A LARGE-scale launch event with 10,000 people, the Turner Prize 2021, a major new RSC theatre co-commission and live ‘Home’ music sessions with Terry Hall will form part of Coventry’s “bold” 365-day UK City of Culture programme.
Chenine Bhathena, Coventry UK City of Culture’s creative director was today (Wednesday October 21) joined by members of her creative team to give a first glimpse of what is to come as they unveiled 15 events to take place from May 2021 onwards.
At a live online media briefing she said: “We are announcing these events today and hope, in these dark times, to give something for people to look forward to – things they can do and enjoy, whatever the future may hold. When Coventry is faced by a challenge, we tackle it head on. The resilience and innovation that the city is known for around the world can be seen in the events we announce today.
“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. Today’s announcement is only the beginning of what is to come and we look forward to announcing more in January 2021, when will be sharing our full programme, with local artists and organisations central to the celebrations.”
Describing the cultural programme of a “beacon of bold thinking” despite a “difficult and challenging year” amid a global pandemic she said the Coventry 2021 programme will reflect the city as a diverse, modern city, demonstrating that culture is a force for social changes lives, moving the city and the region forward. The full programme will be unveiled in January 2021.
Key events unveiled include:
- Coventry Moves – a huge launch event on Saturday May 15 with a cast of 10,000 created by international producer Australian-based Nigel Jamieson and Justine Themen, the Belgrade Theatre’s deputy artistic director. Nigel has so far been unable to fly to Coventry due to Covid-19 restrictions but despite this has “come to love the city and its people.” He says he has never done a job “so embedded in community”.
- one of the world’s best-known visual arts prizes The Turner Prize 2021, which sees the jury shortlist four British artists, will take place at Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, September 2020 – January 2022 – a first for the West Midlands. The winner will be announced from the city on December 1.
- a three-day weekender of ‘Home Sessions’ curated by Terry Hall, lead singer of Coventry 2-Tone band The Specials
- Faith, a major co-commission with the Stratford-upon-Avon-based Royal Shakespeare Company, led by deputy artistic director Erica Whyman with Coventry based writer Chris O’Connell, playwright Chinonyerem Odimba and design consultant, Tom Piper.
- The Walk – one of the most innovative and adventurous public artworks ever attempted, centred on the 5,000-mile journey of Little Amal, a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl, created by Good Chance Theatre, Stephen Daldry, David Lan and Tracey Seaward with War Horse creators, Handspring Puppet Company.
- CVX Festival – a pioneering three-day arts activism and music event curated by young people in the city to coincide with International Youth Day on 12 August, with Coventry rapper Jay1 co-producing live music with his brand ONE Wave.
Visual arts highlights include Tides Within us, a major site specific production at London Road Cemetery and Charterhouse Fields created by digital artists Marshmallow Laser Feast and exploring Coventry’s built and natural heritage nature and The third Coventry Biennial titled Hyper-Possible in autumn 2021 with new commissions by local and international artists. So far confirmed are Coventry-born Ryan Christopher, Ayo Akingbade, Faye Claridge, Laura Dicken, Georgiou & Tolley, Grace Ndiritu, Alan Van Wijgerden, melissandre varin and Duncan Whitley. Artists will also be working with children who attend eight special needs and disability schools in Coventry alongside to create public artwork as part of Rivers of the World project. A key focus will be to learn about Coventry’s hidden historic River Sherbourne, and rivers of the world, with SEND schools in Tanzania.
Next June sees Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre hosting the 2021 UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) celebrating the centenary of acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray with a selection of premieres based on the theme of ‘Ray of Hope’, as well as a short film competition and digital commissions looking to nurture the next generation of British Asian film talent. The city theatre will also co-produce four plays alongside national new writing company, Paines Plough in their intimate pop-up theatre ROUNDABOUT and a six-part digital TV series SeaView with Amazon based on an urban drama about a black working class family.
Influenced by Shakespeare and the Coventry Mystery Plays, Faith, led by RSC Deputy Director, Erica Whyman, will be a 24 hour invitation to find out what keeps each of us going in tough times, and how people of faith and of no faith understand and celebrate the chapters of their lives. Told through music, theatre, installation and ritual, it will unfold an epic overarching story. Building on the experience of those living with dementia is Theatre of Wandering, created by OiBokkeShi, the company set up by acclaimed Japanese director Naoki Sugawara working with Entelechy Arts.
Coventry’s Canal Basin is the location and inspiration behind CastAway, an all-female production by the city’s physical theatre company Highly Spring looking at the pollution of canals and waterways, before touring the UK’s canals networks. Also on the city’s waterways, will be a specially designed canal boat housing the largest collection of short stories in the UK. Small Bell Rings is literally a floating tribute to the written word, and will travel the 5.5m of the Coventry Canals and ring a small bell each time a book is taken from the library.
BBC Contains Strong Language, from September 23 – 26, sees Warwickshire-based poetry publisher Nine Arches Press and Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 hosting the biggest poetry and performance festival ever seen in the region. BBC Radio 3’s Ian McMillan will explore verse and highlight new talent emerging from the streets; while BBC Radio Four’s Front Row will showcase Coventry’s vibrant spoken word scene.
Also announced today were six young creatives from the city, who will play a central role in the creative concept, narrative and production of Coventry Moves, the inaugural City of Culture event: Hannah Beck, Marius Mates, Sachin Sharma, Sibongile Mkoba, Sebbie Mudhai and Semilore Kaji-Hausa.
Reacting to the news the government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden CBE MP, said: “UK City of Culture 2021 is a wonderful opportunity for Coventry to showcase and champion its arts and culture offering to people in the city, the West Midlands and beyond. This is an exciting time for the city and I look forward to hearing more about the plans as they progress.”
Coun George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Although Coventry has been preparing for its role as UK City of Culture since our name was announced in December 2017, the Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had a major impact on preparations, as it has on nearly every aspect of our lives. Today’s announcement is a much-needed boost and something that we can all look forward to, as I know it is going to be a spectacular year.
“With the public realm work to improve the city centre experience going well and the exciting capital building programmes well-underway across the city, I know that we are going to stage something special for people to talk about for years to come, as well as leave a lasting legacy for the residents of our city.”