Stories from Coventry
- How has research played a role within Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture?
- What is its legacy and how will it be maintained?
- What lessons can be passed on to Bradford, UK City of Culture 2025?
The event was held on Friday 3 February 2023 at the Box, Fargo Village. It showcased some of the innovative research, creative projects and independent UK City of Culture 2021 (UK CoC 2021) evaluation research case studies before discussing ‘What’s next?’
It did this via a series of café style panel discussions with performances and respondents to animate the conversation and help the audience explore the panel areas. With exciting exhibits, videos and poems that were produced as part of UK CoC 2021 work, this was an opportunity to both celebrate and look ahead.
The event was aimed at a range of stakeholders, including academics, cultural workers, policy makers and those interested in Coventry’s year as UK CoC 2021.
Session 1: Artists as Researchers and Researchers as Artists
The first session discussed the changes made to working practices, initially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With artists and researchers restricted in how they could work, new approaches had to be found.
Coventry Creates enabled collaboration between artists and researchers based at the University of Warwick and Coventry University. Its goal was to create a digital exhibition that covered a range of research projects.
It was felt that this collaboration, quickly followed by UK CoC 2021, had changed the way that universities work and that a stronger university−community relationship was now in place.
The session ended with Siana Bangura performing her poem As blue as the rivers I follow.
Session 2: Surfacing Seldom-Heard and Seldom-Seen Communities
The panel talked of the importance of authenticity and working closely with seldom-heard communities. This involved understanding lived experiences, as people only share stories when they are in a safe space.
Arts projects can give people a sense of belonging and provide a shared language. They are a great leveller as voices that need to be heard, can be heard, with co-creation used as a way to create space for different voices to come through.
Greater collaboration can help to challenge perceptions and in turn lead to rethinking of policy. It also helps to amplify the legacy of a project, although normalisation may be a better word than legacy.
It was considered that if you pay a professor for their time, then you should also pay a contributor, as it makes them and their work valued.
Session 3: Independent Research and Evaluation
The third session stressed the importance of independent (and embedded) research and featured presentations from each of the focus studies that have examined a particular aspect of UK CoC 2021.
Arts and culture provide innovative ways of connection, helping the police to see communities differently and for them to see the police as more human.
The UK CoC 2021 title had an impact on each civic, cultural and business organisation studied, but the scale and scope differed greatly.
Faith is a conduit for citizenship, it brings people together and builds bridges to help them stay together.
People were finding out about environmental things happening nearby that they didn’t know about.
The City Host programme increased hosts’ wellbeing: that was achieved particularly through increasing social connectedness and sense of belonging.
She described that between institutional economic development, and community and social fabric lies lived/felt experience.
How do people feel about a place? What is their relationship with it? Is there felt ownership to influence place-based policies?
What has changed in terms of place, process and people, and what more needs to change?
She reflected on the presentations throughout the day and noted that meaningful work takes place in the moment, but questioned, what happens the day after the event stops?
The work with Coventry has been part of a broader process to define what future place-based priorities (informed by the arts) might look like.
Shanaz Gulzar, Creative Director, Bradford UK City of Culture 2025
There is great excitement in Bradford, looking ahead to UK CoC 2025 and the opportunity to celebrate the ethnically diverse city.
The year is set to deliver new performances and events, a series of major arts festivals, as well as national and international collaborations. Its themes will be rooted in the heritage and character of Bradford and its people, ambition and potential.
Session 4: Culture, Communities and Sustainability
The final session considered culture, communities and sustainability in different ways. Coventry City Council and the University of Warwick had jointly shared an environmental message with communities, including through a series of challenges.
Developing community engagement and memory helps to build stories and evidence, which are as important as the activities themselves.
The Box, Fargo Village, Coventry CV1 5ED
‘Connecting Place, Culture, Research and Impact − Stories from Coventry’ was a roundtable event organised by the University of Warwick.