First City of Culture events revealed

Coventry City of Culture Trust has announced the first events that will form part of the 365-day programme of UK City of Culture 2021, with a confirmed kick-off date of 15 May, 2021.

As well as announcing the date of the opening event – called Coventry Moves – other highlights include the Turner Prize exhibition and ceremony being held at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, a major co-commission with the Royal Shakespeare Company and a three-day weekender curated by Terry Hall, the lead singer of The Specials.

The events announced are a preview of some of the early plans for City of Culture ahead of a full programme announcement in January 2021.

Created with local and national partners, and grassroots organisations across Coventry, the 2021 programme will include major artistic events, world premieres and commissions across theatre, music, dance, literature, comedy and visual arts.

The full events programme and partners will be announced in January 2021.

Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Although Coventry has been preparing for its role as UK City of Culture since our name was announced in December 2017, the Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had a major impact on preparations, as it has on nearly every aspect of our lives. Today’s announcement is a much-needed boost and something that we can all look forward to, as I know it is going to be a spectacular year.

“With the public realm work to improve the city centre experience going well and the exciting capital building programmes well-underway across the city, I know that we are going to stage something special for people to talk about for years to come, as well as leave a lasting legacy for the residents of our city.”

Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry City of Culture, added: “We are announcing these events today and hope, in these dark times, to give something for people to look forward to – things they can do and enjoy, whatever the future may hold. When Coventry is faced by a challenge, we tackle it head on. The resilience and innovation that the city is known for around the world can be seen in the events we announce today.

“From city-wide stories to intimate experiences and small-scale events that will surprise and delight – whatever age you are, whatever brings a smile to your face, whatever makes you feel a little more alive, you will find it in Coventry City of Culture. Today’s announcement is only the beginning of what is to come and we look forward to announcing more in January 2021, when we will be sharing our full programme, with local artists and organisations central to the celebrations.”

Key events in today’s announcement

Coventry Moves
Coventry Moves will open the year of culture on Saturday 15 May 2021.

June – July: Opening in June ‘Tides Within Us’ is a major new site-specific production created by leading digital artists Marshmallow Laser Feast. It is commissioned by Coventry City of Culture Trust and co-produced with York Mediale, an international media arts organisation and presented in partnership with Historic Coventry, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and Coventry City Council, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
September – January: The Turner Prize 2021 will take place in Coventry at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. The exhibition of the Turner Prize’s shortlisted artists will be from 29 September 2021 to 12 January 2022, with the announcement of the winner on 1 December 2021.
October – January: The Coventry Biennial (third edition) will take place across Coventry and Warwickshire with a four-month programme dedicated to visual art and culture.
October: Rivers of the World: A public showing of artwork created through the Rivers of World project, led by the Thames Festival, in partnership with the British Council with support from Coventry’s Open Theatre.

June: Coventry UK City of Culture marks the arrival of The Walk to the city. The Walk centres on the 5,000-mile journey of Little Amal, a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl. It is created by Good Chance Theatre, Stephen Daldry, David Lan and Tracey Seaward with the world-famous creators of War Horse, Handspring Puppet Company.
June: In 2021, the UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) will be presented in association with Coventry’s largest professional theatre, the Belgrade Theatre. The programme will celebrate the centenary of the acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray with a selection of premieres based on the theme of ‘Ray of Hope’.
July: The Belgrade Theatre will co-produce a series of performances alongside national new writing company, Paines Plough in their pop-up theatre ROUNDABOUT.
August: CastAway is a major new outdoor theatre show by Coventry-based company Highly Sprung highlighting the environmental crisis.
September: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) plans to present a new co-commission, Faith.
September: Theatre of Wandering is created by acclaimed director Naoki Sugawara’s company, OiBokkeShi, working with Entelechy Arts. The project builds on the experience of those living with dementia, whilst allowing others to experience the changed boundaries of fiction and reality that this brings.
November: Corey Campbell, Co-Artistic Director of the Belgrade Theatre, will work with six emerging Midlands writers – Sophie Ellerby, Sophia Grissin, Sam Kurd, David Payne, Annabel Brightling, Daniel Anderson and Rory Rawson – to produce a six-part digital television series SeaView. Inspired by a true story, the urban drama celebrates the aspirations of a Black, working class family exploring urgent questions around choice and circumstance.


July: Small Bells Rings is a new co-commission between Super Slow Way, an arts programme shaped by local communities, and acclaimed artist collective Studio Morison. A specially designed canal boat will house the largest collection of short stories in the UK, which have been selected by a number of artists, librarians and community members working in collaboration with Coventry Libraries and Information Services.
23 – 26 September: BBC Arts and BBC Audio are partnering with the regional literature development agency Writing West Midlands, Warwickshire-based poetry publisher Nine Arches Press and Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 for the biggest poetry and performance festival ever seen in the region, BBC Contains Strong Language.

July: Terry Hall presents Home Sessions is a three-day event in the heart of the city. Curated by Coventry’s own Terry Hall, perhaps best known as the lead singer The Specials and Fun Boy Three, Terry is curating a festival programme of intimate gigs and events across the city.
12 – 15 August: CVX Festival is a three-day arts activism event curated by young people in the city around the themes of community, unity and social change.