In December 2017, it was declared that Coventry would be the UK city of culture in 2021. Fast-forward four years and, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the landscape for our city’s host year could not be any more difficult or challenging. Our city, our region and our arts industry have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. At a time when the culture and entertainment sectors should have been centre stage in Coventry, activities from theatre productions and live performances to exhibitions and galleries have closed their doors. Staff have been furloughed and revenues have plummeted, and the pandemic has seen the start of Coventry’s year as city of culture put back to May 2021.
For many other cities, this would be an unmitigated disaster, but Coventry is a remarkable city. It is a city that has been shaped by its extraordinary history, culture and heritage. It is a city that has adapted, reinvented and reimagined itself time and again. It is a city that has a background of overcoming adversity, of coming together with strength and pride, and of succeeding against considerable odds. That is why I know that, in spite of covid-19, Coventry will make the most of the opportunities that its city of culture status offers and produce something utterly spectacular.
We will show the country and the world who we are and what we can do, even in this most difficult of climates, but to do this and to ensure that Coventry reaps the full benefit of city of culture status by ensuring that the arts, creativity and culture kick-start the much needed regeneration of our city and play a central role in the economic and social success of our communities, we need Government support. I hope the Minister, wherever she is—I hope she is listening—will commit today to ensuring that Coventry’s culture, arts and entertainment sectors receive the investment and support they need in order to make Coventry UK city of culture 2021 a complete success and to ensure that the event is a catalyst to developing a lasting social and economic legacy for current and future generations. With the right support, along with the new programme of events just launched today, Coventry city of culture 2021 will demonstrate the transformative powers of the arts on the lives of individuals, communities and the wider society, and lead our city’s and country’s cultural and entertainment sectors out of the pandemic in the most spectacular way.