Coventry celebrates start of UK City of Culture year

Pauline Black

image copyrightJoe Bailey/FiveSixPhotography

Events have taken place across Coventry to mark the start of its year as UK City of Culture.

Pauline Black, lead singer of The Selecter, performed a song to kick off the Coventry Moves event which was held online.

Bicycles and cars travelled across the city as part of the celebrations to highlight its manufacturing history.

Although there were pop-up doorstep performances, people were urged to watch from the event home.

Organisers had to rethink events to comply with Covid-19 restrictions and members of the public were able to see the celebration via the festival website and social media.

Coventry Moves, the signature event of the year, was originally due to coincide with the launch on 15 May, but was moved because of the coronavirus pandemic.


image copyrightPA Media


image copyrightPA Media

Activities began at about 08:00 BST with the single voice of a woman, singing from a balcony in the Spon End area, before Black’s performance.

She represented the spirit of the River Sherbourne running under the city and was joined by a choir and dancers.

Black was the first of six “energies of the city” that were introduced – faces that “encapsulate” the city’s spirit. Organisers said the energies were resilience, social justice, youthfulness, sustainability, people power and innovation.

Dancers, including the Coventry Morris Men

River Runners performing in Coventry Moves

image copyrightPA Media

Performers, called River Runners, then traced the route of the underground river, meeting other energies along their route.

Punjabi MC created the soundtrack to a motor cavalcade in celebration of the city’s manufacturing heritage, which involved Irish, Ska and Bollywood dance sequences.

Motofest provided 40 vehicles and their drivers with nine classic and heritage cars coming from Jaguar Land Rover.

Saturday’s activities included a parade of 14 modern Lady Godivas, chosen from more than 140 nominations, to represent the city’s women.

Women escorted the Lady Godivas to the city centre carrying manifestos for change in the city

image copyrightPA Media

Godiva, who died in 1067, was married to Leofric, the Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry.

According to legend, Leofric became so exasperated by Godiva’s endless appeals to reduce taxes, he declared he would do so if she rode naked through the crowded marketplace.

Bike ride

Navin Kundra

image copyrightJoe Bailey/FiveSixPhotography

Hundreds of performers and production teams had put in months of rehearsals for the day’s activities.

Creative dancer Marius Mates, who choreographed some performances, said scooter riders, BMX riders and parkour artists had all been involved.

Videos featured the city’s commitment to protecting the environment and stories of individuals and communities who came from across the world to build Coventry.

In the culmination of Coventry Moves, people were invited to turn on radios at their doorsteps to premiere a piece of music, as nine stations played different parts of the piece from 20:21 BST.

Residents in Stanley Road lined up with radios to hear all parts of the music

These form the full version when they are heard at the same time, so residents were asked to talk to neighbours and plan who would listen to which station.

For those in the city centre, strategically placed speakers enabled revellers to hear all the complementing pieces together at the same time.

Residents told the BBC they felt moved by the music, which featured the voices of the city’s children, and proud to be from Coventry.

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