Caption: The Burges in Coventry city centre

A cultural consortium in Coventry has secured nearly £100,000 of funding to bring the River Sherbourne to life and revitalise the area through artistic activities to support the legacy of UK City of Culture.

Building on the successful regeneration of The Burges and Hales Street by Historic Coventry Trust, Coventry University is leading a new Coventry River Cultural Consortium to create a three-year cultural programme.

Funding from Historic England announced today sees Coventry as one of over 60 High Street Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZ) which will receive substantial grants to create and deliver community-led cultural activities to support regeneration of their high streets over the next three years.

This is part of a four-year-long High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Cultural Programme aims to make high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.

This project, which has received funding of up to £97,500, will be an opportunity to inspire and reconnect Coventrians with the hidden river. Activities will include The Show Windows, an annual festival, ‘First Friday’ monthly gatherings and immersive experiences utilising Coventry University’s standalone 5G network – the first of its kind in the UK.

The Coventry River Cultural Consortium, spearheaded by the University’s School of Art and Design, is a collaboration between Historic Coventry Trust, Coventry City Council, Coventry BID, Coventry City of Culture Trust, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Open Theatre, the Coventry Society and Coventry University. Together the Consortium will co-create the programme, activating their extensive networks to build a new community around the river and support the legacy of UK City of Culture.

Building on Coventry’s tenure as UK City of Culture, the consortium will collaborate to embed activity and learning from 2021, retaining knowledge and expertise to encourage and sustain highly engaging and enterprising activity in future years while supporting Coventry’s Cultural Strategy.

Together, the Consortium has set out a series of key long-term objectives they hope to achieve through the programme, helping to establish Palmer Lane as a ‘Green Futures’ hub with a focus on climate education, the environment and revitalising the river.

The project will also set out to increase foot traffic and prosperity for businesses on Hales Street, Palmer Lane and The Burges as well as preparing the area for a period of sustained growth, development and improvement, with the ambition of securing further investment in the area moving forward.

Carol Pyrah, Executive Director of Historic Coventry Trust, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Coventry University and the Coventry River Cultural Consortium partners to bring a three-year programme of cultural activities to Palmer Lane, Hales Street and the Burges. This funding from Historic England builds on their previous support for the restoration. We really want this area to be thriving, exciting and a great place to be.”

Coventry University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Latham CBE said: “This is a really exciting project, not only for our university but for the city as a whole. We take our role in helping Coventry and its surrounding communities to improve and thrive very seriously, and we hope this will be another great example of the amazing things we can achieve when we collaborate with our friends across the city.”

Craig Ashley, Associate Head of School for Enterprise and Innovation at Coventry University, said: “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with a number of influential local organisations to bring the River Sherbourne back to life as a gift to Coventry. The project’s potential is staggering and we can’t wait to see the city’s local communities enjoying this new and exciting space, while also helping to provide what could be a huge boost to the city’s economy.”