Coventry would be transformed by a successful bid to be UK City of Culture – and the city is ready to meet the challenge head on.
That’s according to the team behind the bid, which is now formally underway after Matt Hancock, Minister of State responsible for digital and culture policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, officially launched the competition in Hull on Thursday 12 January.
The Coventry City of Culture Trust has been working on a bid for more than a year and the announcement means it knows key dates and the full bid process.
David Burbidge, the chair of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said the support from the city – and the region – had been incredible so far but now was time to step up a gear.
He said: “We have been doing a huge amount of work in the run up to this announcement. A massive amount of research into the city has been undertaken from a cultural, economic and social point of view so we know exactly what we want City of Culture to achieve for Coventry.
“Coventry’s population is on average seven years younger than the rest of the country and young people will play a major role in 2021. We are a diverse city too and, already through this process, we have drawn out some wonderful stories of Coventry’s cultures giving them the local, national and international profile they deserve.
“But the truth is Coventry doesn’t only want to be City of Culture in 2021 – it very much needs this opportunity to help to tackle some of the inequalities that remain and to turn round the city’s visitor economy.
“It’s clear to me that the whole city is behind the bid – our politicians, our businesses – who are supporting the bid financially, our two great universities, our cultural organisations and, most importantly, the people.
“When we first announced that we would bid – 80 per cent of the population said they were behind it, which is a terrific show of support. But now we need to galvanise the people of Coventry behind this and to build pride in the place, culture and identity of this diverse modern city.
“It would bring so many benefits to the city and the West Midlands. Places like Glasgow, Manchester, Hull and Liverpool have shown how perceptions of the north can be changed. The time is right for the Midlands to stand up and deliver.
“We are inspired by Hull which has kicked off its year so dramatically and so positively, attracting 340,000 visitors to its first event.
“And for Coventry, which once stood as the capital of England, this is a great chance to take centre stage once again.”
Cllr George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council said: “I’d like to wish Hull good luck with their year as UK City of Culture. We have been following their programme and launch events with real interest and I’m sure they will have a great year.
“We have ambitious and exciting plans and we are fully backing Coventry’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021, which I believe would showcase all that Coventry has to offer whilst delivering a huge boost economically, socially and culturally for our wonderful city.”
Julia Negus, of Theatre Absolute – which runs the Shopfront Theatre in the city centre, said: “The past 12 to 18 months has been a really positive process for Coventry since it announced it would be bidding to be UK City of Culture.
“It’s helped the city to acknowledge the many challenges we have and also to start to recognise some of the existing cultural organisations and the great talent we have emerging in Coventry.
“A successful bid would be transformational for Coventry, particularly for our young people from so many backgrounds and cultures. It would give the city a renewed confidence and, I believe, would have a lasting effect on Coventry and our culture.”
Coventry City Council, The University of Warwick, and Coventry University are Principal Partners of the bid and are providing significant support. The Ricoh Arena is Bid Sponsor while Jaguar Land Rover, Friargate, Coventry Building Society, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Airport, Pertemps and CEF (City Electrical Factors) are all Bid Development Sponsors.