A view from HQ

26 February 2018
Michael Mogan, Head of Fundraising, Coventry City of Culture Trust

I realised my eyesight was past its best at a conference in 2016.

The keynote speaker, Checkatrade Founder, Kevin Byrne, had spoken passionately to 400 people about the multi-million pound business he had nurtured – It was unforgettable.

Later on, all 400 sat down for lunch. I asked everyone at the table where they were from and my neighbour said he was from Chichester… “Oh, I chirped in, just like the guy from Checkatrade”… The reply came quickly “I am the guy from Checkatrade”…. It was one of those I wish the ground would swallow me up moments.

I battled on gamely and we had a good chat about his work – and mine. I mentioned that I was Head of Fundraising for Coventry’s City of Culture Bid. Now… All of us, regardless of jobs, are used to the same-old questions bouncing back… But Kevin befuddled me. Rather than say “Coventry! Culture??” or “Is it really worth the effort?” He said;

“But what is culture?”

That really got me thinking and has helped bolster many a dinner party conversation since: For me, my first thoughts may be of Coventry Cathedral (partly because I worked there for 12 years), but it moves to watching my twins dancing at the age of four on the Albany stage; remembering my dad’s love for Burns night (we are one of Coventry’s many migrant families), to gigging with infants on shoulders at the Godiva Festival.  Add in cuisine, fashions, and shared communal love for sports teams, and culture can require quite a detailed definition.

Perhaps that’s why Coventry 2021 is such an exciting project: We have a wonderfully diverse community and an incredible history of reinvention and of welcome. Marry these with the international reputation of Coventry and its environs and you can see why people are getting excited.

My twins will be 10 when the City of Culture year arrives – To be that age when your home city is in the spotlight will be incredible – but it reminds me that I will be 51! Yikes…

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