Coventry saw a weekend of moving events as it marked 75 years since the Coventry Blitz and also remembered those who lost their lives in the tragic events in Paris.
The programme of events included a live performance on the Saturday night with the St Michael’s Singers, Parliament Choir and English Symphony Orchestra, a special civic service of Commemoration in Coventry Cathedral on Sunday night, a Blitz survivors’ tea dance and a Human Chain of Light and Peace event in the city centre.
Hundreds of people joined together in a giant human chain in the city’s University Square on Saturday evening outside Coventry Cathedral, a fitting backdrop given its symbol as a centre for peace and reconciliation internationally.
Speaking at the event, The Right Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, the Lord Bishop of Coventry, said:
“What happened to this city and its people in the dark hours of that night 75 years ago was enough to bring lasting despair upon the city. It was enough to turn human hearts to hatred. It was enough to make a people give up on life.
“Coventry, though, was greater and stronger and more noble than that. Yes, there was dreadful disorientation and real anger after the bombing but a voice from the ruined Cathedral said: We will rebuild – and it will be a Cathedral of hope for the world. We will renew our city – and we will demonstrate the power of the human spirit.
“This night – and the morning after this night – was the defining moment of Coventry’s history. It would become for all time the symbol of the damage that war and conflict bring to ordinary human communities and, the abiding sign, that, if we can find a way out of the cycle of retaliation and violence, peace will come to our world.
“On the day after the terrible violence experienced by the people of Paris, the story of Coventry is more important than ever. Our history tells us of the terror of violence. It also tells us that violence need not have the last word. It tells us that hope heals, that peace is possible and that we must do everything in our power – calling on the power of God – to end the cycle of violence and the hatred that fuels it."
He later added: “The weekend’s events encapsulated the sense of community and friendship that Coventry is famous for and, as a city, we will strive towards working together for a better world.”
Saturday night’s event saw local residents, visitors, schoolchildren and local choirs join HRH the Duke of Kent, the Bishop of Coventry, Councillor Michael Hammon, who is the Lord Mayor of Coventry and special guests from Coventry’s twin cities, to illuminate the square and create a human chain of light.
Councillor Michael Hammon, the Lord Mayor of Coventry, said:
“As a Blitz survivor myself, it’s important that we remember and pay tribute to those who lived through the terrible events of that night 75 years ago. The stories of the survivors must never be forgotten. ”
Councillor Ann Lucas, Leader of Coventry City Council added:
“This weekend, once again, the city of Coventry rose to the occasion in marking the anniversary with pride, dignity and love. As I said ahead of the weekend events, the relevance of the human tragedy of November 1940 grows in significance and reinforces the city’s reputation as a city of peace and reconciliation across the world.
“Tragically the events in Paris on the Friday night, again highlighted the human cost of conflict and lives destroyed, so the city coming together on Saturday added extra poignancy to the event.”
“Over the weekend, many hundreds of people joined in events held right across Coventry, including the iconic Coventry Cathedral which played host to a special Civic Commemorative Service, a concert featuring Mozart’s Requiem and witnessed over 200 people attend a Blitz Survivors’ Tea Dance which was a lovely occasion I hear.”
“It is vitally important we take the opportunity to look to the future and continue the good work to bring communities and people together to build a place everyone can be proud of.”
The Cathedral Ruins were also lit up in the colours of the French flag as an additional symbolic mark of respect for the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
All the pictures and stories from the weekend’s events can be viewed at www.coventry.gov.uk/blitz