Staycations remain the preferred wedding anniversary travel gift option for most couples – at least for the time being. For some, a relaxing seaside getaway in a boutique-spa hotel would be the ultimate pleasure. For others, the bucolic tranquillity of a forest retreat. Or, for the more socially active, a bustling city vibe with chic restaurants and nightclubs.
Whatever your preference, destinations that also offer a touch of cultural enrichment will always add a special dimension to your anniversary holiday plans. So this year, if you are living in or visiting the UK, how about treating yourselves – or your celebrating parents or grandparents – to a stay in Coventry?
Just one hour from London by train, in the heart of the West Midlands, Coventry is the UK City of Culture in 2021 and is also scheduled to be a host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. A competition run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, UK City of Culture is held every four years. The first city to be awarded the prestigious title was Derry/Londonderry in 2013, followed by Hull in 2017.
Coventry was named the 2021 City of Culture four years ago after competing against 11 other cities, with the West Midlands city’s particular strengths being cited as its diversity, youthfulness and central location. Coventry offers visitors a rich history of arts and culture, from music, theatre and festivals to museums, cathedrals and mediaeval legends, and the cultural program has been devised to showcase that eclectic heritage.
A series of city-wide projects and installations will delve into the city’s past, while also “ looking to build a lasting legacy for the visitors of tomorrow”. Due to run from May 2021 to May 2022, the celebrations will begin on 15 May with “Coventry Moves”.
According to the organisers, this will be “an audacious day full of extraordinary surprises… a playful and engaging introduction to Coventry, its stories and its people… Despite the challenges of planning a way to mark this monumental moment in a global pandemic, the day-long event will tell the story of Coventry’s pioneering identity; how its history, youthfulness and resilience continues to shape its future and give voice to the many people that call the city their home.”
Outlined below are some of the other already-planned City of Culture highlights, ideal for couples who would like to share memorable cultural and heritage experiences during a wedding anniversary getaway in Coventry…
Coventry Transport Museum
The city’s venerable manufacturing and engineering past – Britain’s car industry traces its roots to Coventry – is celebrated at the Coventry Transport Museum, where visitors will be able to discover the world’s largest collection of British-made vehicles.
Coventry is the only city in the country to have been home to three cathedrals over the past 1,000 years, and today the ruin of Coventry Cathedral – which was destroyed in 1940 during World War II – serves as a memorial space for the city and a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Its modern counterpart was finished in 1962, adjacent to the 14th century ruin.
The Tides Within Us
An exploration of oxygen’s journey through the body, sparking imagination via immersive audio-visual artworks and suitable for all ages, The Tides Within Us will be held in June and July. The outdoor exhibition at Charterhouse Heritage Park is being set up in the surroundings of Paxton’s Arboretum, which is part of the Grade I-listed London Road Cemetery created in 1847 by Joseph Paxton.
A 3.5-metre-tall puppet will be welcomed to Coventry in July as part of an international art project touring eight countries. The Walk represents a young refugee, Little Amal, travelling more than 8,000 kilometres from the Turkey-Syria border to raise awareness of the crisis facing refugees across Europe – with a series of events taking place in Coventry to mark her arrival.
This outdoor theatre production from July to August, by Highly Sprung, looks at the impact of plastic pollution on the world’s waterways as part of a collaboration with the Canal & River Trust to raise awareness with eye-catching visuals and street performances.
The CVX Festival is a three-day event coinciding with International Youth Day on 12 August, involving young people who explore themes centred on community and social change. In addition to workshops, talks and other performances, visitors will be able to enjoy live music co-produced by rapper and songwriter Jay-1.
Also set to perform live, leading a program of intimate gigs and events in July to showcase the city’s musical past, is Coventry’s own Terry Hall – lead singer of The Specials.
Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
Named after painter, printmaker and water-colourist J.M.W. Turner, the Turner Prize for visual art will visit the Midlands for the first time in its history as part of the City of Culture programme.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry will showcase works from shortlisted artists from late September until mid-January 2022. The four artists to be shortlisted will be revealed in the spring, and the winner will be announced on 1 December.
A four-month program of exhibitions in studios, galleries and other locations around the city and Warwickshire, the third Coventry Biennial will be held in October. The focus for this 2021 edition is the role of art and language in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the influence of the BLK Art Group in the 1980s.
The group comprised four British-Caribbean artists based in the Midlands who were inspired by the Black Arts Movement in the US and are credited with transforming the world of British art and inspiring other black artists to document their experiences.
Dining Out… and In
As to be expected of a modern city dazzling in the cultural spotlight this year, Coventry offers an appetising range of dining options, from popular restaurant chains such as Bistrot Pierre, Las Iguanas and Pizza Express to independent establishments including Basement Browns and The Lazy Monkey. Visitors on the go can also savour quick snacks or real ales throughout the city, before relaxing at the end of the day with a cocktail, followed by an award-winning curry or even a mediaeval banquet.
If hospitality restrictions still apply during your stay, and you would like to enjoy a “lockdown date night”, Coventry food and drink businesses have been “pulling out all the stops” in recent months to provide everything from three-course meals to cocktails that can be conveniently delivered to your holiday accommodation.
“Home” of Lady Godiva
A statue of Lady Godiva in Coventry’s central Broadgate square was sculpted by William Reid-Dick and unveiled in 1949, It is one of the few statues of horses outside London to be listed (Grade II).
It is not known when or where Godiva was born, but she is reported to have married Leofric, Earl of Mercia, around 1035, becoming the Countess of Mercia. A wealthy woman in her own right and devoutly religious, Godiva was well-known for her generous gifts to abbeys and churches. In the 1040s she and her husband paid for a church in Coventry, believed to be on the site of an earlier building destroyed by the Danes in 1016.
Leofric damaged his image as a wise and religious figure when he became involved in the brutal pillage and destruction of Worcester in 1041, after the town had defied a royal tax collector. Godiva is said to have made her famous naked horse ride as a bargain with her husband to free the people of Coventry from the oppressive taxes he had imposed on them.
- Photos by Visit Coventry (Flickr): Rahul Argha Sen (cathedral), Neil Catley (Bayley Lane), Anna Rokitowski (Coombe Abbey), Ko Ko Zin (High Street) and Paul Curtis (Electric Wharf Bridge)
- Coventry Transport Museum photo by mubsta.com
- Herbert Art Gallery and Museum photo by Kate Rossin
- Cathedral plaza photo by Ian Kelsall from Pixabay
- Lady Godiva photo by Richard Styles from FreeImages