Coventry is gearing up for one of the biggest years in its history after being named UK City of Culture 2021.
The city beat off strong competition from Paisley, Stoke, Sunderland and Swansea to win the prestigious national title and was named the winner live on BBC TV on Thursday night.
Work will start straight away to deliver the plans for an incredible 12 months that were set out in the city’s bid to the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport.
Laura McMillan, Manager of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “This is a win for Coventry, a win for young people and a win for diversity. The economic impact will be huge for the city and the West Midlands.
“It’s been a bid by and for the people of Coventry. It has brought so many people and organisations together and this is just the start. Over the next three years we will ensure that everyone in the city, which has been moving people by cycle car and jet engine, is now moving people through culture.”
Coventry’s programme will include a Streets of Culture programme co-producing work in local communities. The first build-up event will be the UK’s first Shop Front Theatre Festival in March 2018 and the city will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Cathedral with a major new lighting commission.
A 2.2 mile Ring Road poem is set to one of the digital centrepiece of 2021 along with major productions by the RSC and the screening of the entire works of Shakespeare in iconic locations.
An artist-led festival called ‘Moments of Silence’ will create moments of silence and beauty and reflect on the city’s 700-year-old Carthusian monastery Charterhouse and play on the myth of being ‘Sent to Coventry’.
Building on the success of 95-year-Old Indian Photographer Masterji’s exhibition, the city will develop a project Tale of Two streets that looks at two of the most diverse streets in Britain through the eyes of photographers.
David Burbidge, chair of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “I must thank Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwick Universities, the West Midlands Combined Authority and every business, artist and individual that has supported us along the way. In just two years ago this bid has put Coventry back on the map.
“I am so proud of everyone involved and now we are determined to put on the greatest show that Coventry has ever seen.”
Coventry City Council leader George Duggins said: “I am delighted we have been named UK City of Culture 2021 - it’s the Christmas present we were all hoping for and it means so much for our city.
“We knew we had put together a very strong bid, but we were up against some excellent competition and I’d like to thank and congratulate all those who have helped to show what a wonderful City of Culture we will be.
“Since we announced our intention to bid, we have seen the incredible effect it has had, with a staggering variety of events and exhibitions that have brought people together and breathed new life into our city.
“I can only imagine what’s to come over the next four years as we build on that.
“Coventry is a vibrant, multicultural city with a fascinating and inspiring story to tell and an arts and cultural scene that deserves its place in the national spotlight.
“There is still a lot of hard work ahead, but as UK City of Culture 2021 we will be able to show everyone why we are so proud of our city and the people who live, work and study here and build something lasting for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
“Hull has proved to be a worthy holder of the title this year but now it is our turn and I am confident we will do even better in 2021.”
Nick Eastwood, chief executive of Wasps and the Ricoh Arena, said: “We are proud to have supported Coventry’s bid to be UK City of Culture from very early on and we are absolutely thrilled that the city has won this massive and prestigious title.
“We will do everything we possibly can from now until 2021 to help prepare for what should be a historic 12 months in the city’s history.”
Stuart Croft, Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick, said: “As I say to all of our students when I greet them on arrival to the University; Coventry is a great city.
“As a community in this great city we have worked together as never before to achieve this exceptional result. Coventry will put on the greatest UK City of Culture year ever! The bid team have been wonderful; I am very proud of the part that the University of Warwick has played in this.”
John Latham, Vice Chancellor of Coventry University, said: “Our city continues to defy expectations. Everyone who helped make us UK City of Culture, including staff at Coventry University, backed the bid with heart and hard work.
“We unlocked a renewed energy and purpose that has already changed Coventry forever and our task now is to share that creativity and civic pride across our region, the whole of the UK, and beyond.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This is a clear message that the Midlands is working together as a team. Coventry has shown how partnerships make a real difference. This is a chance to help people realise that the city has so much to offer from its medieval past to its modernist architecture, creative talent and diverse youth.”
Coventry is also in line for up to £3million of National Lottery funding to help celebrate its heritage. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has made the funding available after successfully investing the same amount into Hull, this year’s City of Culture winner. Discussions will now take place between HLF and Coventry 2021 to agree how the money will be spent.
Ros Kerslake, HLF Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “Congratulations Coventry! From The International Transport Museum to The Herbert Art Gallery, HLF has invested over £36m into the city’s heritage so we know just how special it is and its importance to its identity, economy and communities.
“Whether a famous landmark or an untold family story, the eyes of the UK and beyond are turning to Coventry and we’re delighted that National Lottery funding will be shining a spotlight on its unique culture and heritage.”
Coventry City Council, The University of Warwick, and Coventry University are Principal Partners of the bid and have provided significant support. The Ricoh Arena is Bid Sponsor while Jaguar Land Rover, Adient, Friargate, Coventry Building Society, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Airport, PET-Xi, SCC, Pertemps, and CEF (City Electrical Factors) are also Bid Development Sponsors. Positive Youth Foundation is an Honorary Partner.
To find out more, go to @Coventry2021 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.coventry2021.co.uk