Coventry City of Culture to commence year-long programme in May 2021

Published Friday, 03 July 2020

Coventry City of Culture Trust today (3 July) announced that it will officially commence its programme in May 2021.

Co-created with national and local partners, and grassroots organisations across the city, the programme will include major international artistic events, world premieres and commissions across theatre, music, dance, literature, comedy and visual art. 

Covid-19 continues to have a major impact on the cultural sector locally and nationwide. The announcement today confirms the commitment of the Trust, with the backing of its major partners, to create and stage the major yearlong event, which will deliver significant benefits in the lead up to and during the year itself, as well as in the years following.

Today’s announcement will enable the Trust to provide commitment to its partners, and to continue to work towards delivering the year of culture itself. The programme will play a key role in supporting the culture sector through the challenging period ahead, and uses the spotlight of the celebration to showcase the creativity of the city and region to audiences across the UK.   

Over the next 18 months, the Trust is committed to working with at least 120 community-led or charitable organisations in the city, and local, regional and national arts organisations, to create and deliver the wide-ranging programme.

Today also coincides with the release of the first details of a signature event, directed by Nigel Jamieson and Justine Themen, at the centre of the programme. The event, described as a mass city-wide celebration, will be co-created alongside thousands of residents of all ages from across the city whose music, performance and dance will weave throughout the epic event presented across hundreds of structures built by residents across the city. The event will showcase the city’s boundless energy and unite residents to explore the values that underpin Coventry and their hopes for its future.

Jamieson is internationally-renowned for his set piece spectacles, including ‘Tin Symphony’ for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony, the opening event of Aarhus2017 – European Capital of Culture and citywide spectacular Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected in Cardiff in 2016. He is working alongside Justine Themen, co-Artistic Director of the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, a leading figure in the city’s arts scene, known for creating transformative theatre that tells the stories of people not often seen on the stage.

The 365-day Coventry 2021 cultural programme will reflect Coventry as a diverse, modern city, demonstrating that culture is a force that changes lives, moving Coventry and the region forward.

Coventry is known internationally as a city of welcome, a city of activists and pioneers, a city of peace and reconciliation, a city of innovation and invention, and now a City of Culture.

Further details of the 365-day cultural programme will be announced later this year.

Councillor George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council, said:

“Coventry has been preparing for its role as UK City of Culture since our name was announced in 2017, and the excitement has been building as the months have passed. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously had a major impact on preparations.

“The year as UK City of Culture will put Coventry in the national and international spotlight. It is a fantastic opportunity, but we only have one chance to hold this wonderful title and it is vitally important that we are completely prepared when our time comes.

“The decision to delay the start of our year until May is absolutely the right move and will mean we are ready and able to welcome our many visitors and stage something special for people to talk about for years to come, as well as leave a lasting legacy for the people of our city.

“After these weeks of uncertainty, it is good that we now have a definite date, and the excitement can start to build once more for what will be a spectacular year.”

Martin Sutherland, chief executive of Coventry 2021, said:

“Coventry has always moved, to respond to circumstance, to innovate and reimagine the way things can be done for the better. As the sector and the City continues to map its road to recovery, we hope that today’s announcement can provide a bedrock on which many other positive decisions can be made. Change can come when we invest in culture. Today’s announcement reaffirms our commitment to delivering a year with impact, but it will also be a chance to celebrate for the city and the UK at a time when it has never been more important to do so.”

Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry 2021, said:

“Coventry 2021 is about the people of Coventry and their stories. We will reflect and address the issues that matter to all of us. At this time of uncertainty our determination to create connections, memories and commit to making a change is unwavering and we are determined to create an amazing year. With support and resources the cultural community can play a significant role in the reset of the UK and we plan to shine a spotlight on culture’s important role in this recovery.”

The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

"UK City of Culture will see Coventry take its place on the national stage as a go to destination for arts and culture. Now more than ever it is important that we focus on what unites us and the positive and transformative impact culture can have in local communities. I have no doubt that Coventry will put on a spectacular show."

Laura Dyer, Deputy Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said:

“This is Coventry’s moment. In 2021, the artistic and cultural spotlight will be shining on this great city. That moment might be starting a little later than we’d all anticipated but it’s still going to be life changing. The city’s artists and cultural organisations are ready and waiting to propel Coventry onto the world stage. Taking part in world class cultural activities and sharing in creative experiences helps people to live happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives. That will be the legacy of Coventry 2021 for decades to come.”


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