Coventry launches 2021 City of Culture bid

Coventry is bidding for UK City of Culture 2021 with high chances to win due to the already successful 2017-2027 Cultural Strategy Plan accomplishment, which brings the city together to fully transform the cultural growth in the city to win the prestigious title.

UK City of Culture is a four years turnaround competition, run by the Department of Culture Media and Sport. ‘It is a bit like the Olympics’, says Clare Mitchell, The Arts and Cultural Partnerships Manager for City Council.

She explains that ‘it’s a title, which comes with it’, which is prominent as it helps the city to qualify as unique arts sector across the country. In addition, it has the effect of making the city more open to investors and promotes tourism not only for Coventry but for Warwickshire as a whole.

‘Currently, we think, we are up against: Stoke-on-Trent, Hereford, Worcester, Paisley and Sunderland’, confirms the leader of the bid Linda Bigham, a Councilor for Longford Ward, who currently holds a cabinet position for Community Development.

Coventry have placed their bid for 2021 and previously the esteemed title had been granted to Derry/Londonderry in 2013, and currently Hull is celebrating their cultural revival, revelling in being City of Culture 2017.

What are the chances for Coventry to win?

Because of the nature of the city, Coventry has realistic chances to win:

‘If you look back at Coventry History, we have always broken the mould and now it’s the time to do that with our culture’, says Clare, not hiding her enthusiasm.

‘We have always been innovators. We have over 100 languages spoken in our schools, we are a city of welcome and peace and reconciliation. We have a very diverse population, people are coming from all over the country to live, work, study here.

We have got a really good chance, but we don’t talk about it enough’.

The process of bidding explained

The bidding process is quite complex; it starts in spring and continues until autumn, with the winner announced at the end of the year.

‘The first bid goes in April and then the final bid goes in September, and in November they will announce who has won”, explains Clare Mitchell.

In spring 2017 four cities will be shortlisted and taken forward to a final round in autumn.

It is worth to notice that Coventry chances to be shortlisted boosts again because of the Coventry Cultural Strategy 2017-2027, which sets high expectations for the city’s cultural growth.

Figure 4 By Herry Lawford (Flickr: Coventry) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Strategy research findings

‘At this point, now, the first time after a long time – we know the way that people are thinking’, says Councilor Linda Bigham, introducing the Coventry Cultural Strategy and explaining its’ research process further.

‘Because the research was so detailed, the strategy gives us a pointer; So that you can ‘stay on track’ because you know what the people want’.

The Strategy planning involved loads of research, such as working with the household surveys, workshopping, face-to-face contact with people, desk-space research, conversations with young people on Twitter and Instagram, and academic research.

‘Its very much based on a real understanding of what the city is doing and where the city is currently at’, adds Claire Mitchell.

Mrs Mitchell states that research has revealed:

• The City is not using the heritage assets to their best capacity
• Coventry needs more space for dance rehearsals and exercise
• Cultural organisations are not used as well as it could be
• People want carnivals back
• Coventry has strong business, leisure tourism, but it needs more work, so the city could benefit
• Coventry needs to find the ways to bring new funding into the city

The realisation of those findings could lead the city closer to the title achievement and would also having the added benefit of increasing public moral.

City is already moving forward

‘This is an active strategy, not just ‘the council’ is going to do it for you. It’s about people saying: ‘Yeah, actually, we can do it’ ’, says Clare Mitchell, giving a smile.

People’s eagerness helps the city to grow economically and culturally. As Councillor Linda Bigham explains, when people ask for something, they tend to get it.

Figure 3 Copyright: Coventry City Council report 3-1-2017

It has recently happened with people desire to get more space to dance for rehearsals. The city responded by promising to expand the Albany Theather, tells Councilor Linda Bigham.

Councillor Bigham is glad that people are already active; she has received loads of e-mails from people, asking to be a part of the project.

‘City of culture is in people’s minds already, because it’s in the air now’, she says.

There are many community projects already going on, such as recent unique Masterji exhibition by a couple of young men within the company called Photo Archive Miners.

It enriches the city’s culture and moves it to the next level; and because of that more artists approaches City Council, saying they want to work in the city, to promote their works.

Difference between current and previous strategies

Cultural Strategy is usually a 10 years strategy, which sets a vision for the city to expand the culture, arts and heritage in the city.

Such strategies, call for partnerships between the city’s leading cultural organisations and community groups to create something new and extraordinary.

This years strategy, released on the 3rd of January by the City Council, is special as it does not only set a vision for the city to become ‘culturally attractive, vibrant and prosperous city to live in, work in and enjoy’, but it also sets vision to become the UK City of Culture.

Berta Balsyte

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