Summer of Surprises kicks off across Coventry this weekend

Photo by Walk The Plank
Photo by Walk The Plank

A Summer of Surprises to help mark the start of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture 2021 will begin this weekend.

The Coventry City of Culture Trust has commissioned dozens of musicians to perform pop-up music performances in pubs across the city over the Bank Holiday weekend from Friday 28 May - Monday 31 May.

More than 20 pubs are taking part in every corner of the city and each will see live musical performances from a range of locally based artists across the afternoon on each day.

The project is led by local artist Sam McNulty, and co-produced by Coventry City Council.

The second event in the Summer of Surprises will be the spectacular Midsummer’s Fire Garden experience in Caludon Castle Park fromn 25 - 26 June.

It will be a family-friendly adventure into a fiery night-time landscape and will be an illuminating arts experience brimming with sights and sounds, designed for people of all ages to discover and enjoy.

It will feature Walk the Plank’s intricately carved flaming flower boxes and delicately patterned floral chimneys, flame tipped bulrushes and colossal lilies belching plumes of fire.

Alongside Walk the Plank’s botanically themed sculptures, the Mid-Summer Fire Garden will also feature the incredible Dr Kronovator’s Fire Laboratory installation by Emergency Exit Arts.

The Mid-Summer Fire Garden event is free but ticketed with tickets go on sale Friday 4 June.

From the end of July until the end of September, The city’s Bands in the Park programme returns with many of Coventry’s fabulous parks playing host to live music, as part of the City of Culture “Summer of Surprises” programme.

If you have never been to a Bands in the Park event, it is a relaxing, family-friendly musical experience in many of the city’s beautiful parks on a Sunday afternoon, taking place from the end of July until the end of September. Times vary but are usually from 2pm and 3.30pm. There will be also CineCov events at Allesley Park, a charming animated tale - My Neighbour Totoro and the 80s cult classic starring David Bowie - Labyrinth make Allesley park a cinema for the day! 

The Summer of Surprises programme is supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as part of the £3.5 million funding announced in April.

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “Our Summer of Surprises is going to see artists popping up in unexpected locations all over the city, from acoustic musical performances in pubs this Bank Holiday Weekend through to an exciting Fire Gardens trail in Caludon Castle Park in June.

“We hope thousands of people across the city will experience the start of our year as UK City of Culture and I hope that this will be a great way to help everyone feel their way back towards live events in very safe environments.

“Everything will be done to be in line with the latest Covid-19 restrictions and will be designed to offer a surprising summer treat as we get our year as UK City of Culture moving.”

Leader of Coventry City Council, Cllr George Duggins, said: "Our year as UK City of Culture is about involving everyone in the city - bringing events to local communities and showcasing our talented artists.

"The Summer of Surprises will do just that with intimate performances in local pubs which the Council is helping to co-produce, through to a Fire Gardens spectacular.

"We are just a few days in to our year, but already we are seeing the excitement build and spread across the city and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next."

Nathan Jackson, Producer, Walk the Plank said: “The Mid-Summer Fire Garden will be a really spectacular experience – and one that appeals to audiences and communities of all ages and backgrounds. There’s something about heat and light that brings people together and it’s that opportunity to share in something really unusual and unexpected that makes outdoor arts activities so special.”

Summer of Surprises Pub Programme

Sat 29 May
The Jaguar Social Club
Rose and Woodbine
The Yard
Miners Arms
The Stag

Sunday 30 May
The Engine
The Open Arms
New Spires
The Vale
The Tin
Coventry Telegraph Hotel - Generators

Monday 31 May
FarGo Village
Biggin Hall
The Gatehouse
The Burnt Post
The Newlands
The Hearsall Inn


Bands in the Park

The city’s Bands in the Park programme returns this summer with many of Coventry’s fabulous parks playing host to live music. It is a relaxing, family-friendly musical experience in many of the city’s beautiful parks on a Sunday afternoon, taking place from the end of July until the end of September.

My Neighbour Totoro (PG)

Join us for some family fun this summer as Allesley park becomes a cinema for the day! 

This charming animated tale follows schoolgirl Satsuke and her younger sister, Mei, as they settle into an old country house with their father and wait for their mother to recover from illness. As the sisters explore their new home, they encounter and befriend playful spirits in their house and the nearby forest, most notably the massive cuddly creature known as Totoro!

Labyrinth (PG)

CineCov brings some magic to Allesley Park with this 80s cult classic starring David Bowie.

Fifteen-year-old Sarah resents her baby brother Toby and secretly wishes that he will just disappear. Her wish comes true when goblins kidnap the boy. Feeling responsible for his abduction, she sets forth to retrieve him, and finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime. To rescue her brother, she must sneak into the castle of the Goblin King, which is in the centre of a fantastical labyrinth. But, the task is easier said than done, for the maze is filled with strange creatures and mind-bending puzzles, and nothing is really as it seems.