Laura McMillan, director of operations and legacy for the Coventry City of Culture Trust, told Sputnik about the city's winning bid and dynamic history, offering insights into Britain's 'Phoenix City'.
A City of Peace and Reconciliation
Coventry's links to twinning and status as the UK's only city of Peace and Reconciliation began after the Coventry Blitz, where the German Luftwaffe bombed large swaths of the city in November 1940, McMillan stated. The blitz devastated Coventry Cathedral and surrounding areas, but "from the ashes rose a city of, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace."
"In 1944 Coventry twinned with the Russian city of Volgograd [formerly Stalingrad], the first of a new initiative that would see Coventry twin with 26 towns and cities around the world," she said. "Now, there are 40,000 twin towns across Europe and more than 2,000 in the UK alone."
Coventry's status as one of Peace and Reconciliation will highlight the work done as part of the city's UK City of Culture 2021 title, which will "reimagine the place of culture in a diverse, modern Britain whilst highlighting the unique features of the city," she stated.
The city will present four key themes from its 'Being Human' program, which will showcase elements of peace, sanctuary and welcome interwoven into performances and community workshops.
"The resilient and ambitious nature of the city which sparked the twinning process also informs the 'Reinvention' theme in 2021, offering artists and performers the freedom to experiment, finding new ways of working and delivering exciting work that unites people," she said.
A City of Culture and Innovation
Coventry hosts a massive trove of historical landmarks, including the well-known Coventry Cathedral and UK's first Shopfront Theatre, the only professional space of its kind in Britain. Both Coventry and Warwick University, two leading British institutions, have seen tremendous growth.
She also mentioned the 2-Tone Village, which celebrates Coventry contributions some of the music industry's most famous 2-Tone and Ska bands like the Specials and indie-rock artists The Enemy.
Coventry remains the heart of Britain's automotive industry and is home to Jaguar Land Rover, Britain's largest automaker. The Coventry Transport Museum also highlights Coventry's rich automotive past, present, and future, she said.
London's world-famous black taxis were also manufactured in Coventry under the London Taxi Company (LTC), now called The London Electric Vehicle (EV) company, after Chinese auto-making giant Geely acquired LTC in September 2017 with £325 in investments.
The London EV Company opened Britain's first dedicated factory for electric vehicles in Ansty, producing 36,000 cars each year and employing 1,000 workers.
The BBC Coventry and Warwickshire showcased LEVC's new vehicles via its 2-Tone Taxi program in partnership with the Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery, allowing visitors to tour Coventry's historical landmarks using a fully-electric Hackney carriage.
"A light is also starting to be shone on the city's Medieval heritage too and the important role Coventry has played in history," McMillan said, adding that Coventry hosts each year the Godiva Festival, one of Europe's largest free family festivals, at War Memorial Park.
Lady Godiva, Countess and wife of Leofric, the Earl of Mercia, was Coventry's famous 11th-century heroine who rode naked on horseback to protest her husband's oppressive taxes.
"These are all sites that the UK City of Culture team have engaged with and will look to involve in 2021, as well as the multi-purpose performance spaces that are anticipated to be developed as the City of Culture year approaches," McMillan stated
.@heritageopenday has launched today, with venues open across the city and region.— Coventry City of Culture 2021 (@Coventry2021) September 6, 2018
We’re at Drapers’ Hall with the ‘Royal Women of Influence in Medieval Coventry’ exhibition. There’s also chance to see plans for the Drapers’ Hall redevelopment too. https://t.co/YAYDVEK7Ra pic.twitter.com/jNvfBIeU4i
A City Investing in the Future
She also told Sputnik that the UK City of Culture 2021 title will help boost pride in the city.
"There was a feeling among the population generally that the city had been undervalued and underrated," she said, addition that Coventry's increased media profile during the bidding phase and subsequent win has significantly raised "awareness of the people, the industries and the exciting changes to the city in 2021 and beyond."
"Further to that, the title will help to stimulate regeneration projects and also tackle some of the inequalities around health and educational attainment," she mentioned.
"The population of Coventry is, on average, seven years younger than the rest of the nation, [and] the City of Culture year will celebrate this fact whilst looking at the benefits of young people working with other generations, bringing diverse communities together."
McMillan added that 2021 will be "a celebration of the city, of its diversity and will bring huge economic, social and cultural benefits that will leave a lasting legacy for Coventry."