Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director
Our Phoenix is rising once again.
Coventry is about to take on a national and global spotlight to tell the world its story. We will show who we are, what we hold dear and promote our creativity. This will be one extraordinary year of joyful celebration with a strong social conscience, as we create a new history for our city. We are ready and excited to create art that grabs your attention, sends a message, and creates action.
Coventry has been a city on the move and a city that has been behind many global movements since time began. Being a City of Culture is about looking forwards, rooted in our rich histories and heritage, understanding who we are now and what we hold dear. I hope this is a chance to consider our future and create new positive movements for change.
So it’s important that our City of Culture Year supports this revolution and that we harness our youthfulness, our rich diversity and creativity, to be bold and brave, to challenge and stimulate, to remove inequality and devolve power. And to reimagine our cultural lives in this new world.
UK City of Culture was inspired by the European Capital of Culture which started back in the 1970s to unite people across the continent, build stronger friendships and improve understanding and get us collaborating and enjoying and sharing our cultures.
What is Culture?
Culture is about faith, food, leisure, ritual, community, connection and so much more. So many of us love singing in the shower, chilling out at festivals, watching films, listening to music and radio, dancing, acting, being crafty and actively making stuff, having a good laugh, a dash of style through fashion and design, hours spent gaming and immersive play, getting lost in books, as well as writing and creating spoken word/poetry and of course so much, much more.
We will use this year to improve access to arts, creativity and cultural activities for all citizens wherever they live. We are lucky to have a cluster of incredible creative institutions, universities and many great individual artists, but more than anything we have brilliantly creative people and local leaders.
Coventry UK City of Culture year will build on our social and civic foundations. Every single one of our 127 schools will be involved, as will our more vulnerable communities. We're also working with over 160 business partners as well as developing projects and programmes in every ward of the city. We hope that more than 5,000 local people will be involved in our Signature Event and there will events, workshops and activities everyday throughout our year.
I am so excited to lead what we know will be a brilliant mix of genuine grassroots DIY creativity and storytelling with world class culture.
We will work with schools, libraries, community centres, charities, community radio stations and with families across the city and will partner them with some extraordinary artists from the Coventry, the nation and across the globe, who will help citizens to develop and create extraordinary people powered events from music and dance through to major spectacles.
Our programmes, festivals, shows, events, gigs, discussions and activities will be inspired by citizens and reflect what matters today, showcasing different and new voices. We will seek to embed creativity and culture into the DNA of the city, to show the power of the arts to heal, transform, excite and delight.
I can't wait to show the world the brilliant, compelling and authentic creative ideas and visions of Coventry. We will shine a light on our unique character and build civic pride across the city. All of this will comes with a promise to ensure inclusion for all, creating genuine opportunities created in and with our communities.
Right back in the early stages of the bid, we made investing in young people and the next generation a priority. So we are putting young people at the heart of our programme with international exchanges, opportunities to tackle some of the big issues, festivals curated by our young talent, and of course a role in decision making. However, that doesn’t mean that those of us in an older age bracket will be excluded, this year is for everyone and there will be many different ways to get involved.
'This is our chance to come together with pride for our city, our people, and our creativity.
We will use this year to improve access to arts, creativity and cultural activities for all citizens wherever they live...we have brilliantly creative people and local leaders. This year is for you.'
'Investment in our locally based artists and arts sector is key and platforming their work as well as supporting them to realise their future ambitions is paramount.'
Our aim is to give the spotlight to citizens to bring to life stories from the city
From our role in campaigning for social justice, to being the UK’s only city of peace and reconciliation; from our history as a music city, inventing new genres like 2tone and rave, to leading global movements around peace, unity and freedom; examining our role as a 5G test bed and a place of innovation and invention in automotive, manufacturing and technology; how inventing the green party has influenced our place in environmental and green futures movements; and our place as a city of crafts people, makers, DIY culture and artisans, we will explore every facet of Coventry’s rich history, powerful present and bright future.
We will bring back some of the many much loved daughters and sons of the city, the pioneers and activists who have made their names in music, theatre, comedy, film and many other genres to help us celebrate and showcase the incredible creativity of our citizens.
Our independent artists are already driving a grass roots revolution
Investment in our locally based artists and arts sector is key and platforming their work as well as supporting them to realise their future ambitions is paramount. We are already unearthing so many new voices from all over the city who will bring so many different perspectives to our programme.
As part of our year in the spotlight, the city has already seen new investment in theatres, heritage buildings, creative spaces and music venues as well as some new creative hubs appearing across the city. We have worked hard with Coventry City Council to plug art and culture into the public realm and to build a culture of artists working as designers, regenerators and place shapers and placemakers.
We want this year to be life changing for the city and its people.
I believe that arts, creativity and culture have transformative powers in bringing together communities and I hope that we are starting a revolution where culture is valued for its ability to open up discussions, debates, connect people, build better understanding between us, bring hope and healing as well as joy and laughter.
I’ve always said that I wanted our City of Culture to create movements not moments, to support positive change and progress in our city make change happen, and to ensure that culture for all is a core priority for the city in the years to come. We are a city with a rich history of activism and now more than ever we need that activism to help us stand up for what we believe in, have the sometimes difficult conversations, show the world our values of care and collaboration, and reimagine the future.
We are at a momentous time in the history of the city, the nation, and the world. This is a vital time to take stock on what is important to our lives and our communities, locally and globally, we need to be courageous and we need creativity.
As we find our way through the Covid 19 pandemic and also seek a new role in the world away from the close bonds we have enjoyed with Europe, this is a time to look outwards, be open, welcoming, hopeful and celebrate our humanity.
The city has a 10 year vision for its cultural life, and is committed to tackling health inequalities for its citizens. But it is also our role to challenge, provoke and broaden definitions of culture, the players and the participants and think about how arts, creativity and culture can add value or help make change happen.
Our programme will be rooted in the rich history and heritage of our people and the city’s pioneering past, but be future facing.
We have a big vision, the will, ambition and courage.
Together we will be extraordinary.