International Booker winner to be announced in City of Culture Coventry

International Booker winner to be announced in City of Culture Coventry

The International Booker Prize 2021 winner is to be announced in Coventry, as part of the UK City of Culture celebrations.

The virtual announcement on 2nd June will be streamed from the city, the first time the prize-winner has been announced outside London. The £50,000 prize —  awarded annually for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland — is divided equally between the author and the translator.

Following the announcement, the Coventry Big Booker Read will bring readers together to read the winning book, and also host the shortlisted author event for the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction later in the year.

Commenting on the programme ahead of the launch, Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: "What better place to begin the regeneration of shared stories, after the world has been kept physically apart, than Coventry, that diversely populated home of global understanding."

Author Lee Child, who was born in Coventry, added: "Ultimately, deep down, all fiction is autobiographical — we saw that I think with the (Booker Prize) winner we chose this year, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart which was a wonderful piece of invention, tied in with real authenticity which made it a worthy winner and and deservedly popular book. But it's not just what you've done and where you've been, it's also who you are, where you're from. And in my case, I'm from Coventry, that's where I was born. I didn't live there a very long time but there must have been something in the air because that feeling of skilled work, quiet pride in a job well done stayed with me and I'm eternally grateful for that. So cheers Coventry, have fun."

Named Coventry Moves, the year-long City of Culture festival starts on 15th May. All events are being planned in a flexible and responsive way, to allow them to take place in line with the UK government guidelines pertaining to Covid restrictions. The city will be the third UK City of Culture, after Hull and Londonderry, and has access to a £3m Heritage Lottery Fund grant to fund the programme. 

Literary highlights also include the BBC Arts annual poetry and spoken word festival Contains Strong Language, which will open in September. The event is presented through a partnership between the BBC, Coventry City of Culture Trust, Writing West Midlands, Nine Arches Press and a special collaboration with young voices from Beirut. 

A new stage adaptation based on Christie Watson’s memoir The Language of Kindness (Chatto & Windus) will feature as part of a year-long season at Warwick Arts Centre, opening in May. The performance will entail an ensemble-style piece of dance theatre and real stories in homage to nurses and frontline health workers. Later in the summer, a community visual art project will commence to contribute to "Middlemarch: The Other Side of Silence", an exhibition at the Mead Gallery (7th May – 17th June 2022) inspired by George Eliot's novel and the lives of women living in Coventry today. The project is led by Dawinder Bansal, an artist whose work celebrates the 'hidden' lives and 'unhistoric acts' of communities.

Commenting on city's cultural status, Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry UK City of Culture, said: "Coventry was once the capital of England, and this year we’re the City of Culture. After the year our citizens and communities around the world have had, our people-powered programme is a much-needed celebration and show of hope for the future. Locally driven, socially resonant and globally connected. Tune in, take part, and when you can come and visit."

This year's celebration also includes a week-long programme of music, dance, drama, food, literature, poetry, workshops and storytelling, to mark national Refugee Week. It is being created with Coventry Refugee & Migrant Centre, Counterpoint Arts, the Belgrade Theatre, and over 20 community partners. Can You Hear Me Now? (June 2021) will be a new outdoor production by Stand and Be Counted, the UK’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary, which will launch the show created with people seeking sanctuary in Coventry.

"The Allesley Silas" (July 2021), a new -site specific outdoor musical theatre show based on George Eliot’s Silas Marner, by from the Heart Theatre, will also feature, adapted by Coventry Playwright Alan Pollock and directed by Nick Walker. It will be created alongside local communities.

The creative team behind Coventry Moves is Justine Themen, director; Ruby Pugh, designer;  Mydd Pharo, visual dramaturg;  Jenni Jackson, movement director; Benjamin Burrell, music director;  and Dan Jones, composer (Collective Moment). The team also includes five creative associates — Hannah Beck, Sebbie Mudhai, Marius Mates, Sibongile Mkoba and Hazel Mcintosh. 

Partnering with the City of Culture is Coventry City Council, West Midlands Combined Authority, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Spirit of 2012, Warwickshire County Council, the University of Warwick and Coventry University.