Image: Ian Halsey / Flickr.com

Coventry wins UK City of Culture 2021

Coventry has been been chosen as the UK City of Culture in 2021.

The city defeated four other shortlisted cities, including Stoke-on-Trent, Paisley, Swansea, and Sunderland.

It is hoped that Coventry’s victory will have far-reaching benefits, extending to the University of Warwick.

The prestigious award comes with a £3m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, as well as a sizeable boost in tourism and other economic benefits. Additionally, the award can boost civic pride.

An opportunity for Coventry to tell its story of reinvention, of resilience, of peace and reconciliation

Coventry’s final bid was submitted to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in early October.

Upon submitting the city’s application, Laura McMillan, manager of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said, “Two years of work have gone into this bid and we couldn’t be more proud of the city or more grateful to everyone who has played a part in it.

She described the bid as “an opportunity for Coventry to tell its story of reinvention, of resilience, of peace and reconciliation and of youth and diversity to the whole world.”

The result was announced by John Glen, the arts minister, on the BBC’s One Show at 7 pm on Thursday 7 December.

The campaign attracted significant backing from over 100 firms across the city.

The University displayed a short film by the campaign team on the screen in the piazza.

This is about asking what type of place we want Britain to be as we move into the early 2020s, post-Brexit

Also supporting the bid was Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, who said he hoped people would “re-examine” Coventry.

“People who don’t know our story up close might not have such a positive impression, but the facts are positive.”

The mayor emphasised that a vote for Coventry would be an endorsement of multiculturalism and diversity. He pointed out that approximately a quarter of the city’s residents were born outside the UK.

He said, “This is about asking what type of place we want Britain to be as we move into the early 2020s, post-Brexit.”

The award has accrued extra significance after the EU ruled that British cities were no longer eligible to be the European capital of culture in 2023.

It is an opportunity to attract investment and to reappraise the way Coventry views itself and its story

The first UK City of Culture was Hull. Its bid emphasised regeneration following years of decline after the collapse of its maritime industries. The chair of the City of Culture Panel, Phil Redmond, said that Hull put forward “the most compelling case based on its theme as a ‘city coming out of the shadows’”.

Coventry’s bid was similarly based on development and rejuvenation. The city was badly scarred by German bombing during the Second World War. Coventry’s wrecked cathedral, which was damaged after being struck by the Luftwaffe, remains standing as a monument to the carnage of the conflict.

Hull’s one-year term as City of Culture featured a slew of events, including a fireworks display. The 365-day programme of arts, theatre, and music attracted over a third of a million people.

It has been estimated that City of Culture status brought a £60m boost to Hull’s economy.

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