Why did this modest West Midlands town become City of Culture in 2021?
The title is awarded every four years and is based on the European Capital of Culture concept, which revitalised Liverpool in 2008 and Glasgow before it. It gives Coventry access to £3 million from the Heritage Lottery Funds and is intended to boost tourism, the economy, and citizens’ access to the arts and pride.
The city will now be set for a year-long cultural celebration, which should be a breath of fresh air for a town that has taken some knocks over the years, including serious damage from World War II bombings. As reported by the British news, Coventry’s choice as the UK City of Culture should be a source of great celebration for those who call it home.
Here’s our rundown of Coventry’s cultural highlights.
Its applicability in architecture
Coventry’s candidacy for UK City of Culture contained the argument that the city had “constantly remade itself to survive.”
One of the most notable examples of this occurred following World War II, when the city of Coventry was devastated by a series of raids by German bombers beginning in March 1940 and culminating in a disastrous incendiary raid by the Luftwaffe in November of the same year.
The town was promptly rebuilt, with town planner Donald Gibson providing Britain’s first pedestrianised shopping centre in Coventry.
The most visible evidence of Coventry’s devastation is the ruins of its magnificent cathedral, which has been replaced by a new structure designed by the famous architect Basil Spence.
The contrast of old and new is a visual representation of Coventry’s ability to embrace new beginnings and transform a painful past into a successful present.
Its role as a peace symbol
After World War II wreaked havoc on Europe and the rest of the world, town-twinning became a popular technique to promote peace and togetherness across varied countries and cultures.
Coventry was twinned with Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and Dresden, both extensively attacked during the war.
Coventry is twinned with Warsaw, Belgrade, Kingston, Jamaica, and three US cities with the same name.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono planted two acorns outside Coventry Cathedral in 1968.
Its claims to fame in pop culture
Coventry, in England’s West Midlands, can now add a new distinction to its list of selling factors, thanks to its rich history and magnificently refurbished cathedral.
It was selected as the new UK City of Culture earlier this month (December 7, 2017), succeeding Hull once home to poet Philip Larkin and beating others such as Sunderland, Swansea, and Stoke-on-Trent.
Over the years, Coventry has had its fair share of cultural icons.
Coventry, the birthplace of poet Philip Larkin (whose thoughtful and to-the-point writings were inspired by former UK City of Culture Hull) and actor Clive Owen, has a vibrant arts culture both past and present.
Chuck Berry recorded his lone number one hit, ‘My Ding-a-Ling,’ at a live concert in the town’s Locarno Ballroom in 1972 as part of the Lanchester Arts Festival.
Lee Child, the best-selling author, was also born in Coventry, as was the two-tone ska revival band The Specials.
The location inspired their renowned song ‘Ghost Town,’ a homage to Margaret Thatcher’s Britain’s sorrow.
The Belgrade Theatre and the Shop Front Theatre, Coventry’s two most prominent live art venues, presently host a variety of performances, including modern plays and dance recitals.
The Coventry Godiva Festival is the country’s largest free musical festival.
So, what is the future like?
Hull, the 2017 UK City of Culture, is believed to have benefited tremendously from the honour, with an estimated £60 million added to the city’s economy.
The title’s major goal is to promote joy and renewal via arts and culture.
This means that Coventry’s burgeoning cultural sector should begin to develop.
The Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, which is responsible for the title, exists to help inhabitants and tourists alike maintain a thriving array of leisure and arts activities.
If all goes as planned, this honour could provide the much-needed morale boost for this city’s survival.