Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was today given a whistle-stop tour of some of the recent changes to the city as it begins its year as UK City of Culture.
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, was in the city to launch the call for the next UK City of Culture in 2025 - and to show those thinking of bidding, the difference the title has already made to Coventry.
After arriving at Friargate, he was taken on a walk around the city to see some of the public realm improvements, and new venues and artworks that have been made possible by the UK City of Culture title.
He saw improvements at Bull Yard, where a new water feature and lighting have created a family-friendly area; and the works that have transformed the Upper Precinct.
He also saw the artwork by Morag Myerscough that has given a bright new look to Hertford Street.
He visited the City of Culture Trust’s new city centre store and met some of the City Hosts who will be providing a welcoming, friendly face to visitors over the coming year, and was told about plans for the new Festival Hub.
At the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, the Minister was given a private view of the 2-Tone Exhibition, led by Francis Ranford, Cultural and Creative Director.
The Minister was also treated to a street dance performance by Marius Mates, a sneak preview of the upcoming Coventry Moves event to mark the beginning of the city’s year as UK City of Culture, and a visit to the newly opened Telegraph Hotel.
He was joined on the tour by Council and City of Culture leaders, who pointed out the new additions and told of what the changes have already brought to the city.
Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change, said: “The title of UK City of Culture has already led to dramatic changes in our city, and we have only just begun our year.
“We were able to show the Minister the vast improvements we have made in the city centre, where we have secured investment and grants to create a new public realm, welcoming green spaces, and merge the best of the old with the best of the new to take our city forward. We will be giving a really warm welcome to visitors but this work is also about legacy for local people.
”So much has been done – and in very difficult circumstances. I think a lot of cities will be looking at what the title has meant to Coventry and what we have already achieved, and they will be preparing their bids to succeed us in 2025.”
Councillor David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, which covers the arts, joined the Minister at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Cllr Welsh said: “We have a great array of venues in our city and they are all set to stage exciting events over the coming year and celebrate our title and our city.
“We were able to show the Minister what the title has meant to them, but also show how it is helping to make art and culture more accessible for all in our city and how it is being taken into the streets and the neighbourhoods. We have also been able to demonstrate the important role art and culture can play in regeneration and supporting wellbeing.”
Cabinet Member for City Services, Cllr Patricia Hetherton, added: “We have made so many improvements to the city since we were awarded the title back in 2017, and those changes will make a difference to all those who live, work and study here for many years to come.
“We were only able to show a small part of what has been achieved, but I think the message to the Minister and other cities was clear – that Coventry’s reign as UK City of Culture is transforming the city and building something very special for everyone.”
Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “It was great to welcome the Culture Secretary to Coventry today, and to share with him our plans for the extraordinary year ahead. We’ve been working with so many partners to get ready for the start of our year, so we were particularly pleased to be able to host colleagues from DCMS in the City as we get ready to welcome visitors from across the UK very soon”.
UK City of Culture is a competition run by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) every four years. Previous winners are Derry/Londonderry in 2013 and Hull in 2017.
Coventry was awarded the title in 2017 at the end of Hull’s year, after beating off stiff competition from cities including Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea.
City of Culture event tickets are now on sale on the website.
A city-wide celebration, ‘Coventry Moves’ is the first major moment of the year on Saturday 5 June.
The day-long celebration will tell the story of Coventry’s pioneering identity and how it continues to shape its future and give voice to the many people that call the city their home.