First, a disclosure of interest. I lived in Coventry during my teenage years and I know a bit more than most about its culture. So, when I saw an item on the BBC News App on Saturday that Coventry might be in the running for UK City of Culture 2021 I paid attention.
Coventry is often written off, even – or, perhaps, particularly – by people who grew up there. It’s famous for car manufacturing (of which little remains), a re-built city centre following widespread destruction of its medieval heart during the Second World War, a cathedral that’s an acquired taste and Lady Godiva. Oh, and the saying that you’re sending someone to Coventry when you’re going to ignore them. It’s not the most beautiful city in the country, but it has gems that escaped both bombs and planning officers’ best efforts.
The case for Coventry’s culture includes more recent activity. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Coventry had a thriving music scene. The Specials emerged from that and Ghost Town is said to have been inspired by Coventry. (Listen to it before you decide whether a song with that title weakens Coventry’s case to be a city of culture.)
The Belgrade Theatre has a running programme of productions. It was also the scene of Sir Ian McKellan’s professional debut.
But the case for a city of culture shouldn’t be based solely on its historic achievements. They provide strong foundations, but they aren’t what constitute culture today. And being a city of culture shouldn’t be about the opportunities that the title – and the associated funding – could bring.
I suspect there’s far more happening in Coventry now than the BBC News item touched on. So, Coventry, put your best foot forward and show everyone what’s happening now, as well as your heritage and what you aspire to do in the future.