The grant will be used to both prepare for the year of activities and fund the programme of work.

Photo of coventry team
Darren Henley (left) with Coventry 2021 team members

Arts Council England (ACE) is to invest £5m in Coventry as the city prepares to become UK City of Culture in 2021.

This lottery funding will be used to support ongoing preparations, finance the programme of activities and pave the way for legacy activity.


The national funder announced the funding this week at an event at Coventry Transport Museum, attended by ACE Chief Executive Darren Henley, Coventry City of Culture Trust Chief Executive Martin Sutherland, and Leader of Coventry City Council George Duggins.

The award is less than the £6m that ACE invested overall in Hull in the run up to its year as City of Culture in 2017. An ACE spokesperson told AP that Coventry will still be able to benefit from possible capital grants for buildings or for organisations, and that individual artists can apply for funding through the National Lottery Project Grants scheme.

Henley also announced an ACE grant of £376k for Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum to enable it to become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, with the aim of reducing its carbon footprint by 22%.

Sutherland said: “UK City of Culture in 2021 is a chance to celebrate and highlight Coventry’s youth and diversity but to also bring long-term cultural, social and economic benefits to the city. 

“This scale of backing and funding from Arts Council England will be a major contribution to realising that ambition.”

Henley expressed his belief that “by the end of 2021, the lives of everyone here will have changed for the better”. 

He continued: “Along the way, this sustained investment in artists and cultural organisations will secure Coventry’s rightful place on the national and international stage as a dynamic, innovative, inclusive, international and forward-looking 21st century city.”

City of Culture effect

Coventry was awarded the City of Culture title last December, beating off competition from locations including Stoke, Swansea, Sunderland and Paisley.

The scheme, modelled on the European Capital of Culture – which the UK is no longer eligible to take part in – is credited with reversing the fortunes of troubled cities.

A study by the University of Hull found 95% of residents in Hull attended one of the city’s cultural events during its year as City of Culture in 2017, and that the title generated a £300m tourism boost to Hull’s economy.

It also found that 75% of people who visited Hull during its year as City of Culture changed their perception of the city for the better. 

Coventry’s organisers have similarly high hopes for their city. The project’s Creative Director, Chenine Bhathena, who was the Programme Director for the London Borough of Culture award, stressed that Hull and Coventry are cities with “a different heritage and a different story to tell” and that the year is a “fantastic chance” to “co-create with all communities”.

She said the team’s job is to make regeneration a positive experience for everyone and to work to bring communities together.

Coventry University Theatre tweeted that the city is a “great city to be studying arts degree subjects in”, and Coventry 2021 Director of Operations Laura McMillan tweeted that the award is a “huge milestone” and the team is “incredibly grateful” for ACE’s support.

“I agree with Darren when he says he’s always believed Coventry to be special,” she added.