Coventry Moves - the curtain-raiser on Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture

 

On Saturday 5 June 2021, Coventry Moves unfolded across the city of Coventry as a major all-day performance took place across the entire city. Directed by Justine Themen and created with, and by, the people of Coventry, it was the first major event of the city’s year as UK City of Culture, and the first event of this scale to be presented in the UK since the arrival of the pandemic.

It was experienced in every ward of the city through pop-up performances, processions of bikes and vintage cars, musical compositions and mash-ups and set piece installations.

In total there were over 500 people involved, including 350 on the day participants of which 150 were freelance creatives, artists and crew and 200 were volunteers. 

It featured 43 performances across the day, reaching all 18 wards of the city and passing through 400 streets. This huge undertaking featured six well-known personalities known as the ‘The Energies’ who were chosen to represent the personality of the city and 14 modern day Godivas selected by public nomination, riding on 10 horses and four pedicabs. On arrival in University Square the Godivas presented their manifesto for social justice in the city to 23 female elected representatives from the city, who pledged to work with them to take this forward and make lasting change in Coventry.

Performances and pop-ups around the city were made possible by 50 vintage and heritage Coventry made cars in cavalcades with Bhangra, Ska and Irish Dancers covering 50 miles of the city’s suburbs; three custom artist made trikes leading 10 miles of cycle processions containing 35 bicycles as well as 10 miles of walking processions. This was supported through 5 electric taxis; 15 support vehicles and 20 production vehicles. Performances were amplified through 120 battery powered speakers. 

Throughout the day, a crew captured the action as it happened and broadcast this live on the City of Culture website. It was enjoyed by thousands in Coventry in 88 countries around the world via livestream, broadcast and social media. There were over 100,000 views across platforms on the day of Coventry Moves with engagement from 67 countries.  12,000 users engaged with coventry2021.online throughout the day.  People can still engage with Coventry Moves through the online content and the two installations. The Coventry 2021 Facebook Page reached an estimated 164,931 people and 8,373 people on Instagram.

A huge schools programme involved over 7000 children across 70 schools to create the Cofa’s Tree installation in Broadgate, as well as forming the heart of Dan Jones’ radio composition Coventry Moves Together, which was broadcast in 7 different streams by 9 separate local radio stations.

Coventry Moves provided a playful and engaging introduction to the city, its stories and its people. The day-long event culminated in a glorious finale with Coventry Moves Together - a monumental and ambitious piece of music by composer and sound artist Dan Jones. This was heard across the city as thousands tuned in to one of nine radio stations to play different streams of the composition, turning the whole city into an orchestra. A film of this moment is available here.

As part of the BBC’s support for Coventry Moves, a special rapid-fire documentary ‘Curtain up on Coventry’ will be broadcast across the Midlands on BBC ONE on Monday 7th June at 7.35pm, and nationally on BBC Four at 7pm on Wednesday 9th June.

Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 began on 15 May 2021, running for 12 months.  Postponed due to the impact of the pandemic, the programme of events, music, dance, theatre, and large-scale spectacles invites citizens and visitors alike to come together once more for great live experiences and moments to remember. It reflects Coventry as a diverse, modern city, demonstrating that culture is a force that changes lives.

Coventry is known internationally as a city of welcome, a city of activists and pioneers, peace and reconciliation, innovation, and invention, and now a City of Culture.

 Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry UK City of Culture, said: “Coventry Moves has given the world a taste of what this wonderful city has to offer. It has been a truly people-powered event and an historic moment of shared experience across communities in the city and beyond.  It was great to have so many amazing Coventry artists taking part from the city showing off their creativity. I hope all Coventrians felt pride in seeing their home in the spotlight.  We hope that everyone watching further afield is excited about visiting soon because we have a whole year of amazing events for you all to enjoy.”

Justine Themen, Director of Coventry Moves said: “After so long in the making, it was so gratifying and moving to see Coventry Moves take place. It was a unique collective event made possible in these difficult times by the unwavering passion and dedication of everyone involved. Although we couldn’t all be together in person to celebrate, there was such a strong sense of community that was a privilege to be part of.”

Cllr George Duggins, Leader, Coventry City Council said: “Today has once again proved what an innovative and creative city Coventry is.

"The day was a celebration of the city’s past, present and future and I’m sure provided an  excellent showcase for our wonderful city, especially as we know the title of UK City of Culture brings attention onto the city from across the country and wider.

“Coventry Moves is part of what I’m sure will be an exciting events programme over the coming year which is such an exciting time of change and opportunity for the city.

“Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture is transforming the city and building something very special for everyone and I would urge everyone to be a part of it, to enjoy it and to see just what our city can do.”

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: "Coventry Moves perfectly showcases the spirit of Coventry and its residents. Events like this one, which bring people together through culture to celebrate the places they love, are what make the City of Culture year so important. I'm looking forward to watching Coventry's creativity continue through 2021 and beyond."

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “Coventry Moves has set the tone for what promises to be an inspirational and incredible year that this city will have as City of Culture. I have no doubt it brought smiles to people’s faces across the country and filled the local community with a sense of pride in their city.

“Coventry is known for its innovation and creativity, and the city demonstrated those traits in such an amazing fashion, when the eyes of the nation were on them.”

You can find all the action from the day here.

About the day

 Six well-known people were selected to be ‘The Energies’, representing the personality of Coventry. In pre-recorded films and surprise live appearances, they acted as guides to some of the themes that will be explored across Coventry’s year as City of Culture.

Representing the Spirit of the River, and the energy of Sustainability, 2 Tone icon Pauline Black of The Selecter dressed as the river itself and opened the day with a  song written and composed specifically for Coventry Moves by Coventry musicians Unamay Olomaiye and Sibongile Mkoba.

Poet and rapper John Bernard was the energy of Youthfulness. The youthfulness of the city can be found in its curiosity and the refusal of generations of young people to accept the way that things were done before.  Across the day, a group of River Runners charted the course of the event through the city, encountering the other energies as they make their way through Parkour, BMX Biking and Dance, surprising shoppers, residents and day trippers in streets and precincts. 

Singer-songwriter Navin Kundra was the energy of People Power, representing the people who built and rebuilt the city, and made its famous watches and bikes. This was brought to the streets on the day in a whirl of music and dance celebrating those who travelled from around the world to live and work in Coventry, enriching the life of the city through the food, language and cultures they brought with them.

‘Powered by People’ travelled across the city as two cavalcades of 20 vehicles - all made in the city - ranging from vintage to modern and electric cars, pausing at a surprise of locations including residential streets and shopping parades. At each location dancers burst from the vehicles performing Irish, Ska and Bollywood dance sequences to a soundtrack created by Punjabi MC.

Artist Daniel Lismore represented Coventry's spirit of Innovation, which stems from the evolution of its industries – from ribbons to watches to sewing machines to bicycles to cars to the jet engine. Coventry created the bicycle and it was celebrated with extravagant custom trikes.  A procession of 30 bikes travelled across the city led by three custom trikes, representing Coventry’s innovation from past, present and future, and riding to a soundtrack created by legendary house DJs Parks & Wilson, who made their name at the Eclipse club in the city.

Many centuries ago, Lady Godiva rode through the streets of the city naked to prevent her husband increasing taxation of the poor. The Energy of Social Justice, lawyer Sue Bent, was chosen to embody that spirit today, and introduced 14 powerful modern day Godivas selected by public nomination who rode on horseback from the suburbs to arrive at the Cathedral to be met by the elected women of the city. Accompanied by women bearing banners and flags, they presented a  manifesto for the causes they wish to champion or an aspiration for the future of Coventry, which the elected representatives pledged to take forward.

The Energy of Resilience was represented by T34 Wheelchair Athlete and Paralympian Kare Adenegan. The spirit of resilience in Coventry has seen the city rise from the Blitz, as well as contemporary challenges including COVID and from violent crime. The River Runners encounter this in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, bombed during World War II, where a reflective installation of over 100 trees and music has been created. The installation will remain in place for a number of weeks to allow audiences to experience this in their own time.  As well as reflecting on the lives lost in Coventry there is a sense of celebration, highlighting those who have escaped warfare and who have come to Coventry for a new life.

Eventually the River Runners arrived at Cofa’s Tree in Broadgate, with Pauline Black, the Energy of Sustainability reprising her song from the start of the day. Cofa’s Tree is a huge installation of a canopy of coloured ribbons, printed with the hopes and aspirations of the city and flags that have been created by local children from 76 schools in the city. An accompanying Augmented Reality app will allow visitors to experience this in the city centre, as well as encounter five other AR manifestations of the city’s Energies from 6 June.

20:21 – Coventry Moves together

At exactly 20:21 the premiere of a landmark piece of music by composer Dan Jones was performed by the people of Coventry simultaneously across seven radio stations as well as in key locations across the city.  Inspired by the legendary Coventry born composer and mathematician, Delia Derbyshire, the composition was performed and experienced in surround sound by people in the city, using thousands of radios simultaneously tuned into a number of musical streams. 

Written for and powered by the people, this ground-breaking finale to Coventry Moves saw communities across the city create music on their own doorsteps, in their gardens and at workplaces across the city in just eight minutes. It was also broadcast by fast food restaurants, by trains coming into the station, by the emergency services and in religious institutions, creating a magical musical embrace of the city. 

Coventry Moves Together was a unique undertaking, commissioned in lockdown with the ambition to reach and inspire the entire community safely and simultaneously. A version of the composition will now go live on BBC Sounds.

You can find all the action from the day here.