After years of regeneration, Coventry is set to become Britain's city of cool after being named the UK’s City of Culture for 2021. In the lead-up to its time in the spotlight, here are some of best places to chart the historical roots and culture of this West Midlands city.
Coventry through the ages
During periods of unrest in Roman Britain, the Lunt Roman Fort was used as headquarters by the Roman army during the fight against Boudica, the tribal queen who led the uprising against the Roman Empire in around AD 60. Now fully excavated and partially reconstructed, the fort is the only example of an early Roman cavalry fort in Britain.
As one of the most celebrated women from Britain in the ‘Dark Ages’, Lady Godiva is best remembered for her naked horseback ride through Coventry. Now a legendary 12th-century tale, it’s said she did this to bargain with her husband, the Earl of Mercia and a ruler of England, to free people from the heavy taxes he had forced on them. Today, the Lady Godiva statue forms the centrepiece of the central square of Broadgate.
Discover how the city’s innovative spirit echoes throughout history at the award-winning Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, which celebrates the city’s history, arts, culture and diversity. Permanent exhibits include a tour of Medieval Coventry, the Victorian era and the beginning of the motor industry, and how the City of Dreams rebuilt itself after World War II. The most severe attack occurred on 14 November 1940, when 515 German bombers set out to destroy Coventry's factories and industrial infrastructure. In just one night, over 4,300 homes were destroyed and around two-thirds of the city's structures damaged, including Coventry Cathedral.
Petrolheads should visit the Coventry Transport Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of British vehicle. Displays include the fastest car on earth, motoring innovations over the last 150 years, and exhibits on how the city has been shaped by the rise and fall of its motoring industries. Visitors can test out the fastest car, ‘Spirit of Speed,’ to feel what it’s like travelling at 763 miles per hour.
Contemporary arts and culture
FarGo Village is Coventry’s answer to Camden in London, its creative quarter packed with independent shops, markets and local food and drink, while workspaces and studios are home to innovative artists. Events here include Vintage in the Village, animation workshops, the Vegan Festival and the Urban Culture Coventry Street Art festival.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum also presents a contemporary outlook on the city’s culture; running from 10 March to 10 April 2018 is the Irish Heart, Coventry Home exhibit which looks at the role of the Irish community in Coventry. Meanwhile from 24 February to 13 May 2018, New Art West Midlands presents emerging creative talent in a mixed media exhibition with contemporary themes including Artificial Intelligence, fake news and gender inequality.
Coventry is renowned for its Two-Tone ska-punk rock fusion that helped launch bands such as The Specials and The Selecter, offering up infectious rhythms and on-point lyrics to try and address racial tensions in 1980s Britain. Visitors can trace the musical roots of Two-Tone and other genres at the award-winning Coventry Music Museum in the city’s 2-Tone Village. The museum is open Thursday to Saturday10am to 4pm and on Sundays, 10am to 3pm.
2018 also sees numerous music events coming to Coventry. The Godiva Festival is the UK’s biggest, free, family music festival with live music and fairs at the War Memorial Park from 31 August to 2 September 2018. This park will also play host to BBC Music's The Biggest Weekend on 27 and 28 May 2018, an exciting live music event including performances Paloma Faith and Snow Patrol.
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