I’m an adopted son of Coventry, I moved here when I was a teenager and found a city of open arms rich and diverse in culture and teeming with creativity. The city’s bars and small venues nurtured my creative aspirations and allowed it to grow and develop into a prosperous career in the music industry. The things I’ve achieved personally would not have been possible without the support and enthusiasm of the people of Coventry. It’s the people who make the place, they are the culture, and with or without an official title Coventry will always be a city bursting at the seams with culture.
There’s a street in the centre of Coventry that’s always been close to my heart, Far Gosford Street. At the top of the road is the flat above the betting shop which inspired “We’ll Live & Die In These Towns” and at the bottom is the music venue/nightclub The Empire which we’ve been building since 2015 and which rather poignantly represents the cultural diversity of this amazing city hosting everything from African fashion shows last month to a sold out Libertines pre-arena show last week. A stroll between these two places on a sunny day recently perfectly illustrated the thriving cultural diversity of a city rich in talent and enthusiasm for creativity.
At the foot of Far Gosford Street you find yourself staring at a huge development. Building is what Coventry does, it’s what it’s always done since being cut down in its mid-world war manufacturing prime. In this case it’s homes for new students, the young minds of the city, the people who will shape youth culture here over the next three or four years. The concrete foundations being layed at the bottom of the road are the metaphorical foundations that will provide the next generation with the environment they need to inspire, create and change the City, they’re what keeps Coventry young and invigorated, they’re the evolutionary future of the place.
A glance to the right reveals The Empire a building steeped in cultural history. The first Cinema to be owned and operated by Oscar Deutsch. Here the midland born businessman cut his teeth and honed the skills he required to later found the “Odeon” chain, shaping popular cinema culture forever.
A few doors along is Scholars. Scholars is an institution in Coventry. It’s not just any old night spot, it’s one that knows itself. It is self assured in its manifesto and unwavering in the segment of music and culture it represents. Strongholds like this are important in cities, they represent pride and accommodate pockets of culture that would otherwise be lost. They are preservation and cultural conservation.
A walk further up the street reveals more investment. Shopfronts being taken back to their timber frames unearthing the medieval history of Coventry’s roots. On this particular afternoon a local musician playing to a crowd of kids, parents and music lovers in a marquee in the churchyard.
The plethora of supermarkets specialising in diverse imported goods for a whole host of communities from outside the U.K who made Coventry their home demonstrates true multiculturalism at its very best. Carribean restaurants, West African bars, Polish and Halal supermarkets, an old English pub, not segregated in their own areas, but proudly integrated neighbours on the same street. This is a model which many areas in the country could learn a vast amount from. The result is a tantalising mix of cuisine and a varied and interesting community, the very blueprint for the further evolution of Great Britain.
Then we arrive at Fargo Creative Village, the result of a recent massive investment Fargo is an “eclectic community of makers, doers and creative folk”. It’s home to carpenters, independent garment vendors, vintage tea rooms, bespoke jewellers and many more independent creative industries including a small up-cycled coffee shop and eatery, formerly the legendary Backbeat rehearsal studios which evokes personal memories of rehearsing as a young musician and Neville Staples popping his head around the door to offer an appreciative nod.
In the heart of the Fargo Village development is The Box. A brand new purpose build performance space for music and the arts. The scale of the investment on this one street is evidence of the enthusiasm within the city to enhance our cultural contribution and to secure a legacy of providing an environment where multicultural creativity can thrive. There’s a wealth of other examples outside of Far Gosford Street, Coventry hosts the largest free music festival in the country featuring a wide array of acts, there’s a thriving theatrical community, there’s the entire regeneration of the city centre itself, but you’ll hear plenty about all of that as the build up to the official bid for City Of Culture gets underway. I just wanted to share with you my love for a city that embraced me and encouraged my creativity and that continues to embrace others, because for me it’s not only a matter of investment and legacy, it’s a matter of belonging and immense personal pride.