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City of Culture staff projects

City of Culture staff projects

Each project engaged with the city’s varied communities and many were led by Early Career Research (ECR) network staff. A significant number also involved high levels of student participation and developed or generated research. These projects are in addition to the co-funded research projects with the University of Warwick.


Credit Dylan Parrin

Round 1

  • In the UK, due to migration and displacement, the number of South Indians and Sri Lankan Tamils has increased considerably.

    This increase has led to the formation of local communities and support for businesses that are actively encouraging the learning and performing of Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam dance. Coventry, with its large South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, is developing as an important centre for Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam dance.

    Research led by (former) Coventry University lecturer Roopa Aruvanahalli Nagaraju aimed to map this growth with a view to establishing Coventry as a major hub for Carnatic music and dance learning in the UK, and ultimately establish an annual Carnatic festival in the city.

    Learn more about the Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam Dance project.

  • Inspired by a project run by the Brooklyn Art Library, this project distributed 2021 sketchbooks to capture life in all wards of Coventry.

    The project was led by Emily Manns, (former) lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, who wanted to reach people from as many nationalities as possible, in order to capture the diversity of experiences in the city.

    The books have been distributed since 2018, with the aim of them being collected for the City of Culture year in 2021, and then made available to the public through the library.

    Learn more about Coventry Sketchbook project.

  • A multimedia project that will document the legacy of dance in the city of Coventry.

    The aim is to create three films, four podcasts and five visual banners which will be displayed in the city using projectors.

    Led by Rosemary Cisneros, Assistant Professor - Research in the Centre for Dance Research, the project aimed to bring forward a range of dance artists, festival organisers, dance schools and local groups, among other key people, and allow them to share their stories with the wider Coventry community.

    Learn more about Dancing Bodies in Coventry

  • The Gratitude Wall project connects health, art and culture through community art and sharing stories in creative ways that help spread hope and gratitude.

    The project, led by Gabriela Matouskova, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Hope 4 The Community, was inspired by Coventry University research that shows that expression of gratitude improves mental health, resilience and builds friendships.

    The community art project toured museums, galleries, festivals, schools and workplaces and more than 8,000 people have shared what they are thankful for.

  • This project disseminated in-depth discussions with the people who made Coventry’s newspapers.

    Led by Rachael Matthews, Associate Director for Research and Engagement and a former journalist, this project takes the form of a video and tells the story of newspapers from the perspective of the editorial staff and those working in printing and distribution.

    This project provides a first-hand account of the role the local press played in shaping Coventry in the second half of the twentieth century.

  • Led by Jason Begley, Associate Professor – Research for the Centre for Business in Society, this project aimed to celebrate Coventry’s rich industrial traditions.

    It explored the cultural impact of the city’s industrial heritage and the subsequent impact of that on the social and economic lives of Coventry’s citizens, through an exhibition and a number of lectures looking at the effects on gender, immigration and employment.

  • This project, led by Annette Roebuck, Associate Professor – Academic for the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, co-produced a film to explore how key public health issues such as obesity, smoking, exercise and loneliness, are experienced by vulnerable people, and how health messages may be communicated more effectively to be inclusive to all.

    The film is intended to highlight health messages and challenge negative perceptions of all vulnerable service users.

  • A collaboration between Coventry University dance students, Off-Balance Dance, dance graduates and eight schools across the city including primary schools and special schools - Interwoven was a project designed to help young people celebrate dance across the city.

    Led by Andrea Barzey, (former) Associate Head of Performing Arts at Coventry University, Interwoven looked to close boundaries and bring people together through dance, with the schools being located across a city which features many different cultural and socioeconomic experiences to be shared and learned from.

  • An interdisciplinary project led by Ralph Kenna, Professor of Theoretical Physics, married humanities and mathematics in order to investigate narrative sources such as chronicles, myths and folk tales across nations, to deliver an insight into their unifying and distinguishing characteristics and thereby how cultures spread and evolve.

    Learn more about Maths meets Myths.

  • Led by Glenn Noble, current PA undergraduates and recent graduates worked in partnership with theatre company The Fabularium to create a new piece of promenade performance work, which was presented in the city’s parklands over three days.

  • Led by Dr Phillip Gould, Deputy Head of School for the School of Life Sciences, this project aimed to provide insights into infections.

    An innovative mix of lectures, practical demonstrations and dance, asked audiences to better understand the role of science in researching and combating antimicrobial resistance.

    Learn more about the Transmission project.

  • Led by Jasber Singh, Associate Professor – Research for the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, and facilitated by the Global Warwickshire Collective (GWC), this project focused on uncovering the hidden histories written by British African Caribbean peoples in historic Warwickshire.

    Through training and engagement, the intention of this project was to inspire community members to take more active ownership of and involvement in the production of our histories, and to challenge the exclusivity of historical scholarship in Britain.

Round 2

  • A study of (so-called) Provincial Life: George Eliot and Coventry

    George Eliot lived in Coventry between 1840 and 1849 and modelled the fictional space of her best-known novel, Middlemarch, on the city.

    In anticipation of the 150th anniversary of Middlemarch in 2021 and Coventry’s role as UK City of Culture in the same year, the project, led by Lynsey McCulloch, investigated this novelist’s relationship with the Midlands aiming to create a travelling exhibition on the subject of Eliot’s Coventry.

    This mobile exhibition considered the employment of Coventry within Eliot’s fiction—employing words, images and artefacts, in addition to audio-visual and digital components. It also considered Eliot’s afterlife and her status within twenty-first-century Coventry, a post-industrial city with a culturally diverse population, and interrogated the ‘provincial’ reputation of the Midlands, a moniker the area still retains.

  • This project aimed to enhance a sense of belonging to the local community for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) learners at the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC).

    Exploring the human values in Shakespeare’s works and their contribution to the English language, Zoe Gazeley-Eke (project lead) linked the City of Culture theme ‘Being Human’, to that of investigating the creation of a sense of community through language learning.

  • The second iteration of this project saw the team, led by Rosemary Cisneros, aspiring to make three films, record two podcast episodes and commission two dance companies to carry out research and development (R&D), and create new choreographic work in the city.

    DBiC-II included the videos that were previously made and reused them in a number of creative contexts. Two artists were commissioned to create work built on a reading of the past DBiC materials for the project and asked them to interview local citizens from the Roma, migrant and refugee communities. These interviews then served as a springboard for the new dance works in the R&D phase.

    Learn more about Dancing Bodies in Coventry.

  • Cultures (yeast/bacteria) used in fermentation can give beer a unique profile comparable to fine wine. Most famously in Belgium, wild yeasts are used to produce Lambic beer, where quality is prized over quantity and unique microflora gives each producer’s beer a distinct flavour. Cultures of Coventry created two brews that are the ultimate expression of our local area.

    Drawing on local knowledge, four food and drink enterprises collaborated with a diverse team of staff and students led by Sean Graham. The brewers took their first steps into the high-end barrel-aged wild beer industry, and then, an MSc student alongside our technical support analysed the beers to identify and track the development of the local cultures. The student was supported by a team of food scientists, microbiologists and molecular biologist academics.

    Two beers were produced; Lady Godiva (blonde) and Peeping Tom (dark), which were barrel-aged between 12-18 months, having allowed the cultures to develop. They were kegged, bottled and launched in 2021.

  • Led by Ashleigh Hargrave (Business Process Management Specialist), this project aimed to increase community wellbeing, strengthen cohesion and develop intergenerational learning by running open events at an allotment site. Project members hosted a minimum of six community events on the Lake View Allotments site throughout 2020.

    The events were themed according to growing seasons and multi-cultural events and focussed on food and the sharing of growing, gardening and cooking skills.

    The benefits of the project included:

    • Improved mental health and wellbeing
    • Community learning about traditional produce and cooking from the UK and around the world
    • Awareness of heritage seeds
    • Sharing of intergenerational skills and expertise
    • Increased biodiversity on the site and in gardens by encouraging bees, bats and hover flies.
  • Home-made in Foleshill saw staff members, graduates and undergraduates on the Illustration and Animation BA (Hons) and Games Art BA (Hons) courses work with three primary schools in Foleshill to deliver a month of weekly workshops in April and May 2020, designed to explore home-made creative processes through film, animation, drawing and storytelling.

    Foleshill is listed as having one of the highest levels of child poverty in the city and the lowest levels of engagement in the arts. Building on the success of arts and heritage project We HeART Foleshill (supported by the John Thaw Foundation and Aylesford Charitable Trust) and led by Francis Lowe, an Assistant Professor - Academic for Arts and Humanities, Home-made aimed to increase cultural access for children in diverse and hard-to-reach communities through responsive, process-led workshops.

  • Working across the CU Group and drawing on archives held by the university, such as the Richardson and Donnelly & Thoms oral history collections, this application researched and developed initial stories relating to the city’s automotive history.

    The stories were made available to the public online and on social media by using parts of the existing audio recordings edited into a video, with archive photography of the era placed over the top as visuals.

    Accompanying transcripts were supplied as study aids and included quotes such as “the whole family worked in the car plant”, “when it closed the whole community closed down” and etc.

    This project was led by Anthony Hughes of the Lanchester Interactive Archive.

  • Coventry-born writer and director Jude Christian’s acclaimed play NANJING explores themes of identity, memory and forgiveness in a personal response to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.

    Members of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) and the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) worked with Jude to hold participatory workshops at performances of NANJING in Coventry, the Royal Court Theatre (London) and at its China premiere in Nanjing in 2020.

    Led by Elly Harrowell, Assistant Professor – Research for the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, these workshops formed the basis of a new work performed alongside NANJING in Coventry, 2021.

  • Designed to re-engage the public with Coventry’s largely hidden River Sherbourne through a public-facing event in May 2020, seed funding enabled the initial stages of this project to get underway.

    Held in an empty shop behind Palmers Lane where the river is briefly visible but where people have few positive reasons to venture, this event included displays from an Arts and Humanities student competition - a ‘big draw’ that encouraged public participation, and an online resource that charts the river, its history and future, and both advertises and archives the events.

    The project was led by Imogen Racz, (former) Associate Head for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (FAH) and Associate within the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities.

    Planned urban regeneration project displays by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and the Historic Coventry Trust were also on display.

  • This project was led by Joe Thorogood, (formerly of) Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing, and used open-source geospatial, remotely-sensed and user-generated geospatial data and archival records to identify Rights of Way (RoW) in and around Coventry and Warwickshire, not registered on the Warwickshire and West Midlands ‘Definitive Maps’.

    Archival and user’s geospatial data can be permissible evidence of a RoW’s usage and submitted to County Councils as Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMOs), to preserve missing routes.

    In the spring of 2020, the project ran a day-long educational workshop in Coventry University’s Simulation Centre with The Warwickshire Ramblers, the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and Coventry City Council’s Rights of Way Office.

  • The project, led by Paul Elsam (formerly of CU Scarborough), drew on the reputation of the city of Coventry as ‘a place of peace and reconciliation’. Actions at the heart of the project were investigation, reflection and sympathetic representation.

    The plan was for a summer 2020 tour of Coventry University’s ‘places’ – Coventry, London, Scarborough, Wrocław - to learn something about what is being done within cultural contexts, to release silenced voices.

    The tour also aimed to include visits to some of the City of Coventry’s European twins – places such as Arnhem, Belgrade, Dresden, Kiel, Lidice, Ostrava, Sarajevo and Volgograd – many of which are linked as a result of historic loss and collective suffering.

  • As a cultural symbol of Coventry, the Lady Godiva legend has contributed in unique ways to the development of the law. Lady Godiva’s ride through the streets of Coventry, motivated by advocacy for the lower classes and a critique of the rights of men over women’s bodies, raises modern-day legal questions about the legality of voyeurism, public indecency, women’s rights and advocacy.

    This proposed project led by Monica Ingber (formerly of Coventry University) - The Trial of Lady Godiva aimed to demonstrate the resultant socio-legal impact that Lady Godiva has had in both local and global contexts.

    The project would comprise a stage play, written by (former Coventry University professor) Stephen Hardy, placing Lady Godiva on trial for the crime of public indecency. In doing so, it hoped to demonstrate how the legend informs our contemporary understanding of the law.

    The plan was for twelve performances (three per week) over a four-week period, including matinees for schools and colleges.

Round 3

  • Led by Lynsey McCulloch, PhD Research Supervisor, the primary output of this project was a mobile pop-up exhibition on the subject of George Eliot's relationship with Coventry and the Midlands. Pre-Covid, this was intended as a live, rather than digital, exhibition - to be held first in the lobby of Coventry University's George Eliot Building and subsequently in libraries and public spaces locally.

  • This project explored the unique and exceptional role of Coventry and the Midlands in the foundation of the British Black Art Movement (BAM) in the 1980s.

    Although underrepresented in the local art scene, art-related syllabi and prevailing local narrative, Coventry was home to a paradigm shift in British art history. Key figures of the movement, including Keith Piper and Eddie Chambers, met in the city, when studying in the art foundation course at the Lanchester Polytechnic (1979-80). In 1983, these artists participated in the historical Pan Afrikan Connection exhibition at the Herbert, giving an unprecedented visibility to the movement.

    Black Arts Movement in Coventry will celebrate this legacy. The project was led by Professor Carolina Rito, Professor of Creative Practice Research, from the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities.

    Learn more about the Black Arts Movement in Coventry.

  • This is a continuation of the project from Round one.

    Inspired by the famous Brooklyn sketchbook project and supported by UK City of Culture funding, the university distributed the sketchbooks in and around Coventry, free of charge.

    The university’s School of Art and Design launched the project to challenge the public to fill the books with drawings and paintings of the city, documenting their creative visions of Coventry, giving them the opportunity to play their part and put their personal stamp on this year’s celebrations.

  • The Wikimedia movement, of which Wikipedia is the best-known part, envisions:

    “A world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

    Our playful approach enabled and encouraged the people of Coventry to participate in this worthwhile activity, by delivering informal training and mentoring through several community engagement events, held in conjunction with collaborating organisations.

    Participants were shown how to create open-licensed content (Wikipedia articles, images and multimedia on Wikimedia Commons, data sets on Wikidata, etc.) that recorded the history and culture of the city and that of its diverse communities. Follow-up online support was also available.

    It is hoped that the project embedded digital fluency skills and confidence within local communities, and as the experience of similar programmes elsewhere shows, will continue to have benefits long after the formal programme ended.

    The project was led by Andy Mabbett (formerly of the) Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL), and training was delivered by DMLL student activators, utilising the model successfully employed by the university's Linguae Mundi and Digital Leaders programme.

  • Led by David Reed, Lanchester Library’s Collections Manager, this project wanted to create a reading fervour throughout Coventry during 2021, by promoting specific reading lists reflecting City of Culture themes, with connected activities, linking with reader groups and City Libraries activities and targets including ‘One Million Reads’, and providing a framework within which the other library projects sit.

    The Coventry community were consulted via social media platforms and emails to groups from the Community Information Database and Reader Groups, requesting their choice of the best books to celebrate Coventry, City of Culture and ‘Coventry Moves’ which enabled a degree of community curation.

    The library team agreed on the six books and hoped to include titles which are accessible, reflect Coventry’s diversity, a bestseller, a ‘slow burn’ and poetry. The six books were displayed in both university libraries and in as many City Libraries as was practicable.

    To launch the event, 10 copies of each title were gifted to the Coventry community via homeless charities and food banks.

    One hundred copies of each title were purchased: 10 to gift, 20 for the Coventry University, 20 to the University of Warwick and 50 to City Libraries for circulation.

  • Following in the footsteps of the work done in Round 1, members of CTPSR and C-DaRE continued the work with Jude to hold participatory workshops which went on to form the basis of a new work to be performed alongside NANJING in Coventry 2021 as part of City of Culture.

  • For Round 3, the three weekly performances of Stephen Hardy’s play which explores how the legend of Lady Godiva informs our contemporary understanding of the law, continue.

  • Led by Taryn Storey, (formerly of the) Centre for Dance Research, the project aimed to create a touring puppet theatre show for children in Coventry ages 0-5 years old. Working through masterclasses with Puppet Maker Andrew Purvin, 25 students learned how to make four-foot puppets and large puppet animals.

    Working with a professional theatre director who specialises in theatre for young audiences, they created and rehearsed a 30–40-minute show. This was toured to 15 early years providers in the city and was performed at the Coventry Cultural Education Partnership’s early years fun day, in June 2021 alongside student-led workshops.

Round 4

  • ‘Belonging in Coventry: A Shakespearean ESOL Journey for Refugees and Migrants’ is a community project that facilitated cross-cultural collaboration between the diverse population of Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC) English language learners and university TEFL students. It created innovative ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) materials focusing on the local, regional, national and global cultural icon William Shakespeare.

    Led by Faculty of Arts and Humanities Assistant Professor – Academic, Zoe Gazeley-Eke and with the support of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, this collaboration helped those involved to develop a deeper understanding of their local community, while also celebrating its richness. The involvement of the CRMC helped to develop the themes of diversity, social justice and inclusion, and supported students in becoming more aware of local and global citizenship issues. It also aimed to enhance the experience of CRMC learners and their awareness of Shakespeare’s heritage.

  • Experiences of sexual and domestic abuse have lifelong impacts, undermining health, adversely affecting family life and personal relationships, reducing prospects in work and education, and hindering engagement in hobbies and wider culture and society.

    The SAASST (Sexual Assault & Abuse Strategy Steering Team) partnership focuses on prevention and ensuring best practice care and support is offered to all those affected by sexual violence locally. One goal is to enhance public understanding about the nature of abuse occurring in young people’s relationships. It is strengthened by links to national, ground-breaking research taking place at Coventry University, which includes Coventry sites and engages young survivors of abuse.

    The partnership teamed up with local production company No Class and Coventry-based dramatic artists to produce an engaging, accessible, three-minute film depicting the signs and impacts of abuse occurring between two young people.

    The film’s impact aimed to influence young people and others, helping them to recognise different guises of abuse and to reach out to partnering agencies for advice and support.

    This project was led by Lorna O’Doherty, Associate Professor - Academic, Centre for Intelligent Healthcare.

  • In 1989, multiple species of grassland and heritage crop plants began blooming from seeds that had lain dormant for hundreds of years as they became exposed during archaeological excavations at Half‐Moon Yard (the site between Drapers’ Hall and Metropolis). This rare phenomenon offered a unique insight into the urban and peri‐urban interdependencies of medieval Coventry, and the species were carefully documented in a botanical survey.

    The Heritage Seed Library at Ryton Gardens, near Coventry, works to protect heirloom seed varieties via community seed exchange and conservation. In a world where seed resilience is being compromised through the reduction of diversity, this work is essential to preserving a healthy future.

    Led by Faculty of Arts and Humanities Assistant Professor – Academic, Sebastian Hicks, this project drew on the buried history, recorded in the 1989 paper, to provide the ‘trace elements’ for the definition of a ‘heritage’ Coventry garden.

    The result was the curation of a temporary public space that reconnected the city with its heritage through seeds, and created a space of wellbeing and refuge. The inter‐disciplinary approach explored the relationship between biodiversity maintenance, the built environment, non‐anthropocentric design, the creative and resilient public realm, and urban health. The garden hosts space for generational and cultural knowledge exchange.

  • Led by (former) lecturer in Sport and Event Management Paul Cartlidge, this project delivered a series of workshops to students at the Sidney Stringer Academy (SSA) Multi Academy Trust. The local school was developing its media production and the entertainment business programme, but lacked some equipment and expertise in crucial areas.

    Through a series of ‘masterclasses’ facilitated by university students, women entertainment professionals from local media companies such as Christie Lites, PSP AV, and PRG UK provided industry insights, as they aimed to close the gap in understanding the available employment opportunities in cultural fields, while providing essential role models.

    During March and April 2022, SSA planned activity around the themes of “Amazing Women” and “Green Futures”. The project aligned with this by enabling the students to create various outputs during the masterclasses around sustainability, while providing insight into post-18 avenues.

    The outputs were displayed in Coventry University buildings and City of Culture spaces.

  • Launched to coincide with Coventry’s City of Culture year, the Coventry Phoenix Film Festival took place over the 22 and 23 April 2022 around the theme of ‘Movement’.

    The intention was to grow its scale and scope as an annual event. The programme consisted of screenings of curated work and films selected from two competition categories, as well as talks and networking opportunities.

    The festival was organised by a team of people from the School of Media and Performing Arts, in collaboration with Lanchester Library. It is supported, financially and in kind, by Film Hub Midlands, part of the BFI Film Audience Network that aims to develop a thriving film culture in the area. The festival was also supported by CineCov, a 12-month programme to transform Coventry into a cinema for its year as UK City of Culture.

    The festival proved a great way of raising the profile of our growing film and media courses. As Coventry does not currently have a mainstream professional film festival, it helped to engage the students and staff on our courses, as well as the wider community.

    This project was led by Assistant Professor - Film Production Sanna Wicks, with the Centre for Post Digital Cultures, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Lanchester Library.

  • This project wanted to explore the links between the cities of Coventry and Wrocław. Both cities have significant stories from the Second World War and a declared intention to work for peace and reconciliation from that experience.

    The focus of this connection was the lives of two Christian theologians, both of whom were murdered in concentration camps: Edith Stein (Sister Theresa Benedicta of the Cross) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    Coventry University’s project lead and Free Church chaplain Pauline Warner travelled to Wrocław to explore the relevant sites of interest, in order to devise a guided tour. Having done so, she returned to give a public lecture on Edith Stein and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as well as speaking to local groups such as the Coventry Society and local churches.

    The primary purpose of this project was to introduce the people of Coventry to the Coventry University Wrocław campus, bridging the ‘town-gown’ gap.

  • Led by Karen Wood and Lily Hayward-Smith from the Centre for Dance Research, this project consisted of installations and performances, as well as engagement workshops with different communities.

    The ‘The Shape of Sound’ installation was an artist’s impression of the hair cells inside the cochlea of the inner ear. The hair cells are represented through suspended strands of delicate silk and wool threads. The performance explored the installation through listening, movement and touch, highlighting the element of touch in the physical process of hearing a sound. Open rehearsals took place as part of the Being Human Festival Coventry Hub.

    Through dance, the artists explored the installation using deep listening and movement with the strands, interacting with light, darkness, shadows and silence, within the space.

    The five workshops proposed involved making sculptures of the bones in the middle ear out of clay. The artists discussed how these bones transfer energy from the air to a fluid environment. A movement element involved moving with the installation and listening to the body. Workshops were adapted for the different groups, i.e. school age participants, family groups, senior participants and students.

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