Utopia: Working towards a better future


On World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day, our Creative Director, Chenine Bhathena, reflects on October's theme of "Utopia", and how we're working towards a better future.

Today is World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day, a time to consider the impact that inequality in all its guises has on our world, and a time to discuss themes of social justice as we dream of a better, healthier planet. In the coming days, weeks and months our programme will examine the challenges that our communities face and ask the big questions that impact the communities we live in, our city and the world around us.

Coventry has always been a city of firsts, a future facing city that is not afraid to tackle challenges head on. We have led with compassion and creativity, with citizens that are passionate about their city and all those that call it home.

Today as we talk about homelessness, it’s only right that Coventry launches its first Festival of Arts and Homelessness, HOME. Home is everything. Without the foundation for a safe home, it’s impossible for people and communities to thrive. HOME will explore the creation of a more equitable future for Coventry, and a range of arts and cultural events, workshops and talks will amplify the voice of lesser heard communities.

Our mental health has been hugely tested and challenged in recent years and mental health in an unequal world is more challenging. A Crash Course In Cloudspotting is designed to encourage you to stop, to rest, to listen. Inspired by hidden and chronic illnesses, you are encouraged to be horizontal in this immersive audio experience.

We also look to a more sustainable future through our Green Futures programme. Walking Forest is a great example of this, bridging performance and social action, moving throughout the city streets. There are still so many ways to engage with this programme, as audiences, participants, and activists. This female-led artwork marks the impact we as a species have on the natural world around us.

The Walk spotlights the plight of unaccompanied children who make the long journey to freedom. It points to a more inclusive future and reveals the welcome the city provides and our position as a city of peace and reconciliation. Welcoming little Amal, the giant puppet of a young Syrian girl that has made an epic journey across Europe representing displaced children. Coventry will welcome Amal in our own way, reaching out as a city of welcome and of sanctuary in a year where we home in on the power of art and our shared humanity.

The Turner Prize exhibition has now launched at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, and we implore you to take a moment this month to explore the exhibition of one of the best-known visual arts awards in the world. All nominees this year are artist collectives who have worked hand in hand with communities to create art that inspires social change looking at the world through many different personal perspectives. It’s truly awe-inspiring to see such creative integrity.

The third edition of the Coventry Biennial opened this week and will present 4 months of extraordinary socially engaged art.  Built around the theme of the ‘Hyper-possible’, it brings social, political and critical art to the city, inspiring discussion, activism and action on our collective future, especially emerging from the covid pandemic. There are a wide array of activities and events to engage with created by local, national, and international artists.

Co-creation has been key to our year as City of Culture, giving platforms to citizens and communities to tell their stories and opening a local and global dialogue on the things that really matter. We have striven to involve those with lived experience to create and lead work as experts in their own lives, putting art and culture at the centre of how we connect, and as a vehicle for discussion and expression on how we can have a positive impact on the lives of those around us and society as a whole.

It is hard to believe that we are now five months into our year. As well as inspiring, entertaining and joyful, we have also worked to deliver a programme with purpose and a social conscience. In all our partnerships and commissions, we have tried to tackle inequality and create equity for all citizens, especially engaging with those people and communities whose voices and talents have historically been marginalised.

October is Black History Month, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of the Black community to society and to consider the future as we continue to hope for a more inclusive and equal world. Our programme continues to amplify the creativity movement making of artists of colour in the city and across the region, keeping a focus on the challenges faced by this community, and seeking to create positive change and promote understanding. 

So, this month, we invite you to join us on a voyage of discovery and let your imagination run wild, as we collectively use our creativity to discuss, shape and consider the changes needed for a better, safer, healthier future - our utopia.