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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with Coventry City of Culture

The festival season may look a bit different this year, but Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture is underway. Jake Bartle and Emily Coleman talk us through the summer programme of fun, creative events and exhibitions.


A group of young people dancing outside
Coventry Moves, Coventry UK City of Culture 2021

Fabio de Paola

Summer is finally here. After the long, wet and cold winter, it feels incredible to be able to go outside in the sun, meet friends and family, attend events and go to the theatre and museums and galleries. It feels as if Coventry is moving again.

Delegates visiting Coventry this summer will be able to see first-hand the impact that being UK City of Culture is already having on the city and its people, despite the best efforts of COVID to thwart the celebrations and fun. Like so many others in the arts and culture sector, we have been working with local and national government, as well as public health experts, to make sure our events are safe.

From staggered entry times, limits on group bookings, presenting complimentary digital programmes, working with more outside venues and, of course, social distancing and strict cleaning regimes, we have been making sure that our events, venues and partners are ready for the year ahead. We remain committed to ensuring that all our events remain fully accessible, and that all visitors and audiences feel confident and comfortable to engage with the city. 

Events and live programme

Having successfully launched with our city wide and broadcast celebration, Coventry Moves, on 5 June, our Summer of Surprises programme kicks off our return to ticketed live events, with Midsummer Fire Gardens experience in Caludon Castle Park on 25 and 26 June. Soon afterwards, Classically Queer, a one-hour concert of classical music performed by an orchestra of local and regional LGBTQ+ musicians will take place at the Coventry Cathedral ruins on 17 July.

In May we announced that we are working with Assembly Festival to create a new city centre destination from 1 July. Tickets for some of the first events at Assembly Festival Gardens are now on sale. The city centre site will be a centrepiece for our year as UK City of Culture this summer. With outdoor venues, the extraordinary Queen of Flanders Spiegeltent and a variety of food and drink offers, Assembly Festival Gardens will have something for everyone to enjoy.

There will be a series of productions and events hosted at the site, such as Circolombia: one of the world's leading circus companies brings you extraordinary feats and seamless acts, all performed with breath-taking skill. This stunning show will transport audiences to the streets of Colombia's capital city in a succession of snapshots of actions and reactions, dreams and wills, courage and risks. And there's The Choir of Man: the most incredible pub gig you've been to, featuring pub tunes, folk, rock and Broadway numbers with world-class tappers, singers and multi-instrumentalists for a joyous and uplifting show for all ages.

Assembly Festival Garden will also be home to the Big Tent Ideas Festival: a day of conversation, discussion and debate exploring how the UK City of Culture could be a catalyst for cultural and economic regeneration in 2021 and beyond. At the Big Tent, you’ll meet local communities, politicians, visionaries, inspirational entrepreneurs and national and local leaders, and encounter new perspectives and build new relationships.

Petticoat Council, by Frankie Meredith, is taking place at Warwick Arts Centre on Friday 25 June. The play tells the true story of a group of women in Bishop's Itchington who became the first female council in the UK. This local small town tale delights with modern folk music, dance and storytelling, as we follow the story of how a real life group of housewives in a rural Warwickshire village broke down barriers to transform the area and community around them.

Outdoor installations

Our outdoor art installations and events continue with Observations on Being, by Marshmallow Laser Feast, as part of our Green Futures programme. Marshmallow Laser Feast have previously created fantastical light displays for Miley Cyrus and U2. It opens on 22 June and runs until 15 August. The exhibition of newly commissioned immersive and multisensory experiences will invite visitors to explore their relationship with the natural world, in one of Coventry’s most beautiful settings, Coventry Heritage Park.

Over the coming months we will continue to install new street art, murals and shop window displays as our In Paint We Trust and The Show Windows really start to flourish across the city. 


The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum has two exhibitions running this summer: 2 Tone: Lives & Legacies, the first major exhibition in the UK devoted to 2 Tone music, which originated in Coventry; and UnNatural History, curated by Invisible Dust, exploring natural history, the impact of climate change and the role that artists play in science and exploring the natural world.

Coventry Cathedral is presenting two exhibitions: Concrete Collar by Tom Illsley, which exhibits photographs of Coventry’s famous ring road taken over three years, showing the how the city is regenerating and growing within its post-war footprint. And the Ruth Borchard Collection’s Self-Portrait Prize 2021 - the only art competition of its kind to focus exclusively on self-portraiture.

Folklorica, by Coventry-based artist Edie Jo Murray, an augmented reality experience, is taking place at Warwick Arts Centre.

You can experience all of this and more as a Coventry 2021 delegate. Being a delegate means you will have a ‘front row’ seat to events and moments across the programme. We will be giving daily briefing sessions, providing delegates with a rundown of everything going on in the city that day, and helping you navigate your way around Coventry. We will also be on hand to help build itineraries which include events and opportunities to independently explore the city, access to artists and producers, and time and space to wind down and network with fellow delegates. 

So come and explore what Coventry UK City of Culture has in store this summer.

Jake Bartle and Emily Coleman are Delegate Managers at Coventry City of Culture 2021

This article, sponsored and contributed by Coventry City of Culture 2021, is part of a series inviting professionals from across the arts and the creative industries to experience the cultural programme as Delegates.

Link to Author(s): 
Emily Coleman