As a Coventry-based creative design studio DWH has of course been following the developments of the city’s selection as the UK City of Culture 2021.

From bidding to selection and delay to eventual launch, there have been a few ups and downs throughout the process.

Here’s a quick round-up of what it means to be awarded UK City of Culture and what’s in store for this West Midlands city.


What is the UK City of Culture?

The initiative was created to build on the success of Liverpool’s selection as European Capital of Culture in 2008, giving cities in the UK a significant social and economic boost.

The year-long title is awarded every four years. Hull, the last UK City of Culture, generated £300 million in tourism spend during its spotlight year of 2017.

Part of the award is a £3 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to be used for and will host a year-long cultural celebration encompassing events, installations and exhibitions.

Coventry, culture and COVID

After a two-year bid process, Coventry was chosen in 2017 as the UK’s next City of Culture, beating shortlisted cities Swansea, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland.

While Coventry’s year was set to be 2020, it was understandably pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even after the delay, Coventry wasn’t able to create the opening event they dreamed of, with restrictions in England persisting well into 2021. The Coventry Moves event was postponed from the City of Culture launch on May 15th, instead taking place at the start of June.

The launch event was held online, and opened with a song called ‘River Rushing Flow’ by Pauline Black, lead singer of The Selecter. The song represented Coventry’s River Sherbourne, as well as embodying the first of six “energies of the city”: resilience, social justice, youthfulness, sustainability, people power and innovation.

Other events included cavalcades of bikes and cars travelling across the city to commemorate Coventry’s manufacturing roots. Packed with Irish, Bollywood and Caribbean dancers, they facilitated pop-up doorstep performances honouring the city’s cultural diversity. We also saw a procession of 14 modern-day Lady Godivas, chosen from more than 140 nominations, to represent the city’s women.

So, what’s next for the City of Culture celebrations?


A very Special exhibition

Coventry is perhaps best known for two things: The WWII Blitz, and The Specials.

Understandably, the City of Culture celebrations honour the legendary two-tone band, who formed in Coventry in 1977. The music video for their hit song ‘Ghost Town’ was filmed right here, with its eerie look at the despair and desolation seen throughout a country in the grips of a recession.

A first-of-its-kind two-tone exhibition has been opened at the city’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, honouring the roots of this unique genre. Featuring never-before-seen artifacts and exclusive interviews, the exhibition focuses on Jerry Dammers’ two-tone label, founded right here in Coventry, as well as celebrating The Specials, The Selecter and other ska-influenced bands such asMadness, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers.


Home Sessions festival

With summer in full swing, The Specials’ frontman Terry Hall has curated a special lineup of acts to perform at the Home Sessions festival, taking place later this month.

As well as an appearance by Terry Hall, the three-day event will also feature The Libertines’ frontman Peter Doherty, Roni Size and The Lightning Seeds, as well as DJ sets, films and spoken word.

Some of the events will take place in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, where The Specials performed their 40th anniversary show back in 2019.

CineCov film festival

Developed by Flatpack Projects, CineCov aims to turn the whole city into a cinema with more than 150 pop-up screenings taking place over the next 12 months.

With locations ranging from huge outdoor park screenings to community centres, churches and even towpaths, CineCov is one of the first chances for Coventry residents to join together in a real, in-person event to celebrate their city.

We can expect to see a special tribute to Coventry’s role in the filming of the 1969 classic The Italian Job, as well as the long-awaited reopening of Warwick Arts Centre’s three-screen cinema.

Plenty to look forward to

Lots of events are still being finalised and revealed, so there’s plenty to look forward to for the remainder of Coventry’s year in the spotlight.

Check out the guide to what’s on for more information.