Plenty has happened since that joyful occasion on 7 December 2017 when Coventry won the battle to be named the UK’s City of Culture 2021...

What the team behind Coventry’s City of Culture bid couldn’t possibly have envisaged back in 2017 was the impact which a global pandemic would have on their best-laid plans for 2021.

With the arts & culture sector hit hard by Covid, Coventry’s year in the spotlight was suddenly under significant threat. 

Fast-forward 14 months, and with the arrival of a vaccine offering Brits hope of a return to a pre-pandemic way of living, Coventry is now set to enjoy the glory it so richly deserves - albeit a little later than originally anticipated!

Organisers have been working tirelessly and innovatively to rejig the year-long programme. And along the way they’ve even managed to add further value to what was already an eclectic and exciting line-up of events. 

“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.”

Programming for City of Culture officially launched on 15 May, with a festival of street art and artist-designed shop windows aiming to provide a warm welcome for visitors as they returned to the city centre.
Signature event Coventry Moves will take place online on 5 June. The digital/broadcast event features installation, performance and movement, ‘to create a powerful and diverse vision of the city’s future’. Audiences can expect plenty of surprises as Coventry celebrates its past whilst looking to its future.

The creative responsible for co-ordinating Coventry Moves is Justine Themen, deputy artistic director at Coventry’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.

Coventry’s international reputation as a place of ‘activists and pioneers, peace and reconciliation, innovation and invention’ will be reflected in the 2021 programme. The featured events will showcase the city as a destination which is 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 FILM
The UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) is presented in association with the city’s Belgrade Theatre (28 & 29 May). 

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, offering a platform for the next generation of British Asian film talent.

Coventry Cathedral provides the stage for Romeo & Juliet on 17 June, with The Three Inch Fools - a company of five actors - using a variety of musical instruments to present an innovative take on Shakespeare’s famous romantic tragedy. The company then returns to the venue with a ‘calamitous’ new production of Robin Hood on 25 August.

Acclaimed new-writing company Paines Plough presents a unique and intimate pop-up theatre event in the later summer. 
The community-focused Roundabout (Moat House Leisure & Neighbourhood Centre, 27 July - 8 August) will host plays by ‘some of the nation’s finest writers’.

In September, Coventry-based Highly Sprung Theatre Company showcases a major new production focusing on the environmental crisis. The all-female ensemble of CastAway presents 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 as being 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.  

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

The Walk (27 October) 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 8,000km journey through eight countries of Little Amal, a 3.5metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl. 
Amal will walk for all the children - many unaccompanied and separated from their families - who are forced to undertake extraordinary journeys under life-threatening conditions.

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. Bringing together international legends with contemporary pioneers, Home Sessions reflects Coventry’s rich musical history and includes performances by Hall himself.

Launching on International Youth Day, CVX Festival (12 - 15 August) 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
Ruth Borchard Collection’s Self-Portrait Prize 2021 will be on display at Coventry Cathedral until 28 June. The Prize is the only art competition of its kind to focus exclusively on self-portraiture. Also showing at the Cathedral until 30 June is Concrete Collar by Tom Illsley. The exhibition features photographs documenting the city’s rapidly changing urban landscape.

The Turner Prize (1 October - 1 December) makes its Midlands debut at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.

The prestigious art show comprises work by shortlisted artists from the previous 12 months. The artists whose pieces will be featured at the venue are yet to be announced.

The Coventry Biennial takes place across Warwickshire between October and next 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. A ‘moving’ tribute to the written word, Small Bell Rings will see a specially designed canal boat provide a home for ‘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 (23 - 26 September) brings together various artistic practices in what will be the region’s biggest poetry & performance festival. The event will present 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