Festival of Imagineers brings a plethora of outdoor art and performance to Coventry this month. All pieces are based around the merging of the arts with engineering. 

The festival is now in its fifth year and is a recurring part of Imagineer’s calendar of projects.

“Our aims as a company really are to create extraordinary, new and exciting outdoor work in creative spaces, with the hope of engaging as broad a range of audience as possible,” says Claire Maddocks,

Creative Producer at Imagineer, and the festival’s director. “We want to support the development of new artists and young people through our work, but mainly we want to create work that’s really memorable.”
The eyes of the nation were drawn to Imagineer when they unveiled their project for the London 2012 Olympics.

"The thing that everyone would know us for is our Godiva Awakes project for the Olympics,” says Claire.

“We made a massive Lady Godiva puppet and cycled it down to London. I think since then it’s been a slightly challenging journey because there was a period after 2012 where a lot of funding dried up - this happened nationally.” 

Despite those funding difficulties, the company managed to create a very unusual and distinct identity for Festival of Imagineers.

“The concept came out of quite a long journey,” Claire continues. “We ran a small-scale festival of invention at that time, which was to do with the fact that Coventry has historically been a very inventive city. We left that behind when we did our major Olympic project in 2012, where we’d mixed with a whole series of engineering companies across the region. So it seemed like a natural progression to link all our future work to those engineers, and to explore further the synergy between creative engineers and creative artists. 

“For the festival, quite a lot of the performances will use structures or machines or other things that have been engineered to create a framework for facilitating performance or art of some description. We’ve managed to really fuse those elements together over the years, and I think that’s very much what Imagineer is about. I feel it really makes sense to our audience now, and they really appreciate the festival as something a little bit different, quirky and unexpected.”

Each year sees the festival programme take on different themes: "We’re doing two themes this year - connectivity and play. The connectivity part is all about exploring what connects people, communities, places and more. Our theme of play partly links to some work the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum are doing exploring the subject. It also links to our major new commission, Bridge, where one of the main things we’re exploring is creating an environment in which members of the public are invited to play in the public space, or behave differently from usual in relation to a public space."

Claire is immensely proud that Festival of Imagineers presents a balance of local, national and international work.

"I do feel like you need to do stuff that’s locally rooted, but is interesting nationally and internationally. I think the important thing is creating a platform upon which there can be a cross-fertilisation between local, national and international artists. So I think it’s about striking a balance between nurturing, supporting and showcasing local artists, and bringing in work from outside that can influence the local art scene, or be influenced by it.”

Claire is also optimistic about the festival’s future.

“We’re exploring a slightly different model and different partnerships, so it may become a festival where you might visit Coventry and stay for the duration. I can’t reveal much else about what we’re actually trying to do, but the plan is to grow and explode the festival over the next five years.”

Claire hopes Coventry becoming City of Culture 2021 will help propel Imagineer, the festival and Coventry itself towards new heights: “I’m really excited because I’ve spent almost my whole career in Coventry, insisting the city isn’t the cultural desert many presume it to be! This is Coventry’s opportunity to really change people’s perceptions of it. In terms of what it means for the festival, we really don’t know, but we’re hopeful. I think it’s just a case of waiting to see what happens.”

Festival of Imagineers takes place in various locations around Coventry city centre from Monday 17 - Saturday 22 September. For more information, visit festivalofimagineers.co.uk