Guest Blog from writer Mark Hancock.
Coventry sits at the heart of the country like a heartbeat, feeding the major arteries of the United Kingdom. But there’s a funny thing about heartbeats, you get so used to them being there that you end up ignoring them and forgetting how vital they are to your whole being. But of course, without it, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you won’t last much longer.
For many of its citizens, Coventry is the heartbeat that keeps us going from minute to minute, marking out the distinct patterns of our lives and refreshing our bloodstream. You can become so used to it though, you might have to keep reminding yourself that it’s there and just how vitally important it is.
On the 15th December, as part of the Talking Birds Cart entourage (on this night, a live band – The Upsiders, HMS Cupcake, offering cakes and hot drinks and filmmaker Rachel Bunce), we set up camp underneath the ring road flyover on Gosford Street to capture the cultural heartbeats of Coventry’s citizens.
One woman I spoke to told me how her family had been in Coventry their whole lives and she name checked at least two of the well known clubs from the late 70s and early 80s. She had moved away from Coventry, spending several years abroad and was now back studying for a PhD. We talked of the draw of Coventry and that desire to be a part of the city and make something good here.
That making something good can suggest to some people that Coventry wants to return to a golden era when everything was fantastic and if only it could be like that again. But the city has changed and evolved beyond all recognition. It’s important, as part of Coventry’s bid to be the UK’s City of Culture in 2021 that people don’t over emphasis this illusion of returning to glory. While nobody wants to forget that Delia Derbyshire was born here and went on to be one of the first women electronic music pioneers, let alone the person who created the original Doctor Who theme, we must look at the present.
I chatted (and we filmed) a young skater, who talked about the skate scene in the city. We both had thoughts on how the architects of the city worked to prevent skaters using the public zones of the inner city (there are also of course, good skate parks in the city) and how they overcame those obstacles. It reminded me that a city isn’t only the sanctioned areas of cultural production, but the unofficial ones as well. People will find their own routes to make a rich and engaging cultural life. If by winning the 2021 bid, there’s an opportunity to make that heartbeat loud enough to be noticed by the whole country, then they’ll have done a favour to everyone who makes up the life force of the city.