Today marks International Human Rights Day. This year’s theme being Equality - Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights. This is a great moment for us to explore, reflect and look forward to the themes and messaging behind some of the events and projects that run throughout our City of Culture year. We have always striven to create a year that is not only joyous and celebratory, but that also shines a light on some of the issues people face here in Coventry, throughout the nation and across the world, to connect people and ensure greater equity for citizens.
Our autumn/winter programme has been full of events that challenge stereotypes, tell the lesser heard stories, and that work towards creating lasting and positive change. Many of us see this time of year as a chance to reflect, a time for family gatherings and joy, but this can also be an extremely challenging time for many.
Our programme so far has touched on many challenges such as homelessness through HOME - Arts and Homelessness festival, and mental health and wellbeing through projects such as Theatre of Wandering and A Crash Course in Cloudspotting. And of course, in September a 24hr Faith event in collaboration with our Faith communities and the Royal Shakespeare Company celebrating the ingredients for a good life.
Throughout the summer we had an incredible Coventry Welcomes programme which enabled those who have sought sanctuary in the city to fully show off their creativity, cultures, build new friendships with each other, and to really spotlight the welcome Coventry provides. During this programme CARAG and Inini hosted a great event that launched their new zine. We had some incredible comedy workshops through the No Direction Home project led by Coventry’s very own Stella Graham, which built towards a brilliant stand-up comedy showcase event. We were also able to enjoy Can You Hear Me, Now? a celebratory, large scale outdoor performance in Swanswell Park in partnership with Stand and Be Counted theatre company. This theme was continued through to the incredible welcome the people of the city provided to Little Amal through The Walk, which shone a light on the plight of unaccompanied children who make the long walk to find freedom, safety and hope.
Much of this work has been led by our Caring City producing team, who have been embedding for the last couple of years in organisations across the city that provide support to vulnerable and more isolated communities facing a spectrum of challenges and barriers to fully taking part in the life of the city.
This time of year is also often a time of reflection, and what a year we have to look back on. So many events brought colour and creativity to the city streets and arts and culture spilt out into every neighbourhood. Since our signature event, Coventry Moves in early June there has been an incredible amount of activity to enjoy and get involved in.
We have shown ourselves as a thriving Music City from Bands in parks, Live music in pub gardens, the Sound of Cov with local radio stations, the reggae fever festival and Caribbean carnival, to Home Sessions at Coventry Cathedral curated by Terry Hall and of course Godiva Festival. We’ve also seen 3 new venues open with Assembly Festival Garden, HMV Empire and Drapers Hall bringing a top line up to the city. And of course, we’ve attracted some of the best to our city with the MOBOs and Radio1 Big Weekend.
There has been art in so many forms everywhere in shop windows, on walls and pavements, in galleries and pop-up spaces and in temporary buildings across the city. So exciting to have hosted the Sterling Prize Dinner (with RIBA), The Booker Prize Awards and Turner Prize in 2021 whilst also delivering the 3rd Edition of the Coventry Biennale. We’ve worked with local artists to deliver extraordinary events in the Canal Basin, at Shop Front Theatre and in many other locations across the city. This included our libraries bringing art and literature to the canal, local leaders to bringing art to community centres, and schools engaging our children in creativity and putting them centre stage. There has been so much activity everywhere for everyone.
Our communities have been the stars though, taking centre stage in all our events. With 3000+ city hosts, our Cultural leaders, community connectors, young producers as well as collaborations with faith communities, schools, community centres and libraries, care homes, housing associations and young people’s organisations, we’ve really been busy making sure this year is for Coventrians. A year truly about equity and equality and making sure that when people see Coventry, they understand the power of our grassroots voices and creativity.
There are also many ways in which to mark the festive season this year, such as a trip to Coventry Glides. Following on from the success of last years ice rink in the ruins, Coventry Glides returns this year bringing festive cheer to the city centre. The rink will be open through until Sunday 9th January with tickets still available, starting at just £5. And whilst you’re in the city, check out the amazing Christmas lights and the German Market in Broadgate and the various Christmas Fairs at Fargo and Central Hall to name a few.
The festive programming continues at FarGo village with Another Christmas screening on 16th December. A new film shining a light on the collective feeling of the outsider as an antidote to the pressures of a commercialised Christmas. And don’t forget panto at
Theatre Next Door continues to bring an amazing series of shows to community centres across the city this month as they begin their winter season. This project has been co-created with representatives from community centres across Coventry, and brings great family shows to the doorsteps of our communities, supported by the Albany Theatre.
The Show Windows continues through December also with new windows popping up around the city centre for you to enjoy and you venture out Christmas shopping. A list of all the windows and more information on this project is available on our website.
As 2021 draws to a close, we can look back on an incredible and ambitious 6 months of events and feel proud of all we have achieved in making sure we are the most inclusive City of Culture. But there is still so much more to do. And at this time of year, we should always make time to think of and help those less fortunate and make it our aim to tackle inequality in all its guises in the new year ahead. We are Coventry City of Godiva, of 2Tone, a city that has always tried to lead positive change and ensure we are all welcome. Merry Christmas to you all.