2017 may be all about Hull, but my hometown Coventry is a shoe-in to become UK City of Culture for 2021. The Coventry2021 team are working on their bid right now, with four shortlisted cities up for the award to be announced in late 2017.
Some people miss the point of City of Culture, laughing at ugly old Coventry’s interest in bidding to be the third winner after Derry (2013) and Hull (2017). If cities were judged on their attractiveness, it’s true – the place wouldn’t have a hope in hell. But along with some decent museums, galleries and theatres (which will attract further investment and improvement), the sky blue city has a few cultural trump cards in its hands to help it win.
1. The cathedral ruins
Coventry Cathedral was bombed to smithereens in the blitz of 14th November 1940. As the city made ammunition, engines and cars needed in WWII, it was targeted by the Luftwaffe. The bombed-out shell of the old Coventry Cathedral remains, and the ruins are known as a place of peace and reconciliation.
Not only is it the prettiest part of the city-centre, the ruins host events such as gigs (Mogwai played last week), outdoor cinema screenings, plays and food festivals.
2. Fargo Village
Nothing to do with the American film or TV series of the same name, Fargo is a play on words of its location – Far Gosford Street. It’s a ‘creative space’ with independent shops, cafes, a market hall, food festivals and a brewery/bar. You can usually spot a mix of locals, bearded-hipsters and students browsing the independent shops based in brightly painted shipping containers, before sipping craft beer at the Twisted Barrel brewery and bar.
Part financed with EU funds (remember them?), it’s been here since September 2014, and has been a breath of fresh air in what was a pretty grim street. The owners say they’re trying to bring a piece of London’s Camden shopping experience to Coventry. New shops seem to pop-up every time I go, but I’ve always enjoyed the drinks at Urban Coffee Company.
3. Godiva Festival
The jewel in the crown that is Coventry’s arts scene is the annual Godiva Festival, the country’s biggest free festival, held over one weekend every July at the city’s War Memorial Park. Over 120,000 people come from all over the country to be entertained by bands (The Charlatans, Ash and Idlewild have played in recent years), comedians and fairground attractions.
4. Its history
Coventry is proud of its reputation as a city of invention, being home to the jet engine (invented by local boy Frank Whittle) and with a long history of watchmaking and its famed motor-industry. The bid team will surely play on the city’s past, with the free Transport Museum the centrepiece of the bid.
5. The opposition
No disrespect to likely rivals Hereford, Paisley, Perth, Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland but surely this is one match Coventry will win? Coventry is currently the bookies’ favourite at 2/1.
If I worked for the Coventry2021 bid team, I’d recommend they also focus on the following:
The Noodle Bar
This cheap and cheerful eatery (9 Bull Yard, CV1 1LH) is always heaving with Asian students from the city’s two universities (Warwick University is in Coventry). Everyone who eats here chooses one of the huge bowls of noodles for their main course – you choose the meat, the sauce and the type of noodle. It’s funny watching the Asians, who share a big bowl between two or three people, compared to the Brits, who have a bowl each and struggle to finish. The tastiest, freshest Chinese food I’ve ever had in my life.
Coventry is known as the city of three spires, and this tiny Belgian bar is inside one of them, and featured in an Independent list of the top 50 bars in the UK. There are tables outside with patio heaters, while the monthly beer tasting evenings are not to be missed. The owners of Inspire (Christchurch Spire, CV1 2PS) are also the brains behind…
This craft beer shop (3a Earlsdon Street, CV5 6EP) in the Earlsdon area sells just about any beer you’d ever want, and does home deliveries too.
Coventry Music Museum
Relive the ska days of the 1980s when Coventry ruled the airwaves with the likes of The Specials and The Selecter. (74-80 Walsgrave Road, CV2 4ED)
Just up the road from the music museum (124 Walsgrave Road, CV2 4AX) you will find this family-run Turkish restaurant selling the best kebabs this side of Istanbul. The lunch deal is highly recommended – any starter, kebab and soft drink for £5.99.