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15 cool things about 2021’s Coventry City of Culture

...including The Turner Prize, a weekend of Home Session gigs curated by Terry Hall, a major new theatre commission with the RSC so much more. Seriously, it will be amazzzing.


The first 15 events were this week announced for Coventry’s 365-day programme of UK City of Culture 2021 including the Turner Prize, Faith, a major co-commission with the RSC and a three-day music weekender curated by The Specials lead singer Terry Hall.

The 12-month culture festival, which has a budget of £30-£35million, has been inspired by the ethos of Glastonbury Festival, Later… with Jools Holland and the BBC’s Blue Planet – combining creativity, social activism and unusual collaborations but rooted in Coventry’s rich history and diverse communities, according to Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry City of Culture.

She revealed all in a live online media briefing and said the full line-up would be published in January 2021:

OPENING EVENT: Coventry Moves

The year of culture kicks off on May 15 2021 with Coventry Moves – a huge large-scale opening performance with a cast of 10,000 designed by Australian-based international producer, Nigel Jamieson (the creator of other big opening and closing events including the Commonwealth Games, European Capital of Cultures in Liverpool and Aarhus, Denmark) and deputy artistic director of the Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Justine Themen. 


The exhibition of the Turner Prize’s shortlisted artists will take place at Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum from 29 Sept 29 to 12 January 2022, with the winner announced on Dec 1. The 2021 jury includes actor, Russell Tovey; director of London’s Chisenhale Gallery Zoé Whitley; director of Delfina Foundation Aaron Cezar; and Programme Director of Grand Union in Birmingham, Kim McAleese. This will be the first time the awards have been held in the West Midlands.


Tides Within Us

A major new site-specific production created by leading digital artists Marshmallow Laser Feast. Combining audio storytelling and awe-inspiring digital installations, visitors will be taken on an immersive journey through Coventry’s London Road Cemetery and Charterhouse Fields.

Coventry Biennial: Hyper-Possible, autumn 2021


The city’s third biennial will be a four-month programme explore the legacies of artist-led networks, activism and ways of teaching to have emerged from the region since the 1960s including the BLK Art Group, a collective of black British artists from the West Midlands – who held a key exhibition in Coventry during the 1980s. Artists confirmed so far: Ayo Akingbade, Ryan Christopher, Faye Claridge, Laura Dicken, Georgiou & Tolley, Grace Ndiritu, Alan Van Wijgerden and melissandre varin.

The Walk 

One of the most innovative and adventurous public artworks ever attempted, centred on the 5,000-mile journey of Little Amal, a 3.5metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl. The puppet has been created by Good Chance Theatre, Stephen Daldry, David Lan and Tracey Seaward with the creators of War Horse, Handspring Puppet Company.   

Rivers of the World

For the first time in the project’s history children from eight special educational needs and disability schools (SEND) in Coventry are the focus. They will be creating public artwork with local artists and SEND schools in Tanzania about Rivers of the World including Coventry’s own River Sherbourne.


Terry Hall presents Home Sessions

Coventry’s Terry Hall, lead singer The Specials and Fun Boy Three, curates a three-day weekender of intimate gigs featuring former collaborators and influencers, emerging new musicians from Coventry and performances by the artist himself.  

CVX Festival, Aug 12 – 15 2021


A three-day arts activism festival curated by young people in the city bringing together local, regional and national artists to take a stand against violence and coincide with International Youth Day on August 12. Coventry rapper Jay1 will co-produce live music for CVX with his brand ONE Wave.



A new RSC co-commission led by the Stratford company’s Deputy Director, Erica Whyman, Jen Davis, and Coventry based writer Chris O’Connell, playwright Chinonyerem Odimba and with design consultant, Tom Piper Influenced by Shakespeare and the Coventry Mystery Plays, Faith is a 24-hour invitation to find out what keeps each of us going in tough times. Told through music, theatre, installation and ritual, it will unfold an epic overarching story.


A major new outdoor theatre show by Coventry-based physical theatre company Highly Sprung highlighting the pollution of canals and waterways. Performed by an all-female cast, it combines movement, gesture and dance on a stage of floating plastic in Coventry’s Canal Basin, before touring the UK canals’ network.

Theatre of Wandering

Created by Japanese director Naoki Sugawara’s company, OiBokkeShi and Entelechy Arts, this promenade performance centres on the experience of those living with dementia. Playful and poignant, it will take place across Coventry and involves shopkeepers, care workers and care home residents working together.

Paines Plough & Belgrade Theatre‘s new writing collaboration

Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre will co-produce four new plays alongside national new writing company, Paines Plough to be performed in their intimate pop-up theatre ROUNDABOUT in the city.


The 2021 UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) will be held in the city hosted by the Belgrade Theatre and celebrate the centenary of filmmaker Satyajit Ray; while Corey Campbell, Co-Artistic Director of the Belgrade Theatre, will work with six emerging Midlands writers and Amazon to produce a six-part digital urban TV series SeaView.



Small Bells Rings

A specially designed canal boat will house the largest collection of short stories in the UK will be a floating tribute to the written word, along 5.5m of the Coventry Canals and ring a small bell each time a book is taken from the library

BBC Contains Strong Language, Sept 23 – 26

The biggest poetry and spoken word festival ever seen in the region. BBC 1Xtra, BBC Asian Network and Contains Strong Language will work together to discover the best new spoken word talent in the UK. BBC Radio 3’s Ian McMillan will explore verse and highlight new talent emerging from the streets inThe Verb. Performance poet Sue Brown will run poetry workshops in schools across the city, while BBC Radio Four’s Front Row will showcase Coventry’s vibrant spoken word scene.

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