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Coventry announces City of Culture programme

Jessica Murray
·3-min read

A global sound systems competition and the announcement of the International Booker prize winner will take place in Coventry this year as part of its City of Culture events, one of the biggest cultural programmes to take place since the start of the pandemic.

A further set of events were announced on Tuesday as the year-long programme, delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, gears up to start on 15 May.

Event organisers said the city would be ready to welcome visitors as soon as rules allowed and could be a model for how cultural activities and live music events can be put on as restrictions begin to ease.

Following a “dawn until dusk” Coventry Moves opening event, the city will host a Summer of Surprises, including a collaboration with its twin city Kingston in Jamaica for an international sound systems competition running across the summer and culminating in October. The music project will showcase the city’s roots in reggae and West Indian sounds to audiences, live and digitally.

The International Booker prize will also be announced virtually from the city in June, the first time the winner has been revealed outside of London. The prize, the younger sibling of the original Booker prize, is awarded annually for a single book translated into English.

Gaby Wood, the director of The Booker Prize Foundation, said: “What better place to begin the regeneration of shared stories after the world has been kept physically apart than Coventry, that diversely populated home of global understanding.”

The event will also feature the Coventry Big Booker Read, bringing readers together to read the winning book, and will host the shortlisted author event for the 2021 Booker prize for fiction later in the year.

Other newly announced events included The Walk, a 3.5m-tall puppet of a young refugee arriving in the city on 27 October following a journey that will begin on the Syria-Turkey border in July.

A week-long Coventry Welcomes event will feature music, dance, drama, food, literature, poetry and workshops to mark National Refugee Week, while the UK’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary, Stand and Be Counted, will launch an outdoor production created with people seeking sanctuary in the city.

The Show Windows will involve artists and architects creating artworks for shop windows across the city, In Paint We Trust will bring a street art festival to the city’s streets, and later in the year artists will reimagine a broken window in Coventry Cathedral, which was smashed during a burglary last year.

“This has been the most challenging of environments in which to create a festival programme,” said Chenine Bhathena, the creative director of Coventry UK City of Culture.

“We’re so excited to be setting out some of the ways in which we are bringing about a return of the live to our city. Coventry City of Culture year will be at the forefront of the recovery and renewal of the city and will demonstrate the important role arts and culture offers our communities and our struggling economies.”

Previously announced City of Culture events include the Turner prize 2021, to be held at the Herbert art gallery and museum.

The BBC also announced its commitment to highlight Coventry through special events and programming throughout the year.

BBC director general Tim Davey said: “Coventry is a wonderful mix of cultures, with many diverse communities steeped in heritage. We will be drawing on this rich history to connect with audiences through the joy and celebration of music, arts, poetry, film, comedy and much much more.”

This includes an upcoming episode of Antiques Roadshow filmed at Kenilworth Castle, followed by a range of new BBC Arts programmes, including a film looking at the life and work of Delia Derbyshire, a Coventry-born composer who was a pioneer of electronic music and helped create the famous Doctor Who theme music.

In September, the BBC Arts annual poetry and spoken word festival, Contains Strong Language, will also take place in the city.