As you might have heard Coventry was announced as UK City of Culture 2021!
If you watched the announcement last thursday, you might have seen Maz and myself jumping up and down on live TV with joyful tears surrounded by a large crowd of Coventry’s creatives.
We have already been asked what does this mean for us?
It means we are lucky to be based in a city who when scrutinised by a team of respected judges was deemed a worthy winner of such a prestigious title. It means that there is no time to sit back and wait for something to happen and that there is lots of hard work to do to offer the country a year of incredible happenings brilliantly shown by Hull this year.
It doesn’t mean we automatically have the right to expect any additional work. I don’t think anyone does. This is a national award, and while Coventry focused and should showcase the marvels the city has to offer also must include other offers of cultural activity from around the UK and beyond to expand and enhance our offer and promote that Culture can unite us, should be fundamental to our being human and inspire more than just a good time.
It means as we look at our development and plan for the years ahead, we are thinking about what we want to contribute to 2021. What immersive event will we plan for that year and how might it be worthy of inclusion in the programming? Yes, we hope to also play part in a number of events that will allow us to showcase our skills and talents, but we will have to wait to see what commissioned opportunities arise.
We hope it means that Coventry and it’s citizens are starting to recognise what a gem at the centre of the country it is, and will now be shouting proudly from the rooftops that this little City has an awful lot to offer.
We hope it means that this will raise the value placed on culture and creativity. Not in an inflated price boom kind of way, but to recognise that exhibitions, events and cultural activity cost money and for many people it is a way of life and pays the mortgage. There has to be skilled people in order to deliver a program to inspire the nation and as with any profession that skill must be paid for. We hope the days will be limited where in exchange for our decades of experience and professionalism people will think that promising exposure and publicity (which last time I checked, my bank did not accept as payment on my Coventry terrace) is acceptable.
We hope it means that as so many local companies have invested cold hard cash (all tax deductible) in ensuring that Coventry can build up to and put on a year to remember that conversations are already being had about what next. We all know that funding has reduced and will only continue to do so. The country faces many challenges and unfortunately even though research shows that cultural activity is crucial to communities, the economy and good mental health and wellbeing, it is not on the top of the list (or any we can see) as having any future plans for investment and support for activity will continue to decline. If all these companies can invest now, surely they can continue to do so for the good of the region? Understandably not necessarily at the same level, but if all those companies and more contributed to a pot available for local artist commissions and community cultural activities there would be real legacy worth shouting about?
We know it means that there is an exciting four years ahead and we are already loving the increase in conversations across sectors discussing and discovering new ways to work together.