coventry City Council, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Coventry City of Culture 2021.

Talking Birds co-artistic director Janet Vaughan said: “The Citizen’s Assembly sought to reimagine and redefine what art for the people could – and should – be – putting cultural policy making into the hands of ordinary people.

“The recommendations sketch a better future for Coventry – one that is green in every sense and offers a democratic, regenerative, generous, equitable and collaborative life for all its citizens.

“Our citizens see a bold vision of Coventry being a pleasant place to live – verdant, green, welcoming and future-facing and where the arts are fully integrated into all communities.”

For more information visit the Talking Birds website.

Take a Virtual Tour of Two Friargate

In September 2020 we reported on the council’s high-risk plan for a new office building in Friargate. Since then, construction has been going ahead and marketing to prospective tenants has begun.

Interested tenants and Coventry residents can now take a peek inside the new office building before it opens its doors.

The scheme’s promoters have launched a virtual tour of the building so prospective tenants can take a look at the new luxury facilities, including offices, the reception, and a rooftop terrace.

It is claimed that it will be Coventry’s highest quality and most sustainable office building once construction is completed, featuring cutting-edge green technology and heating systems.

It is part of the wider Friargate regeneration that will create a new 37-acre business district in the city complete with hospitality services such as bars and restaurants.

Two Friargate is adjacent to Coventry Railway Station, which has just opened a new £82million extension, giving the office building excellent connectivity to other areas.

The Friargate business quarter was foreseen as the creation of a major city-centre employment site with superb local and national access. Developers foresaw the building of 14 Grade A office blocks, 2 hotels, 2 car parks and at least 10 residential blocks. However, the global economic crisis of 2008 and economic conditions since then have conspired against a rapid build-out and the developments approved to date (including one and two Friargate and a hotel) have all required public subsidy.

Visit www.twofriargate.com/virtual-tour/ to access the virtual tour.

Demolition of the Black Horse to Go Ahead

The Black Horse in former days

On Thursday (26th May) Coventry’s Planning Committee took the decision to permit the demolition of the locally listed former Black Horse pub at 73 Spon End.

The 200-year-old former pub will be knocked down to allow the widening of the junction of Allesley Old Road, Hearsall Lane and Spon End as part of the city’s NO2 reduction plan.

An extra lane of traffic is to be added to the B4106 in Spon End, widening a ‘pinch point’ and improving an alternative route into the city centre, avoiding highly polluted parts of Holyhead Road.

The decision to demolish the building was made following a close vote of 4 – 3 despite vocal opposition from local residents and heritage groups.

Objectors to the demolition included the Victorian Society, the Georgian Group, Historic Buildings and Places (formerly known as the Ancient Monuments Society) and the Council’s own Conservation Team.

The building’s heritage value was a key point for councillors opposing the plans. Cllr Roger Bailey said: “It’s a unique historic building in a medieval settlement.” He argued for it to be preserved and moved to a different location, which the council has done before. “We keep losing historic buildings,” he said.

Council officers argued that the destruction of the historic building was justified by the greater good of being able to implement the Council’s pollution reduction plan.

Conditions attached to the planning application will ensure that there will be a proper archaeological investigation of the site before roadworks commence. There is a good chance of finding evidence of the medieval manor of Sponna.

The Coventry Society is disappointed to lose the Black Horse but supports the Council’s plans to reduce NO2 without the introduction of a Charging Zone.