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Sky Blues City: Imagining a Sustainable Cultural Future for Coventry


26th April, 2017. The Helen Martin Studio, University of Warwick

A one-day event aimed at exploring new collaborative research opportunities arising from the UK City of Culture bid and the Ten Year Cultural Strategy

This is the second event bringing together researchers from Coventry University and the University of Warwick to raise awareness and build partnerships to exploit the collaborative research opportunities stemming from the new Coventry Cultural strategy 2017-2027 and the Coventry City of Culture 2021 bid. These initiatives have been shaped by key inputs from both Universities. The Cultural Strategy has a biennial research refresh and continuous evaluation built in which provides a ten-year impact trail for researchers interested in developing the city’s cultural ambitions.

The collaborative research partnership between the City of Coventry, Coventry University and the University of Warwick, provides a real and exciting opportunity to deepen existing collaborative efforts and to create innovative research partnerships that strengthen cultural and artistic life in the City and enhance our understanding of it. A key objective is to produce high quality research which also directly benefits the city and its residents.

Besides providing a platform to communicate and explore existing research at both institutions, particularly in relation to the role of arts practices in the sustainability of urban life, this event will offer an important opportunity for researchers and artists across a variety of fields and at both institutions to engage with each other and consider potential synergies. Furthermore, participants will be able to contemplate the kind of research opportunities that being a city of culture might afford and how the arts can contribute to the sustainable life of a city. Both the strategy and the bid stress the importance of the social, economic, health and well-being, and educational impacts of the arts and a celebration of the many different cultures in the city.

It is expected that this event will result in the development of an active network of researchers whose discussions will inform and shape the continuous development of Coventry’s cultural objectives. The date of the event (26th April) has been timed to coincide with the submission of the UK City of Culture bid and is intended to capitalise on the momentum that this will generate.


Recognising the importance of this initiative to both institutions, the Vice Chancellors will open the event, setting out their vision for collaborative research related to the arts and cultural life in the City.

Professor Franco Bianchini, who leads the Culture, Place and Policy Institute at the University of Hull, and who is at the hub of Hull’s 2017 stewardship of UK City of Culture is the keynote speaker and will be talking about issues relating to Hull’s experience and the role of cultural planning and policy when it comes to question of cultural strategy for cities.


Themes, goals and big ideas

Key research themes have already been identified for the City of Culture bid and the ten year cultural strategy. These emerged following a series of consultations and will be covered in the agenda and discussions. These broad themes are not exclusive and will be further shaped on the day. The themes are framed to encourage researchers from a wide range of disciplines to work together with local artists and other stakeholders. But at the core of each theme is a question about how and to what extent a focus on arts and culture can impact on broader social objectives and concerns.

  • Using culture and heritage to develop creative industries hubs
  • Arts and culture as a driver of urban renewal and social cohesion
  • Economic growth, development and modelling based on cultural growth and prosperity
  • Everyday cultures and how they are celebrated and valued
  • The role of the arts in health, lifestyle and well-being initiatives
  • Refugee and migration studies; historical, contemporary and cultural
  • Social and architectural heritages and diversity
  • Social value accounting
  • Digital arts and creative futures
  • Urban Science (data science, social media and digital citizenship)

The ten year cultural strategy identifies five goals and seven big ideas:

The broad inquiry themes can be organised within the five goals and seven big ideas that underpin the Cultural Strategy. Copies of the strategy will be available on the day and can be downloaded here.


  • Diversity
  • Economic growth
  • Health and well-being
  • Lifelong learning
  • Partnership approaches to cultural growth

Seven big ideas

  • Coventry the place partnership
  • Creative production hubs
  • Diverse city
  • Getting Coventry moving
  • Seven years younger
  • The city is the festival
  • The nation in Coventry

All of these include new research opportunities that will be explored at the event.


There will be an opportunity to showcase work, probably through posters, at the event.

Target audience

Academic researchers and postgraduate students from the University of Warwick and Coventry University. Target audience is 50 people.

The organisers

University of Warwick Global Research Priorities

Warwick has identified 11 issues of global significance, setting up research networks called Global Research Priorities (GRPs) to support interdisciplinary research contributions in each field. The Connecting Cultures GRP and Sustainable Cities GRPs are collaborating to deliver this event under the guidance of Dr Nicolas Whybrow.

N WhybrowDr Nicolas Whybrow

Nicolas is a thematic lead on social and cultural sustainability in the Sustainable Cities GRP and urban futures in the Connecting Cultures GRP. Nicolas currently holds a 3-year AHRC-funded ‘Sensing the City’ project which will be launched in April and is Head of the School of Theatre and Performance Studies.

J neelandsProfessor Jonothan Neelands

Jonothan is Professor of Creative Education at Warwick Business School. He is the Director of Research on the Executive Bid Committee for Coventry City Culture and was recently Director of Study for the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value which led to the development of the ten year cultural strategy project ( Jonothan is also the thematic lead for Cultural Value in the Connecting Cultures GRP.

Geoff Willcocks

Dr Geoff Willcocks

Geoff is Director of Arts and Culture at Coventry University, He is also the Chair of Coventry's Music Education Hub and the Chair of Music Coventry. Geoff has also advised ACE on the role of Higher Education in UK Culture, is a member of the Advisory Board for Ludicrooms, the CU Social Enterprise Advisory board and is a member of the Executive Committee for Coventry's 2021 City of Culture Bid.

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Meet the Professor of Creative Education, Jonothan Neelands, as he explains why Warwick is involved with projects such as the Cultural Strategy and Coventry City of Culture.

Downloads & Useful Links

Coventry Cultural Strategy 2017-2027

Cultural Strategy Web Site

Coventry City of Culture Web Site

Coventry City of Culture Bid Pages

WBS Create

Warwick Creative Exchange

Sensing the City