2020 has been, in no uncertain terms, a year to forget, but as the year comes to a close, with just 22 days left, there is plenty to be optimistic about for the future.
Coventry’s year in the spotlight is right around the corner.
UK City of Culture 2021
To start with the obvious, the title of UK City of Culture 2021 will undoubtedly be the highlight of the decade for Coventry.
Despite being delayed six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, minister John Glen put it best when announcing that Coventry had won the title, it represents “an incredible opportunity for Coventry to boost investment in the local economy, grow tourism and put arts and culture centre stage”.
Though cultural in its core purpose and programme, every area of the city will feel the benefit of City of Culture status, from a boost to the local economy to an improved city centre.
The status has also opened new doors for Coventry with funding and investment from charities and government for a multitude of diverse projects.
Highlights of the programme of events already announced include a co-commission with the Royal Shakespeare Company and a ‘three-day weekender’ curated by Terry Hall, lead singer of The Specials.
Locals have already gotten a peak at what to expect from City of Culture events, with the ruins of St Michael’s Cathedral currently hosting an open-air, Covid-safe ice skating rink.
Public realm work and new train station
In advance of 2021, Coventry City Council have been delivering major urban transformation through public realm work in the city centre.
From the recent demolition of the imposing Coventry Point structure, to the current regeneration of the Upper Precinct with new benches and foliage, few parts of the city centre have been left untouched.
Much of the work is being done to prepare the city centre for the around 6,000 visitors a day expected to be brought to the city by UK City of Culture, but the lasting legacy of the works will benefit local people.
Elsewhere work progresses on the city’s new £82 million train station building with its 633-space multi-storey car park.
November saw a 750-tonne crane arrive to begin work on the installation of a new footbridge across all four platforms, increasing passenger capacity and connecting to the new building.
The masterplan is on track to be completed by Spring 2021 and will include five new retail units, a waiting room and public restrooms.
As part of the project, an invitation has been extended to Coventry creatives to register their interest and submit ideas for a series of commission opportunities to decorate the original 1960s modernist railway station.
Tourists from around the country
Coventry saw record-breaking growth in the number of people visiting the city in 2019 compared to the previous year – a 4.6 per cent increase to 10 million visitors, worth £594m to the local economy.
Thought 2020 has been an outlier, findings from the Expedia Group’s Traveller Sentiment and Influences study revealed that one in two travellers feel optimistic about taking a trip in the next 12 months.
As the COVID-19 pandemic teeters away into 2021, people will continue to crave a change of scenery, and with consumer confidence in the air travel industry remaining low, Coventry has a golden opportunity to bolster its economic recovery through tourism.
This year has driven a seismic shift in traveller preferences and influences, and understanding these changes is critical to Coventry’s recovery efforts.
The already mentioned opportunities presented by the city’s UK City of Culture status in 2021 will singlehandedly attract millions of new visitors.
National Geographic Traveller, one of the world’s most-read travel magazines, has already recognised Coventry as a global hotspot for culture in advance of 2021.
Turner Prize and Coventry Biennial
Coventry’s arts scene is set to reach new heights in 2021.
First in September, one of the best-known prizes for visual arts in the world, the Turner Prize, will grace the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.
Usually hosted at the Tate Britain art museum, every other year the prize is presented at a venue outside London.
The four artists shortlisted for the prize, to be announced in Spring, will present a new work at the Herbert through to January 2022.
A month later, the Coventry Biennial will return for the third time across the region in a wide range of artistic, heritage, business and community locations.
Titled Hyper-Possible, referencing the radical nature of Coventry’s history, the exhibitions and events which make up the third Biennial will focus on three movements in art history: Art & Language, the BLK Art Group, and the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit.
Artists including Ayo Akingbade, Ryan Christopher, Faye Claridge, Laura Dicken, Georgiou & Tolley, Grace Ndiritu, Alan Van Wijgerden, Melisande Varin and Duncan Whitley have been commissioned for the biennial.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum has also started work on creating a new gallery and the refurbishment of existing exhibition spaces, in an effort to enhance the venue’s national appeal for 2021.