With just over five months until the launch of Coventry’s City Of Culture 2021 programme, what can audiences expect in terms of theatre presentations, musical performances and visual arts exhibitions?

After much speculation about how Coventry’s year as City Of Culture 2021 would progress under the cloud of Covid-19, the Trust overseeing the momentous celebration for the whole of the Midlands has confirmed that a year-long programme of events will now begin in May.

Kicking off proceedings on the 15th of the month is an inclusive production titled Coventry Moves. The multi-disciplinary event features city-wide participation, installation, performance, movement and digital activity, ‘to create a powerful and diverse vision of the city’s future’. 

The creatives responsible for co-ordinating Coventry Moves are Nigel Jamieson and Justine Themen. Nigel is the creator of opening and closing events for the Commonwealth Games and the opening of the European Capital Of Culture in Liverpool. Justine is deputy artistic director at the city’s Belgrade Theatre.

Six young creatives from across the city will also play a pivotal role in the concept, narration and production of the highly anticipated opener.

It’s no mean feat planning and co-ordinating a 12-month-long event at any time, let alone in the middle of a pandemic. But Coventry is determined that its special year will be a resounding success. “When the city is faced with a challenge, we tackle it head on,” says Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry City Of Culture. “The resilience and innovation that the city is known for around the world can be seen in the events we’ve announced.

“From city-wide stories to intimate experiences and small-scale events that will surprise and delight - whatever age you are, whatever brings a smile to your face, whatever makes you feel a little more alive, you will find it in Coventry City Of Culture.”

Coventry’s international reputation as a place of ‘activists and pioneers, peace and reconciliation, innovation and invention’ will be reflected in the 2021 programme. 

Events will showcase the city as diverse and modern, moving forward and embracing culture while at the same time connecting communities and changing lives.
Here’s a taster of what will be happening during the year-long celebrations...

THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE

The Walk is one of the most innovative and adventurous public artworks ever attempted. 
Co-created by Good Chance Theatre, Stephen Daldry, Handspring Puppet Company, David Lan and Tracey Seaward, it centres on the 5,000-mile journey of Little Amal, a 3.5metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl. Amal will be met by local residents during the Coventry Welcomes festival in June.

The UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) also takes place in June and is presented in association with the city’s Belgrade Theatre. As well as celebrating the centenary of acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray via a selection of premieres based on the theme of ‘Ray of Hope’, UKAFF features a host of bold new movies and provides a platform for the next generation of British Asian film talent.

In July, acclaimed new-writing company Paines Plough presents the community-focused Roundabout, a unique and intimate pop-up theatre event hosting plays by ‘some of the nation’s finest writers’.

In August, Coventry-based Highly Sprung Theatre Company showcases a major new production featuring an all-female cast.  CastAway centres on the environmental crisis. Using a fusion of movement, gesture and dance on a stage of floating plastic, the production draws on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (located between Hawaii and California) - a floating island of everlasting plastic that’s grown to six-and-a-half times the size of the UK... CastAway will be imagined to be staged on the water in Coventry’s Canal Basin, an important heritage site in the city and now a focus of cultural investment and activity.  

Other theatrical works throughout the year include a co-commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Coventry-based writer Chris O’Connell, playwright Chinonyerem Odimba and design consultant Tom Piper. The collaborative work - Faith - is presented in September and uses music, theatre, installation and ritual ‘to explore what keeps us going in tough times’.

Also in September, Theatre Of Wandering builds on the experience of those living with dementia in ‘a playful and poignant theatrical experience’ involving shopkeepers, care workers and care-home residents, working together to create and perform. 

In November, Belgrade Theatre’s co-artistic director, Corey Campbell, and six emerging Midlands writers present a six-part digital television series titled SeaView. Inspired by a true story, SeaView is described as ‘an urban drama celebrating the aspirations of a Black working-class family exploring urgent questions around choice and circumstance.’ 

MUSIC AND DANCE

One of Coventry’s biggest musical names curates three days of music in the heart of the city in July.  Best known from his days as frontman of The Specials and Fun Boy Three, Terry Hall curates a festival programme of intimate gigs and events at various locations. Blending international legends with contemporary pioneers, Home Sessions reflects Coventry’s rich musical history and includes performances by Hall himself.

Launching on International Youth Day (12 August), CVX Festival provides a platform for regional and national artists to take a stand against violence. Rapper Jay1 is a lead ambassador for City Of Culture and will co-produce live music for CVX with his brand, ONE Wave. ONE Wave invites young people in the city to collaborate in spreading messages of peace and unity, and also highlights how positive role models and creativity can transform lives. 

VISUAL ARTS

The Turner Prize makes its Midlands debut at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in September. The prestigious art show features work by shortlisted artists from the previous 12 months.

The Coventry Biennial takes place across the county between October and January. Showcased work explores the legacies of artist-led networks, activism and ways of teaching that have emerged from and through the local area since the 1960s. 

LITERATURE AND SPOKEN WORD 

A new commission between Super Slow Way and artist collective Studio Morison takes place in July. Small Bell Rings is a moving tribute to the written word and sees a specially designed canal boat house ‘the largest collection of short stories’. The boat will travel 5.5 miles of Coventry canal, with a small bell being rung each time a book is taken from the library.

Contains Strong Language brings together various artistic practices in what will be the region’s biggest poetry & performance festival. The event presents a line-up of impressive talent from across the UK.

To keep up to date with all Coventry City Of Culture 2021 news and events, visit: coventry2021.co.uk