Centenary newsletter No. 3

2021 isn’t just City of Culture year:
It’s the Memorial Park’s 100th birthday!

While Coventry gears up to be City of Culture in 2021, we, the Friends of the War Memorial Park, are planning a celebration of our Park.

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 want to ensure that the Park’s one hundredth birthday will be celebrated appropriately with a variety of projects that can involve individuals, communities and organisations in using and recognising the value of the Park.

This year’s lockdowns have demonstrated the value of public parks for people’s emotional and physical well-being.  Coventry’s use of public parks went up by 123% during the spring lockdown and 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 city amenity.

The Friends’ Centenary Group was set up 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 eight members plus Tim Fox, the Park Manager.

We have focussed on identifying possible events and activities that could form part of a programme in the year of the Park’s Centenary, on 9 July 2021.

Despite the problems caused by the awful coronavirus crisis, preparations for the Park’s Centenary are gathering speed.  Four projects are worth comment:

Firstly – we have a Centenary celebration!  The City Council is organising a Centenary weekend event on the 9/10/11 July 2021.  This will be a commemoration of the Park and a celebration of its value to Coventry over 100 years.  We commend the City Council for their interest in the Centenary weekend; they are now organising this weekend with great vigour and commitment.  The Friends’ role is as an advisor, participant and encourager of others.  Plans are being developed for a real community event involving musicians, schoolchildren, fairgrounds and displays.  We have proposed that the weekend be themed with successive days representing the Park past, present and future.  We have had encouraging support from a number of citywide organisations regarding their participation.  In the New Year we will be putting out a call to organisations using the Park to get involved.

Plaques, plinths and trees.  In addition to the large War Memorial at the north end of the Park small individual memorials and associated trees have been planted to commemorate the lives of Coventrians who have died in armed conflicts.  There are now 678 individual memorials.  Over time trees have died and plaques and the plinths they are on have fallen into disrepair or been lost.  A group of Friends have surveyed and recorded these losses and have urged the Council to replace them.  Happily this is now being done.  The Park’s maintenance team are installing 21 plinths and plaques that have been held in their stores.  63 new plinths & plaques will soon be ordered on receipt of funds to replace the missing ones.  Replacement trees will follow in the Spring. (See the longer article elsewhere on this website).

Friends’ Treasurer Gill Mills is currently working on collecting background stories about the people commemorated on the plaques, from relatives that she has contacted.  These will be on display in the Chamber of Silence on 9-11 July, and we are thinking of attaching each story to the relevant tree.

A ‘Social history park bench project’ to celebrate and record the lives of people for whom there are commemorative benches.  Meetings and discussions have been held with friends and relatives of twenty people honoured by benches, as to how we might tell their ‘stories’ via recordings and text.  We are trying to track down other families to be involved.  If you are one, or know one, please contact us via the links below.  Ultimately we hope to make these stories available to the public during the Centenary year via social media/ Friends website.

The ‘Sensory Garden’ is moving ahead too.   It will be created in the Aviary area and will compliment the new Japanese Garden currently being constructed.  Funding for the Sensory Garden was obtained earlier this year from the Government’s Pocket Park funding and we are collaborating on this project with the Coventry Resource Centre for the Blind, the Samaritans and Grapevine.  

Our grateful thanks must go to the organisers of the Japanese Garden (now well under construction) who have made a very kind offer to fund an archway entrance into our Sensory Garden together with some paving and shrubs.  Thanks also go to Bablake Old Boy and the City Freeman, Howard Collerson, who has drawn up a wonderful garden design and planting plans, and lastly to the Samaritans who have agreed to donate funding for benches and signage. 

The design of the garden pathways has been agreed with Tim Fox, the Park Manager, and work on the landscaping aspect is planned to start at the end November following completion of the Japanese Garden; we then envisage starting to select and commence planting early in the new year.   

We are quite excited as we feel the new areas within the Aviary will give the people of Coventry somewhere that is safe, attractive and a comfortable place for people to meet, to talk, to learn and to enjoy.  The sensory garden aspect will offer different things to different people.  For some it will be a restful sanctuary where people can recharge their batteries and practice mindfulness, for others it will be a place for sensory exploration and stimulation.  We are also keen to ensure our planting will encourage wildlife and enhance the natural environment.

Looking to the New Year, and a post-lockdown future, we will continue with increased vigour to solicit ideas and seek the involvement of community and Park-user groups as to events and activities that they wish to pursue.  We will support 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.

We’d like to involve as many people as possible in celebrating this birthday.

Individuals, groups of friends, sports clubs, community groups and voluntary and charitable organisations who wish to get involved in the Centenary Weekend, or 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: 100years@fwmpcoventry.org.uk
  • Drop your suggestions and contact details into our (green) Friends post-box in the Visitor Centre in the Park when it re-opens

Follow our progress on:

Trevor Cornfoot

Chair, Centenary Group