While Coventry gears up to be City of Culture in 2021, we, the Friends of the War Memorial Park are planning a year-long celebration of our own.
We’d like to involve as many people as possible in celebrating this birthday, with a year-long programme of events, starting in summer 2021.
As a group of individuals with a strong intent to maintain and develop the War Memorial Park for a wide variety of users the Friends of The War Memorial Park can’t let the Park’s hundredth birthday slip by without acknowledgement or celebration.
So in April 2019 we set up a Centenary Group to coordinate and schedule a programme of events, each to be organised and promoted either by the Friends or by other organisations and individuals. The Group comprises seven members headed by the Friends Vice-Chair Trevor Cornfoot plus Tim Fox, the Park Manager.
The Centenary Group has focussed on identifying possible events and activities that could form part of a programme in the year of the Park’s Centenary starting 9 July 2021.
To ensure that our intent is understood by the City Council and that we coordinate with their intentions for the Park in 2021 we met with Andrew Walster (Director of Streetscene and Regulatory Services) and Jon Hogan (Events Manager) and staff from the City of Culture Trust on 17 October; and to ensure we are well-understood by the City of Culture team we have met twice with Amanda Roberts.
The Group ‘went public’ to seek interest over the period December to March, using a variety of outlets from Christmas cards attached to sponsored benches, the Earlsdon Echo, posters in and around the Park, local radio, Coventry Telegraph and Observer, and tailored e-mailshots to identified Park user groups. We added an additional website page dedicated to the Centenary and its programme of events on the Friends’ website. Of course, the awful coronavirus crisis has blunted these efforts: we will resume publicity and seek involvement of community and user groups when the conditions allow, hopefully later in the summer.
Despite the problems we have made progress with three Friends projects
- a ‘social history park bench project’ to celebrate and record the lives of people for whom there are commemorative benches. A meeting and discussions have been held with friends and relatives of 14 people honoured by benches as to how we might tell their ‘stories’ via recordings and text
- a ‘sensory garden’, a bid for which was made in December, and funding of £6,000 granted in February. This pocket park is to be created adjacent to the Aviary. We have been advised on this project by the Coventry Resource Centre for the Blind and will seek their further involvement together with the Samaritans as the garden is designed and created later this year
- a draft funding bid for a ‘Century of Hundreds Community Challenge’ to be run throughout the Centenary year. This is now held pending the resumption of normal charitable funding activities post the coronavirus lockdown.
In early May the Group presented a proposition for a Centenary Launch event to those we met last October from the City Council and the City of Culture Trust, to seek support and advice as to possible funding. This idea for a significant event, larger than the Friends ourselves could manage, could take place over the Centenary weekend of 9/10/11 July 2021.
Looking to the future, post-lockdown, we will continue, with increased vigour, to solicit ideas from Park users as to events and activities that they wish to pursue. We will follow these and encourage them where appropriate. Together all activities are being coordinated into a draft diary of events for a centenary ‘year’ likely to run from Easter 2021 to summer 2022.
The current lockdown has demonstrated the value of public parks for people’s emotional and physical well-being. In Coventry the War Memorial Park has been a crucial green lung for the city throughout the coronavirus pandemic. So it is fitting that we can look forward to celebrating the history and the value of this much-loved amenity.
Individuals, groups of friends, sports clubs, community groups and voluntary and charitable organisations who wish to get involved in the Centenary year, and wish to use the year for their own Park events, celebrations or commemorations should contact the Friends of The War Memorial Park:
- Email the Centenary Celebrations team at email@example.com
- Drop your suggestions and contact details into our new (green) Friends post-box in the Visitor Centre in the park
- Follow our progress on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/friendsofthewarmemorialparkcoventry/
Chair, Centenary Group