Published 13 February 2023
The potential impact it could have on the city and sector filled us with so much promise of what was to come. It was one of the things that carried us through the pandemic when we were financially and emotionally at breaking point. Bleak conversations around the potential closure of Vortex gradually eased into brighter joyful discussions about the reopening of the city. When the City of Culture team announced that the 2021 programme would take the shape of being a movement as opposed to moments, we felt like we could have single handedly moved the city ourselves. It could not have come at a better time - a movement across Coventry to support and heal as we emerged from a global crisis.
Expectations for 2021 were high and we weren’t disappointed. Vortex’s City of Culture journey began with Coventry Moves - a city-wide event celebrating Coventry and its future - and continued to hit highs including curating Daniel Lismore’s critically acclaimed Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.
Although it had multiple challenges and missed opportunities, we feel City of Culture 2021 had many successes for Vortex, for our creative counterparts in the region and for the city and its residents. So many brilliant things were achieved and it was an enriching experience to be part of, but not always an easy one.
However the movement of City of Culture wasn’t just about an amazing year of showcasing cultural events but the promise of continuation and legacy. The project didn’t end when 2021’s programme concluded, in many ways the work was just about to begin. City of Culture’s pledge after a year of delivering events was to continue to support the creation of ambitious, engaging, interactive and playful arts programmes, co-created by cultural, educational and community organisations across the city. The recent news regarding the City of Culture Trust being in a ‘difficult financial position’ places a huge amount of doubt into that pledge. How is something that was supposed to last until 2025 already facing such public scrutiny regarding its financial position? Questions need to be asked, people need to be held to account.
Our burning questions are obvious - what does this actually mean for the legacy and cultural economy of the city, and how can we make sure this doesn’t darken all that was brilliant in 2021? Whilst many of the lead figures involved in City of Culture have got their flowers and moved on, longstanding Coventry organisations and people remain who have the will and want to deliver the promise of what this legacy project deserves. It’s time for conversations to stop happening behind closed doors. It’s time to realise we can share our knowledge and resources to ensure the sustainability and success of Coventry’s cultural sector. It’s time to remember that moment back at the start of 2021 when City of Culture began and invest in what brings Coventry joy and lifts our hearts in times of trouble.
Or call us on 0757 506 8754