David Burbidge CBE, DL chairman of Coventry City of Culture Trust
David Burbidge CBE, chairman of Coventry City of Culture Trust, tells BQ why the city deserves to be crowned UK City of Culture 2021 and explains how a successful bid could benefit businesses across Warwickshire and the West Midlands...
The whole of the country has had its eyes on Hull since the turn of the year and, following two extended visits to Hull, I have been hugely impressed by what they have made of being UK City of Culture so far.
It has attracted several hundred thousand of visitors in five months - their recent Spencer Tunick exhibition alone attracted 10,500 people – while the Radio One Big Weekend put them on the national stage right across last weekend.
By every measure, they are making a major success of holding the title and it has really whetted our appetite for being UK City of Culture in 2021 – of course, we have to win first!
We have submitted our initial bid – alongside ten others – and we are hopeful that we will make the initial shortlist, which is due to be announced in late June. So, as you can imagine, this is a very exciting time.
Every city will believe their own bid is compelling and stands out from the crowd and we have many, many reasons for believing that the time is right for Coventry to be UK City of Culture.
We have a wonderful story to tell and, by our own admission, Coventry hasn’t been the best at shouting about itself over the years and this could be our opportunity to change that.
We have been absolutely thrilled by the support we have had from the business community – not only in Coventry but in Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands too.
Companies can see the huge social, cultural and economic benefits that landing the title would have for the region and they are getting on board in a very big way.
We understood from day one that a successful bid for City of Culture and then the delivery of it could not be funded through the public purse alone. We set about bringing businesses on board at the initial stage to ensure we could fulfil our plans.
More than 80 businesses have shown their support – most through our 2021 Club, which was an opportunity for companies of all sizes and sectors to show their backing for the bid.
Coventry City Council, The University of Warwick, and Coventry University are Principal Partners of the bid and are providing significant support. The Ricoh Arena is Bid Sponsor while Jaguar Land Rover, Adient, Friargate, Coventry Building Society, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Airport, PET-Xi, SCC, Pertemps, CEF (City Electrical Factors) and Listers are all Bid Development Sponsors.
It’s an incredible show of both moral and financial support and we are very grateful to those have backed us in this way.
As I eluded to previously, they can see the bigger picture and understand that there would be substantial economic benefits for Coventry and the wider region – some estimate it will be in the region of £1bn.
The positive knock-on effects are many. We predict, for starters, that Coventry would need at least 250 more hotel beds in the city to cope with demand, based on what has already happened in Hull and Derry/Londonderry. Our bid is strengthened by the fact that 40 million people live within two hours of Coventry.
It should lead to a boom in creative, artistic and digital industries too. Coventry has some fantastic examples of companies within these sectors but is still under-represented in these areas.
City of Culture would not only showcase what Coventry already has in terms of arts and culture, it would help the city to grow in those fields too and would make it an even more attractive place for business to invest.
Companies want to locate in places where they can attract the best staff, who will consider what’s on offer to them outside work, and being UK City of Culture would undoubtedly be a big pull to those outside Coventry but will also help to keep the best existing talent in the city.
Of course, winning UK City of Culture is not just about the economic benefits it would bring as we are very much focused on some of the social issues there in Coventry and where City of Culture could help to turn those around. We know, for example, that more than 40 per cent of children in certain wards in the city are living in relative poverty.
So it’s absolutely clear that there is a lot riding on this and we couldn’t have come this far without the tremendous support we’ve had from the region and, if we are successful, it would be a wonderful boost for the Midlands.