Walking Through Coventry Data rehearsal image (Photograph: Tim Hammerton)
In February 2023, Tim Hammerton looked back at the development of the Walking Through Coventry Data exhibition.
On 13 December 2022, invited guests and members of the public were able to Walk Through Coventry Data at The Reel Store. The event was well-received and showed amazing images of Coventry through the years and generated a real sense of civic pride. It had, however, been a long and tricky path to reach that successful conclusion.
In late May 2022, Coventry University’s Nick Henry and Tim Hammerton, and Coventry City Council’s Insight team’s Si Chun Lam and Tim Healey, met to consider ideas to promote place, as part of the AHRC funded place-based knowledge exchange project − City Change Through Culture: Securing The Place Legacy Of Coventry City Of Culture 2021.
As members of the independent UK City of Culture 2021 monitoring and evaluation team, there was awareness of how rich Coventry had become having captured a range of cultural data. The question was, how to make stakeholders aware of these data so that they might be used to benefit the city. One idea that germinated over the next few weeks was the ambitious Walking Through Coventry Data exhibition.
Conversations continued throughout the summer, wondering how this might be done, and what content and technical expertise was needed, as filling a digital exhibition would need a lot of strong imagery. By the beginning of August it was confirmed that The Reel Store was available and the booking was placed: things had become real.
Si Chun Lam produced a mock-up image and initial data-orientated video, but by the end of October had left the Council for a new job. The risk of failure had increased. However, the Council’s team was enhanced with Viviana Sagredo now involved and Coventry University had brought in the expertise of Ben Kyneswood who manages the Coventry Digital archive of images, together with support from Mark Scott at Warwick Business School.
There were lots of ideas and approaches swirling around about which aspects of Coventry to highlight, the type of data to use, how they should be presented and the thematic strands that could be featured. Nick Henry created a structure for the presentation which Ben Kyneswood, Tim Healey and Vivi Sagredo built upon, developing a storyboard and a script that was refined in the run up to the event.
The plan was to feature Coventry past, present and future, highlight the cultural attributes that Coventry has always been proud of, how the year as UK City of Culture 2021 had benefitted the city, and end with a forward-looking message considering (cultural) opportunities to come.
Invitations had gone out within the two universities and the Council, as well as to members of the public, with an event sold that was still being built in parallel. Freelance support was brought in, with Jon Randle of Mindriot Productions providing important animation expertise and Coventry’s Poet Laureate, Emilie Lauren Jones, recording the voiceover. Technical support was provided by the ever-patient Alex Wilcox at The Reel Store, who enabled the story to appear on the walls. Interested parties were asking about the event, and answers were a little vague, as development continued.
On 6 December, the team saw the first version of the exhibition that ran on a nine-minute loop; it was so exciting, as it was brilliant, with fantastic images and important city related data. There was a week to finalise it, synch the voiceover and music (composed by Tim Healey). Discussions with colleagues became more confident, as the risk had diminished.
On 13 December, Nick Henry welcomed guests on behalf of the partnership team and explained that: