Coventry has been awarded £1.5million of funding that will provide a major boost to the city’s culture and tourism – including new events and art commissions. The city is one of only 16 to secure the award over three years from Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England as part of the Great Place Scheme.
The award, bid for successfully by the Coventry City of Culture Trust, builds on the city’s new cultural strategy and the vision for a Place Partnership to engage communities in celebrating Coventry’s rich heritage and to animate the city.
That partnership comprises Coventry City Council, Coventry University, The University of Warwick (including Warwick Arts Centre), Coventry’s Business Improvement District, the private sector as well as the BBC, Coventry Telegraph, and the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP as partners.
The full programme of projects will now be given the go ahead for development and includes: a major new arts commission for Coventry Cathedral in 2018, festivals to bring the city centre to life including a pilot Shop Front Festival, and projects which celebrate Coventry’s medieval and modern architecture.
It will also include new city trails and artist-designed mapping; a theatre project looking at the importance of the workplace in bringing cultures together in the city; plans for a new tourism strategy and website for the city; and a national conference at Coventry University on managing cultural and heritage assets.
Many of the city’s arts groups have been involved in developing the bid for Great Place funding including Talking Birds, Shop Front Theatre, Historic Coventry, Culture Coventry, and the Photo Archive Miners whose successful Masterji exhibition at Fargo Village has inspired one of the first projects in Great Places.
A Masterji publication will kick-off a new project to collect archive film and photography from two of Coventry’s most diverse and vibrant streets, Foleshill Road and Far Gosford Street. Starting late 2017, the project will be led by the team who produced Imagine Hillfields and Masterji - a photographic project which moved so many of its 2,000 visitors and is now on display in Mumbai.
Three of the awards backers are coming together in a major project to examine Coventry as a “Work Place”. Led by the University of Warwick with partners Culture Coventry and the Belgrade Youth Theatre, it will look at oral histories and records from Coventry’s manufacturing and engineering history and how Coventry’s ‘Work Place’ has formed the place we live.
Vanessa Harbar, Head of HLF West Midlands, said: “This is fantastic news for Coventry, a city currently reinventing itself through culture and regeneration, poised to realise its potential and embed arts and heritage as key drivers for economic growth, social integration and tourism.
“This National Lottery investment can only boost that vision, by helping to build a stronger future for its people and economy with culture at its heart.”
Peter Knott, Area Director, Midlands, Arts Council England said: "Art and culture make the places we live vibrant and exciting, entertaining and inspiring us, benefiting our wellbeing and boosting local economies.
“It will be great to see this investment strengthen partnerships across Coventry: engaging the cultural sector, universities, local communities and businesses to showcase the renaissance of a great city.”
Councillor Linda Bigham, Cabinet Member for Community Development, said: “This is great news for the city, as Coventry is placing culture at the heart of its plans for the future. There is a strong partnership emerging in the city and the award from the Great Place Scheme is the first evidence of how our grassroots work with the city’s new cultural strategy can deliver social and economic benefits for the city.”
Professor John Latham, Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, said: “We are at the heart of making Coventry a Great Place in which to study and live – and a compelling visitor destination.
“Our students belong to one of the most diverse, modern cities in the UK and this project helps us to tell the story of Coventry’s place in the world.”
University of Warwick Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Croft said: “Coventry has two great Universities that have each added significantly to the City’s international reputation and cultural offering. In Warwick’s case this is most evident in Warwick Arts Centre (one of the largest arts complexes in the UK outside of London), and the widely acclaimed final report of the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value.
“We also have a wealth of arts research and activity across the campus that has led directly to partnerships such as the recent Ira Aldridge and Paul Robeson celebration at the Belgrade Theatre, and the hugely successful ‘The Story of Children's Television’ exhibition held in the city's Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.”
Laura McMillan, Manager of the Coventry City of Culture Trust – which was established to bring forward the city’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021, said: “Great Places is a massive vote of confidence in the Coventry City of Culture Trust and the 75 businesses who are backing us.
“It will take time to develop the programme but from 2018 we will see some exceptional events and projects engaging all ages in the city’s heritage, architecture and cultural life. This award will also help build capacity and showcase the creativity of our independent cultural sector.”
Trish Willetts, Coventry Business Improvement District manager, said: “As a major partner in the application process for the Great Place Scheme we are absolutely delighted with the outcome.
“It will be exciting to see the fantastic programme of events come together because of this amazing amount of money, and Coventry Business Improvement District and all of our businesses will be fully supporting everything that takes place.”