The city has beaten contenders Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea to host the year-long award credited with ‘transforming’ Hull.

Photo of Coventry Catherdral
Coventry Cathedral, which will be involved in a cultural 'build-up event'

Coventry has beaten off stiff competition from Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland and Swansea to be crowned the UK’s next City of Culture.

The announcement – made last night by arts Minister John Glen – means the city will be eligible for a £3m Heritage Lottery grant and waves of associated investment. Current award-holder Hull is estimated to have received more than £3bn of investment since its bid was successful in 2013.

Congratulating the city, Glen said: “In 2017 I have seen the truly transformative effect this prestigious title has had on Hull. The city has embraced City of Culture and in doing so has demonstrated how culture, the arts and heritage can bring communities together.

“I look forward to seeing what Coventry has in store in 2021.”


Few details have been released about the proposed year of activities, but the DCMS said Coventry’s bid impressed the judging panel with its focus on “youth, diversity and the scale of impact” in the city and across the UK.

On Twitter, Coventry’s bidding team announced one of the “digital centrepieces” of the year will be a 2.2-mile-long Ring Road Poem.

It also announced two build-up events: the UK’s “first shop front festival”; and a lighting commission to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Coventry Cathedral.

“Changed the city forever”

The other competing cities have responded positively to the news, pledging to build on momentum generated during their campaigns and continue cultural activity.

Rebecca Ball, Director of Sunderland 2021, said she was “very proud” of the bid and wanted to “reassure people that all that hard work and valuable contributions will be used to shape our cultural future”.

Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent council, Abi Brown, said many cultural initiatives will “continue and grow in the city regardless”.

“Despite not winning, we feel the bid has changed the city forever and we and all partners involved have already collectively vowed to continue with our ‘Plan B’,” she added.

The bid team at Paisley said it is “excited for the future” and young people “will feel the benefits of the campaign”, and Swansea has vowed to continue its cultural conversation through an upcoming Cultural Strategy.

Culture competitions

Coventry becomes the third city to win the UK City of Culture competition, awarded to Derry-Londonderry in 2013 and Hull in 2017.

Hull’s year as UK City of Culture has been so successful – nine out of 10 residents have either taken part in or attended a City of Culture event – that the programming team has been formalised as a limited company and will continue to put on arts activities in the city from 2018 onwards.

But the goodwill surrounding the UK City of Culture stands in stark contrast to the European City of Culture competition, on which it is based, given the EU’s recent ruling that UK cities will no longer be eligible to compete.

Arts professionals and MPs have since called for the decision to be reversed, stressing the value of a positive resolution to the dispute “would undoubtedly be immense” for the UK and the rest of Europe.