Rising from the ashes and rebuilding

6 September 2017

One of Coventry’s emblems is a Phoenix – rising from the ashes and rebuilding – this is, for me, the best way to explain why I am backing the City of Culture bid.

When I read that Coventry wanted ideas for the City of Culture bid, I simply had to offer them. I am by no means an artist, I am a journalist but I have ideas and I want my city to thrive, grow and be the city it should be.

For me, Coventry is frustrating – it’s a city that feels like it’s an underdog and should be very different. Living here I see the faults and issues: if it wasn’t Blitzed, wasn’t sandwiched between the tourist spots in Warwickshire and the second city of Birmingham, didn’t have sayings shadowing over it like “Sent to Coventry”.

For anyone else, the city may be a pass-through, a place to sleep, a stop before Birmingham or Warwickshire, a place where someone you know or knew may be in university.

What is not seen is that, under the shadow cast over it, Coventry is doing what it has always done: rebuilding, moving and innovating.

Unspoken culture

There’s a tapestry of diverse cultures in Coventry. There is a sense of inclusiveness which I felt when I was growing up in the city. It was normal for me to the Cathedral with school, visit Plas Dol-y-Moch (an education centre in Wales where all pupils in Coventry are able to go and explore outdoors activities) and camp the night at Rough Close.

Sport was also a huge part of my life growing up in the city – I celebrated when Coventry won the FA Cup, I watched countless Coventry Rugby matches and attended the 100+ year old family and volunteer ran Gosford Gymnastics club, competing against other Midlands clubs.

This inclusiveness of “one city” was something I thought was common. It wasn’t until moving away and abroad that made me realise that it isn’t necessarily so and that there is an almost unspoken culture in Coventry. When given the opportunity to, we shine.

Doing something

It was an easy decision for me to back the bid and share ideas, especially because there are lots of sources to pull from when looking at culture in Coventry.

The way I saw it: I could either stay frustrated with Coventry being cast under a shadow or I could do something, however little, to help the bid team.

So I gave my ideas and I have no regrets. It has been very rewarding and has inspired me even more than I had originally thought.

I have met some equally passionate and talented people and I have learnt more about what’s going on in my city.

Looking forward

I feel excited when I think of the impact that a UK City of Culture win would have on Coventry. I think it could be a complete game-changer for both the West Midlands and Warwickshire – just watching what is happening in Hull proves how an area can be transformed, and all for the right reasons.

If Coventry got to host the UK City of Culture in 2021, I think it would be the biggest change in the city for a very long time and I would be able to say “I was part of that”.

I feel that Coventry is slowly waking up the Phoenix within and all it needs now is the opportunity to spread its wings.

I can’t wait to see it happen.

by Rachael Smith

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