Local artists receive grants for City of Culture 2021 projects

Coventry University and the University of Warwick have selected 18 local artists to receive a grant that will allow them to continue their work during the COVID-19 pandemic through collaboration with researchers from the social sciences, arts, science and medicine from across both the city’s universities.

Local artists receive grants for City of Culture 2021 projects

The project, Coventry Creates, provides up to £2,000 funding to the chosen projects so that they can keep producing artwork for the digital exhibition, in the run up to UK City of Culture 2021.

The selected works will be showcased later this summer in a special digital exhibition, and will then kept in the Coventry City of Culture Digital Archive.

The collaboration between Warwick and Coventry follows a new Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities that provides them with new opportunities to work together to the benefit of arts and culture throughout the region.

The Memorandum of Understanding enables the University of Warwick and Coventry University to work together, seizing the opportunity of City of Culture to benefit our region. This is a fantastic opportunity to cement the relationship between the two universities and align our efforts to conduct research that benefits local communities – through 2021 and beyond. We are thrilled to have launched Coventry Creates as an innovative programme of work that, through the local creative sector, will bring research to fresh audiences in new and interesting ways.

Professor Jackie Hodgson, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) , University of Warwick

The response from the arts sector was extraordinary, we are delighted as a joint board to award the commissions to a range of highly talented artists. We have looked at different art forms from music, literature, theatre, and contemporary dance. Artists had really thought about how they would work with a researcher and interpret the research outcomes into works of art.

Peta Murphy, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Coventry University

The Coventry Creates funding is a great example of a new phase for both universities in Coventry working closely together to support the region. This new Memorandum of Understanding ensures that we will continue to collaborate together and share our distinct expertise to support the cultural, social, and economic and health and wellbeing targets of Coventry and Warwickshire.

Professor Simon Swain, Vice-President for National and Regional Engagement, University of Warwick

Coventry Creates is just one of the excellent examples of the partnership between Coventry University and the University of Warwick. The amazing projects supported by the scheme showcase our local talents, demonstrate our joint engagement with the community and celebrate the new Memorandum of Understanding that we have been working on with so much passion and motivation. It is excellent to see exciting and concrete outcomes of our collaboration.

Dr. Miriam De Rosa, Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University

During lockdown we have seen artists all over the nation creating new online events, engaging the nation through their computers, tablets and smartphones. As we build towards City of Culture it is great to see our two world beating universities supporting opportunities for creative collaboration between academics and artists, investing in new artistic commissions for digital distribution, that will explore a wide range of themes so important to our communities. I look forward to seeing the results of these partnerships and the understanding and action they inspire.

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director, Coventry City of Culture Trust

The full list of artists and projects who have been awarded the grant, along with details of their work, are:

  • Mary Courtney – Identity of creative individuals living in Coventry.
  • Gemma Foy – Twinning, the importance of internationalisation and peace and reconciliation
  • Emily Warner and Lucy Hutchinson – Research into ‘Care Companion’ – a resource for carers from WMS that supports family carers through digital access to info.
  • Frances Yeung – ‘Homeless Monopoly’ boardgame which is used as a tool for exploring issues around homelessness
  • Verity Pabla – Mapping women’s suffrage in Coventry
  • Paul O’Donnell – Building capacity of refugees through drama and language workshops – especially in the Covid-19 context
  • Stamp Theatre – Research around psychosis and mental health – portrayed through a drama production
  • Kieran Lucas – Working with ‘found sounds’ in Coventry Cathedral archive and interdisciplinary researchers in Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning to produce performance soundscapes
  • Lucie Felix – Exploring reading, books and the experience of using books
  • Highly Sprung – Making short films at home
  • China Plate Theatre – Audio recording exploring emotional impact on healthcare professionals during pandemic contrasted with the hero narrative
  • Theatre Absolute – Using projection of arts as a form of performance during lockdown
  • Marius Mates – Podcast on dance and architecture in Coventry
  • Laura Nyahuye-Maokwo – The artist and the professor, the mother and the wife: reflections on migration, resilience and hope in times of crisis.
  • Eddie Jo Murray – VR film to explore people’s emotions in public spaces and where crowds form.

Below is a detailed look at some of the projects which will benefit from the funding.
China Plate Theatre
Independent theatre China Plate are going to be launching an arts-based research workshop, which will provide a space for a representative group of healthcare workers to reflect on and explore their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic via creative methods, including creative writing.

The aim is to produce an audio recording exploring emotional impact on healthcare professionals during the pandemic, contrasted with the hero narrative.

Edmund Collier, Artistic Director at the company, said: “China Plate are extremely excited to be involved in this new commission exploring how the arts can help NHS staff in terms of the longer term picture in relation to Covid-19.

“Our aim is to create a piece of audio work from the perspective of NHS workers that can be used as a jumping off point for supporting their wellbeing, specifically around the moral injury that they may be encountering in the decisions they have to make.”

Kerry Wykes, Assistant Professor in Emergency Care at Coventry University said: “We aim to create an audio recording that gives a truthful account of the narrative of healthcare workers during this crisis, whilst also being a point of stimuli for discussion and debrief after the pandemic for healthcare workers, informing the development of additional resources to help healthcare workers reflect and recover.”

Highly Sprung
One of the country’s top physical theatre groups in the country will be moving their annual Physical Fellowship programme online as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with support of Coventry University academics and funding through Coventry Creates.

Physical Fellowship provides 400 young people every year with an opportunity to develop skills and understanding in physical theatre, dance and the craft of performance making.
Highly Sprung will have a group of young people producing films inspired by Jon Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, a dystopian novel exploring prejudice against difference in small communities.

Mark Worth, artistic director of Highly Sprung said: “We want to use this opportunity to make connections during this time of global crisis. We hope by encouraging young people to get involved and do the project together we will position young people to better support each other and ensure that teenagers are still heard and seen to be creative during this time.

“We think people should be listening to what young people have to say, so our message to all young people is to get involved and be heard.”

Coventry University’s research team will provide top tips for different aspects of production, taking into consideration the limitations imposed by current social distancing guidelines.

Sanna Wicks, Assistant Professor in Film Production at Coventry University said: “We are very excited to have been teamed up with Highly Sprung for the Coventry Creates initiative. We can’t wait to see the results of how Highly Sprung will respond to our research into remote narrative film making.

“This is a new area of research for us, prompted by the current situation and something we are responding to in our own practice and teaching as well.”

Care Companion
Designed to help and support carers, the research behind and the aim of Care Companion will form the inspiration of a new work by the artists Emily Warner and Lucy Hutchinson.

Developed by Professor Jeremy Dale of Warwick Medical School, Care Companion is an online tool providing a unique, personalised experience for carers seeking help, advice and support – or just looking for ideas to take time out – that is freely available to people in Coventry and Warwickshire, with funding and support from the NHS and local government.

“Millions of people in the UK care unpaid for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend. Caring takes place behind closed doors, but without adequate support carers can feel very isolated and overwhelmed, especially in the current COVID pandemic” says Professor Jeremy Dale of Warwick Medical School.

“We are excited to be working with artists who are bringing a creative perspective that we hope will resonate with the public in a way that captures interest in caring and engagement with Care Companion, and to highlight a sense of realness to the daily challenges people with caring responsibilities face within our community through a digital piece of art work”.

Commenting on their involvement with Coventry Creates, artists Emily Warner and Lucy Hutchinson said: “We applied to the Coventry Creates opportunity with quite a broad remit, as artists working with visual-art, performance, writing and sound. Within both of our practices, we are interested in ideas around resilience, care, storytelling and collaboration. As a result, we are very excited to have been paired with Jeremy Dale and Nicky Thomas from the Unit of Academic Primary Care at Warwick Medical School, and Gillian Grason Smith from the Carers’ User Panel.”

On the challenges faced by carers, and the need for a tailored support, Professor Dale explains that “Carers have a broad range of requirements for information and guidance that can be easily accessed and personalised to the needs of them and the person they care for. Care Companion has been developed to help them meet these needs to support their mental, physical health and wellbeing.”

Discussing how the challenges facing carers identified by Professor Dale and his colleagues and how they will seek to communicate their work through artistic interpretation, Emily and Lucy said that they will “create a digital artwork that will explore how we can understand the role of care and support in society. The work will be informed by workshops and experimentation with sound and video with the final outcome exhibited online. Through art-making, we hope to disseminate research in alternative ways by reconfiguring language and imagery to create new metaphors and stories, questioning the ways in which care work is perceived.”

Mapping Women’s Suffrage
A collaboration between the historian Professor Sarah Richardson, of Warwick’s Department of History, and the songwriter and founder of I’m Not A Machine Music Verity Pabla with musical trio the Pips exploring Coventry’s suffrage history through music.

“Music played a fundamental part in the campaigns for women to obtain the right to the parliamentary vote in the early twentieth century”, says Professor Sarah Richardson. “Not just a backdrop or an accompaniment to women’s activism, songs acted as a call to arms and an expression of visionary new citizenship.”

Professor Richardson, whose research into the fascinating stories of Coventry women’s suffrage campaigners will help inspire new music led by Verity Pabla, said: “I am very inspired to be participating in the Mapping Women’s Suffrage research project through Coventry Creates and am more than pleased to be involving a fantastic trio named The Pips through my music company ‘I’m Not A Machine’. We’re setting out to write, record and deliver a new piece of music that will emerge from stories derived from Sarah and Tara Morton’s research.

“With three powerful female singer songwriters in the form of Cat Mctigue, Shanade Morrow, and Rio Hellyer, I couldn’t think of artists that would be more suited to connecting the past with the present and exploring topics that are as important today as they were in 1911.”

Hearing that the Mapping Women’s Suffrage project had been paired with musicians Prof Richardson commented that she was “excited about the potential that music and song would add resonance not just to the fascinating stories of Coventry women’s suffrage campaigners as related on the map, but to our understanding of citizenship in the city today. I wait with keen anticipation to see and hear the passion of Coventry suffrage activists re-interpreted in song for new audiences today.”

Coventry Made Me
Coventry Made Me is a project led by Dr Vishalakshi Roy of the University of Warwick’s Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies which investigates how the city of Coventry and its various places have influenced the identity of creative individuals of the city.

Commenting on the project Dr Roy said “There is something special about Coventry, a city which has since medieval times been associated with skill, talent and innovation. This study explores how Coventry has influenced the identity and creative work of creative and cultural workers associated with the city. In the lead up to the City of Culture 2021, we hope to bring together creatives individuals to celebrate the impact of the city on their identity and practice.

“We are very excited to be working with Coventry born award winning artist Mary Courtney on this project to showcase the creative identity and associations of the city’s creatives.”

Speaking on her involvement with the Coventry Creates project Mary Courtney said: “We will shine a light on artists in Coventry and the places in the city that have fed their creativity. I’m delighted to be working with Vishalakshi Roy and Victoria Barker to bring this vision to life”.

The artist and the professor
This project brings together Laura Nyahuye (Maokwo Arts) and Heaven Crawley (Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations) who are, respectively, an artist and a professor based in Coventry. Whilst these two women appear to have little in common, they have come together in an artistic dialogue to reflect on issues of migration, resilience and hope in times of crisis.

Individually and through conversation with one another they are drawing on their shared experiences as women, wives, (grand)mothers and survivors of hardship and domestic violence to produce a series of creative outputs (prose, drawings, body adornment, photography, video) which explore the ways in which their own and societal expectations of gendered and racialized roles and responsibilities have shape their lived experiences.

Commenting on her role in the project, Laura Nyahuye said: “Women’s issues and migration are subjects that l am very passionate about. My work challenges perceptions and provokes human beings’ habitual thoughts patterns, concerning fellow humans. My processes are very organic and responsive to circumstance and environment. My techniques are mainly influenced by my African heritage. l hand weave, construct, construe, found objects, fabrics, wires, plastics. I take pride in hand making my pieces from start to finish; weaving, hand felting and hand dyeing are some of my favourite techniques. My adornments are known for their tactileness, an element that many audiences and workshop participants have found therapeutic and thought provoking. I am looking forward to exploring how to bring these elements to life for a digital/remote audience. Being a woman, migrant and artist of colour from a minoritised group has widened my creative lenses”

Professor Heaven Crawley, Director of MIDEQ, the world’s largest migration project based at Coventry University added: “I’m delighted to have an opportunity to work with Laura and Maokwo Arts. So much of my own research has explored how categories are used by politicians, policy makers and the media to limit and contain the possibilities of migrants living in a range of different contexts but these are also processes that are at work in our own lives and which connect us with other human beings – and particularly other women – in ways that might be unexpected. The funding secured through Coventry Creates provides Laura and I with an opportunity to explore how academic researchers and artists can work together to communicate complex ideas about gender and its relationships with migration, identity and belonging to a wider range of audiences than might read an academic paper or visit an exhibition. It’s a challenging and exciting process for both of us!”