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Shop Front Festival Guide

Theatre in shop fronts, pop-up precinct performances, an homage to the Art of Queuing and a live improvised soap opera are among the quirky happenings in Coventry City Centre, Fri March 23 & Sat March 24.

If this witty, experimental two-day pilot arts and performance festival is a sign of what’s to come in the future City of Culture 2021, Coventry has a lot to get excited about. Watch out for contemporary dance piece, Coventry Dreaming, if you happen to be shopping in IKEA’s bed department!


Image of City Arcade from Precinct Shopping – Photo Archive Miners, Artspace – Arcadia Gallery, 32 City Arcade, Coventry, open Fri & Sat

What? The UK’s first pilot Shop Front Festival will see 32 events including theatre, pop-up performances, dance, circus, comedy, exhibitions, kids’ workshops and installations performed in shops, precincts, the Central Library, pedestrianised squares and open spaces across Coventry City Centre ranging from the UK’s only Shop Front Theatre in City Arcade (Opp IKEA), the former Coventry Telegraph Building and IKEA – Bed department! Your festival planner – see the full event listings here.

When? From breakfast time to bedtime, Fri March 23 & Sat March 24

Who’s organising it? Playwright Chris O’Connell and producer Julia Negus – who together run Coventry’s award-winning Theatre Absolute at the UK’s only shop front theatre – a 55 seat professional performance in a former fish-and-chip shop!  Shop Front Theatre is itself a long-term pop-up in a city centre shopping arcade and has now been running for nine years. This dynamic duo is working with independent artistic director Orit Azaz and outdoor producer Lou Lomas.


‘Never judge a man until you have walked in his moccasins’ – Native American proverb #AMileinMyShoe

A Mile in My Shoes – Empathy Museum, 39 Smithford Way, Coventry (Opp. The Body Shop), Fri March 23 & Sat March 24, 10am – 5pm

A pop-up shoe store. Literally walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes while listening to their story on headphones. A collaboration between cultural philosopher Roman Krznaric and award-winning artist Clare Patey, who has collected shoes and stories from across the world. Free.

Nick Walker: Made in Store, Fri March 23 (2-5pm) & Sat March 24 (10am-5pm)

The very funny Perrier-nominated writer and Talking Birds’ founder Nick Walker, who has two critically-acclaimed novels under his belt and the Belgrade’s annual alternative adult panto, has created a semi-improvised show made in collaboration with shopkeepers and customers in specially selected shops. First collect your instructions at RE-NEW shop near Coffee Tots – City Arcade – visit a trail of shops to gather the intrigues, themes, characters and motives before returning to base for the final chapter! Should be fun…

Talking Birds’ The Q, find them around the City Centre

Join the Q! Watch out for Queues forming around the city centre, as The Q Corporation (dressed in orange!) celebrate the Art of Queuing. And help Coventry form a world record beating Queue – bring something orange to wear if you can! Don’t forget to take a #Quelfie.

For updates follow @Q_mob on twitter or call the Q-line: 0800 012 2401

Susannah Hewlett: Latherland, Changamiri Coffee House, 8 City Arcade, Fri March 23 (1-4pm) & Sat (March 12noon-3pm)

A live improvised soap opera in which you, the audience, are invited to watch or star…or both!  This epic omnibus explores the most glorious of ropey soapy moments. Become part of this insular neighbourly neighbourhood and see yourself on the telly.

Coventry Dreaming, IKEA – Bed department, Fri March 23 (3.15pm – 3.45pm & Sat March 24 (12noon-12.30pm; 5.30pm-6pm)

Choreographer Nina Von Der Werth’s piece performed by two dancers and a bed is based on the dreams of Coventry people. Also look out for her Two Pints of Lager and a Piece of Contemporary Dance in the Bull Yard.

Wet Picnic: Club Shed33 Smithford Way, Coventry (Opp. West Orchards Shopping Centre)

Wet Picnic unpick the clubbing experience; using absurd comedy, personal development techniques and audience interaction. A small-scale installation delivered via headphones, the audience select one of 4 experiences, each themed on a different night out. The experience culminates in them being able to let themselves go in a moment of sheer dancing pleasure.

No pre-booking – 20 people per 15-minute experience. Queue to enter.

Bureau of Silly Ideas: The Small Job, Broadgate, Sat March 24 (11am-3pm)

Mad-cap street theatre. An unusual workforce with curious construction methods respond to city regeneration with skills including juggling, climbing and throwing the tools of their trade.

Sophia Clists’s Hand Full, 19 Hertford Street, Coventry (Opp. Falafel Corner), Fri & Sat, 10am-4pm

Take part in the creation of an installation inspired by the endless tasks of motherhood. Sophia will give a short performance several times a day, while continuing to make the sculpture. Hands Full was originally commissioned as part of the Southbank Centre’s WOW Women of the World Festival 2012.

Other highlights: a writer-in-residence at Poundland on Fri, 2-4pm, a late Night Shopper double-bill at Shop Front Theatre on Friday featuring Winchester physical theatre company, Wet Picnic’s new show I’d Be Lost Without It & Chris Thorpe’s Confirmation, and Soda Bread baking as part of  Miss Ellie’s Edible Irish Stories at the Old Grammar School exploring Coventry’s rich Irish history (Sat 12-1pm & 2-3pm).


Inflation by Tangled Feet

  • Crazy But True – an interactive installation where children aged 8-11 form a panel of experts on a range of topics. See how it works here: anthamptonCentral Library, Coventry, Sat March 24 (3-6pm);
  • Tangled Feet: Inflation, Shelton Square, Sat & Sun (1-1.30pm& 3.45pm-4.15pm), Four fools arrive on the high street with a motley collection of blow-up props and an uncooperative bouncy castle. Fun political theatre for all ages.
  • Actual Reality Arcade, City Centre (Market Way& Hertford St), Fri & Sat, 10am-5pm – A life-sized interactive game zone for all ages, inspired by classic arcade games.
  • Take to the Streets, a 2-hour practical workshop for up to 20 young people aged 14-19 with outdoor/indoor performance specialists Tangled Feet, Methodist Central Hall, Warwick Ln, Coventry, Sat 11am-1pm (book here)
  • Children’s Cartoon Workshop with Nick Shingler, CET Building, Sat 12-2pm
  • DIY Dance & Motionhouse Youth, City Centre Sat, 11.30am-4.30pm) – a series of pop-up precinct performances celebrating Coventry’s distinctive brutalist architecture.


New Art Club Cupid’s Revenge – a joyful dancing outburst against the forces that masquerade as love.

The festival ends after the final Club Shed with a street party inside City Arcade on Saturday night – speed dancing, live music, food stalls and double-bill at Shop Front Theatre: Das Fest –  a new mind-reading experience from Austrian illusionist and performer Philipp Oberlohr & Cupid’s Revenge by one of the UK’s best loved comedy dance theatre companies, New Art Club, (previously seen in Coventry in their Campervan of Love). It’s followed by The Unfinished City – a Coventry Symphony – a poem set to music by Chris O’Connell and city-based musiciansa work in progress performance by Theatre Absolute.

Get planning! See the full Shop Front Festival event listings here.

Find more ideas here


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