‘It’s important to build pride’: Coventry looks to future as UK city of culture

Under the colourful kaleidoscope of Coventry’s latest public artwork, Chenine Bhathena reflects on what the next 12 months hold for the city as it begins its year as the UK’s city of culture after a four-month delay due to the pandemic.

“The city is transforming around us. I think it will be really important to build pride for people here, and to be able to show off on a national stage, to help people understand the city as it is now," 彼女は言いました. “After Covid, the city of culture is more important than ever.”

Bhathena has faced a huge challenge as creative director of the project, trying to organise a city-wide, yearlong spread of events in the middle of a pandemic that has devastated the cultural sector. But projects are finally starting to materialise and are likely to become pioneering examples of how the UK can rejuvenate artistic engagement after Covid.

土曜日, a new film inspired by the words of George Eliot, who studied and lived in the city for a number of years, will be released at 20.21 in the evening with a music track by the Coventry music producer Coolie.

The signature Coventry Moves event has been pushed back to 5 六月. It will be a dawn-to-dusk celebration of the city and its people.

This week it was announced that 14 local modern-day Lady Godivas were learning to ride horses for their role in the proceedings. All have been chosen for their unique stories embodying the activist spirit of the Coventry-born Lady Godiva, WHO, legend says, rode naked through the city to pressure her husband into reducing the taxes imposed on his tenants.

While the year will embrace and celebrate Coventry’s history, Bhathena wants the focus to be on how the city sees itself moving forward. “I think in a lot of cities around the UK where there’s a huge amount of history, people do look back a lot, and that’s great, but there’s also a need to understand and celebrate the role your city will play in the future of the world.”

On Hertford Street, a classic example of the 20th-century brutalist architecture that the city is known for, an art installation by Morag Myerscough is transforming the concrete blocks with bold splashes of colour, one of a number of public artworks popping up around the city.

But working with local artists and getting out into communities who wouldn’t normally engage with the cultural sector have been crucial. “If you take work into the community, on to people’s doorsteps, they do want to engage in it. There’s just sometimes barriers we have to break down.”

West Midlands police announced on Monday that it had recruited its first artist in residence as part of the city of culture year. 映画製作者, poet and playwright Kay Rufai will work with young people in Coventry who are at risk of criminal exploitation and youth violence, and help to build better connections with the force.

Until the government Covid roadmap was announced, Bhathena had no idea whether the years of hard work that have gone into the city of culture year would be able to come to fruition as planned.

“There have been challenges, and there will continue to be; we’re not out of the woods on the pandemic yet,” said Bhathena, adding that backup plans had been prepared in the event that lockdown restrictions are tightened again. “But we are continuing to be as ambitious as we can; we fought hard to win this title and we want to deliver on the promises we made to the city.”