#lovecov and it’s about time everyone else did too

29 June 2016

Richard Harrison has lived in Coventry for 17 years, he works at the University of Warwick but mainly bangs on about Coventry as he thinks it is a a wonderfully creative and exciting place to live and play. He enjoys being part of the music scene as one third of the Big Comfy Sessions hosted at Fargo Village.

When I first heard that Coventry was considering bidding to be the UK City of Culture in 2021 I wasn’t surprised but I did think ‘hell yeah’. Next year will be a big milestone for my Coventry love affair, I will have lived here for longer than I’ve lived anywhere, including my wellspring of Yorkshire. So, why did my blood turn from gravy to sky blue?

I was ‘sent to Coventry’ due to getting a graduate job at Marconi and moved down here not knowing anything apart from that phrase. I walked round the Lower Precinct early on, looked around the concrete and the people and thought ‘I have to find a wife here, I’m not even sure I want to be here’.

However, over the last 17 years I’ve seen Coventry change and with it my opinion and my attraction to the old girl (my wife ended up being from Kent in the end ;o).

So, why should Coventry win the title and what would it mean for us?

I have to promote the city as part of my job, recruiting students for Warwick, so have to convince young people to be excited to move here, and colleagues to shout about it as much as me. When I’m asked what is the best thing about Cov I always point to the music, the theatre, the events and the people. I mean, I love brutalist 60s architecture as much as the next man but it’s always the culture I return to.

The city doesn’t shout about itself, it teases but makes you work to discover its jewels. This is in line with the need to explore to find ‘medieval Cov’ too, you never know what’s hiding behind, or underneath, that ‘ugly’ council building. I urge people to seek out the history and you’ll be amazed. The recent Heritage Open Days showed us rooms in the old cathedral we’d walked past for 17 years, secret crypts, bits of wall and the back of Godiva’s horse. So, we have historical culture in spades, but we sometimes need spades to uncover it.

However, the more recent culture is all around us in Coventry. I think you could enjoy some local music every night of the week. I’ve been privileged over the last few years to get to know some of our talent that deserve to be loved by a much wider audience. Most of them however have the Cov trait of modesty, but a trip to The Big Comfy Folk Club, The TinThe Nursery Tavern, Playwrights, Warwick Arts Centre or one of myriad other venues and you will find something surprising and delightful. We even cater for major rock acts that literally set the Ricoh Arena on fire and for such a ‘small’ city that’s no mean feat. We need the Capital of Culture to help us share our music with the country.

Even if music isn’t your thing then you can find some amazing theatre happening in the strangest of places. An old fish and chip shop? yup, let’s have Theatre Absolute’s shop front theatre. The cathedral ruins? a perfect location for open air mystery plays. And if there isn’t anything on in the well renowned Belgrade Theatre or Warwick Arts Centre, or less well known Albany Theatre, or delightfully low key Criterion then take to the streets and catch Coventry’s own amazing theatre groups, Talking Birds, Highly SprungImagineer Productions, Mercurial Dance, Vortex Creates and many more my word limit won’t allow. Where else could you see a 9 metre tall Lady Godiva bringing the city to a standstill, a metal whale full of stories, 1.5km of huge dominoes crashing through the shopping centre and MUCH much more? London? Liverpool? Bristol? maybe, but we have had all this in modest Cov. Who knew? not enough people….let’s show ‘em all!

I’ve probably run out of words way up there but cannot leave without waving a flag for our museums and art galleries too. The Herbert is a place our kids love going, even when there isn’t an exciting exhibition on (which is rare), just to run around in the amazing space or taking part in their seemingly continuous programme of craft activities. The recent Children’s Television exhibition shouted up above the rest though and got our city noticed! You can then wander a few hundred metres and end up in the Transport Museum, which was always great but after the huge redevelopment, is now unquestionably world class. More art at Warwick Arts Centre again (3 mentions and not just because I work there ;o) with the Mead Gallery and we now have The Box at Fargo Village, a new space already making people set off to discover our very own Camden Market.

So, music, theatre, art, dance, museums, street performances…the fastest car in the world (not strictly culture but she’s so beautiful she’s a work of art), the home of Two-Tone, Europe’s first city centre Ikea? we just can’t stop being groundbreaking (you never know we might find a new crypt or WWII bomb).

And these are just the things that are easy to Google and you might find in a tourist information leaflet. There are weird and wonderful things happening round every corner that come, delight and then leave. Shop windows that dance when you walk past them courtesy of Ludic Rooms, flashmobs teaching you how to queue properly, the Big Comfy Sessionsbringing international stars to record music videos in a bookshop, happy memories of Coventrians being turned into a musical, a Fortnight of mysterious adventures for the brave…and the things you just can’t explain like the very activePecha Kucha Nights. Blink and you’ll miss them but they live on in our hearts.

So, what would the City of Culture 2021 mean to Coventry? not much, we do all this anyway. But it IS about time that the rest of country, hell the world, moved the spotlight onto the city and we could finally remove ‘that phrase’ from the urban dictionary. “Sent? no…I ran there with open arms”.


Latest news & press

Coventry City of Culture Trust launches micro commissions for disabled artists in partnership with Unlimited.

10 July 2020

Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists in Coventry and Warwickshire are being encouraged to apply for grant...

Social distancing artwork showcased across Coventry

8 July 2020

A local artist’s ‘social distancing’ artwork will be showcased across Coventry to highlight the importan...

Coventry College supports Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 as City Champion

8 July 2020

Coventry College has backed Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture with a major partnership, announced today....