Coventry beat out its competitors of Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Swansea and Sunderland based on the decision of an independent panel of culture experts. While the city is not currently a tourism powerhouse in the UK, Lonely Planet’s destination editor for Britain, Clifton Wilkinson, says the city is actively working to pique travellers’ interest. “Coventry’s been working hard to reinvent itself since the infamous bombings during World War II flattened the once beautiful medieval city and the car industry closed in the ’80s”. With the new designation, it seems poised to do just that.
Only an hour on the train from London, and twenty minutes from nearby Birmingham, there are a number of attractions in the city that could help draw in travellers to learn about Coventry’s unique past. “Excellent museums like Coventry Transport Museum, which explores the city’s transport-related heritage, have helped bring in visitors, as has the cluster of ancient streets that offer a glimpse of the city in the Middle Ages,” said Clifton. “The twin cathedrals, one in ruins, the other built after the war, are a poignant indicator of Coventry’s destruction and resilience, and the 2021 celebrations will almost certainly give a nod to the city’s most famous citizen, Lady Godiva, who notoriously rode naked through Coventry’s streets a thousand years ago to protest her husband’s unfair taxes on local people”.
This year, Hull held the title of City of Culture, which it used “to transform its reputation as a destination for arts and culture both at home and abroad,” according to the UK government. The city held a year’s worth of cultural events, drawing in visitors from around the UK and beyond. With Coventry taking up the mantle, it should see a similar boom.
“British poet Philip Larkin provides a link between Coventry and Hull (he was born in the former and died in the latter) and the city is bound to celebrate his works during their year as City of Culture. The huge support for the successful bid by local businesses and Coventry’s youthful population are likely to influence the events put on during 2021, as well as guaranteeing the involvement of proud Coventrians. In 2021 and beyond, being ‘sent to Coventry’ will be seen as a positive,” Clifton said.
Coventry now has four years to prepare its year-long programme of activity for 2021. As part of its status as UK City of Culture 2021, it will be eligible for a £3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which should spur enough cultural events to wow people in the UK and around the world.