The Indiependent’s UK City of Culture Festival Round-Up


Recently gaining the title of City of Culture 2021, Coventry has implemented ambitious plans to showcase its range of artistic and creative talent in the UK City of Culture Festival from 15 May 2021. The event is set to attract national audiences, empower current residents, and allow visitors to experience the joys of cultural participation over the course of twelve months. 

By hosting cultural activities for the masses, Coventry city’s history will be celebrated, alongside its continued growth and development. The programme is set to include artistic commissions from across the visual arts—inclusing music, dance, literature, comedy and theatre—all of which is particularly exciting after a year of theatres having closed doors as a result of the pandemic. Amongst its variety of regional, grassroots theatre performances, Coventry has also teamed up with national companies, such as The Royal Shakespeare Company and Paines Plough. 

The Chief Executive of Arts Council England says: “We are very excited for the start of Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021. After a difficult year, to be able to take part in world-class cultural activities, and share creative experiences, will help people to become happier and healthier in their lives. The impact of Coventry 2021 as part of this country’s recovery cannot be underestimated.” 

Like There’s No Tomorrow by Belgrade Young Company: 19 May – 13 June 2021

Originally devised by Belgrade Young Company in March 2020, Like There’s No Tomorrow is one of the first National Theatre Connections plays to be co-created by a community of young people, rehearsed on Zoom, and digitally presented. There’s a definite urgency to tell this story within the company, who say that this version of the production is one “that belongs in the now, informed and shaped by the turbulent direction our lives have taken since the play was written, and asks: should we still care about the earth we live on?”. Raising awareness of the immediacy of climate change, Like There’s No Tomorrow is a platform for young people’s voices during a time where the future is more uncertain than ever before.

SeaView by Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd and Strictly Arts Theatre: November 2021

In November, the Belgrade Theatre is set to share its six-part digital television series, SeaView. Based on a true story, it celebrates the aspirations of a Black working-class family and explores urgent questions around choice and circumstance. Fans of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child should be excited, as SeaView will explore similar themes of family relationships, honesty, trust, and guilt. The addition of film in the Belgrade Theatre’s programme truly demonstrates the UK City of Culture Festival’s versatility, and fulfils its co-artistic directors’ aim of using their venue to showcase “a unique perspective that will celebrate the city’s diversity and drive positive change”.

May Queen by Paines Plough’s Roundabout: 16 July – 8 August 2021

Set on May Day 2022, the fictional celebrations in May Queen mirror those throughout Coventry’s UK City of Culture Festival and sees its protagonist (16-year-old May Queen, Leigh) “face up to events and dig deep within herself to ask: how did she get here?”. Exploring youth, reflecting on the past, and questioning the future, it seems as though Frankie Meredith’s play is reminiscent of Kae Tempest’s Wasted

Really Big and Really Loud by Paines Plough’s Roundabout: 16 July – 8 August 2021

Really Big and Really Loud is suitable for the whole family, particularly aimed children aged five years old and upwards. “It’s about losing your voice and going on a big adventure to find it again”, says the programme. Fun, inspirational and entertaining, this production includes songs and friendly animals, and is bound to have you smiling. Award-winning playwright Phoebe Eclair-Powell’s production seems like the perfect light-hearted remedy after a year without theatre: do not miss out on an opportunity to relish in its joy again!

Black Love by Paines Plough’s Roundabout: 16 July – 8 August 2021

With music by the Ringham Brothers, Black Love is Roundabout’s first musical. Chinonyerem Odimba’s play revolves around the lives of siblings Orion and Aurora in their small London flat, and has been described as “an explosion of form-busting storytelling, an ode to Black music, and those real stories we rarely hear”. A vital piece on family and culture, this production is a reminder of what it means to love whilst Black. Commissioned in the year after George Floyd’s death and a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Black Love could not have arrived at the UK City of Culture Festival a better time.

Faith by The Royal Shakespeare Company: September 2021

Written by Chris O’Connell and Chinonyerem Odimba, the company describes Faith as “a 24-hour invitation to find out about what keeps each of us going, and how people of faith and of no faith mark the chapters in their lives”. Erica Whyman is leading the project, and says that “humans find all sorts of faith in adversity, and we want to celebrate what it is that gets us through tough times and what it is that allows us to recover with joy and with hope for the future of our city”. After the challenges faced during the national COVID-19 lockdowns, Coventry takes the time to share work that reflects the present whilst also shedding light on what’s to come. A relevant piece on recovering from the pandemic and celebrating our strength, Faith will invite audiences into sacred spaces to learn about the rituals that make up different faiths. 

The Walk by Good Chance Theatre & Handspring Puppet Company: June 2021

This collaborative play features a puppet named Little Amal, a young refugee who embarks on an epic voyage that takes her from Syria and across Europe. After Priti Patel’s recent announcement that she plans to upheave the UK’s asylum system, and ignore Britain’s international duties under the Refugee Convention, The Walk has real political and social relevance. The show is set to provide a powerful insight into seeking asylum through a young girl’s journey to find her mother and start a new life.

The Allesley Silas by Heart Theatre: 

28 July – 1 August 2021

As one of Coventry’s most cherished writers, audiences should be itching with anticipation for this brand new musical theatre adaptation of George Eliot’s Silas Marner or The Weaver of Raveloe. Taking the chance to pay tribute to Eliot’s work and honour Coventry’s history and culture, the company is made up of both professional and local amateur performers, who will perform, quite aptly, at St John’s Church of England Academy School. The production team are passionate about sharing a story that explores the power of religion and coming together as a community: The Allesley Silas follows a religious man who retreats from his church when he is unjustly accused of theft, but his life turns around when a young girl named Eppie appears at his home. 

Coventry is certainly the place to be over the coming year, with its stellar line-up of upcoming performances and its celebration of culture. The manager of the Coventry City of Culture Trust reinforces the importance of Coventry’s celebrations: “Our programme will celebrate the diversity of our city. Coventry’s City of Culture year will bring surprise, spectacle and wonder, and will create memorable moments that could only happen here.”

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Words by Danielle Saunders

This article was published as part of The Indiependent‘s May 2021 magazine edition.

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