GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE Reimagining Coventry

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Jane Hytch on the imagination that brings together innovators in the arts, engineering, design and education and its impact on the city of Coventry

Imagineer is a live events production company that was set up back in 2007. Based in Coventry, we specialise in theatre and outdoor performance, education programmes, special commissions and touring. At the heart of our work is an exploration of the relationship between creative thinkers and innovators from the arts sector and creative engineers, architects, educationalists, special effects artists and designers.

This year, we organised the fourth annual Festival of Imagineers. This extraordinary week-long event is a celebration of arts, ingenuity and design in the beating heart of Coventry and this year’s festival happened at a particularly wonderful time for the city. The short-listing of Coventry as the 2021 City of Culture has brought national and international focus on the cultural capital and output from the region, and we were delighted to highlight this through the festival.

The city of Coventry is an inspiring place to work; a hive of creativity and originality. Through the festival, we link art, design and engineering and act as a catalyst for new creative work at the intersection of art and engineering. We work with creative thinkers and innovators locally, nationally and internationally to create this unique festival of outdoor and site-specific performance and interactive experiences. The aim of the festival is to develop a new relationship with audiences offering people access to hidden spaces, engaging the public as creative collaborators, influencing the development of performances and productions at R&D and concept development stage, making the stage and finally as audiences and critics, as projects are realised.

Year on year, we have seen the festival grow and develop and we have significant plans for the coming years. We are developing a national and international event for 2021, should Coventry become UK City of Culture; an event at the intersection of art and engineering, including a series of national and international commissions.

This year’s Festival of Imagineers was the best yet. We had public performances by artists including Balbir Singh Dance Company, Pif Paf and a co-production of The Winter’s Tale between Imagineer Productions and Teatr Biuro Podrozy. Plus, Helen Marriage from Artichoke delivered a talk in Coventry Cathedral about the company’s extraordinary work, work which has inspired millions of people over the past decade. Throughout the week Cardboardia (an international community of artists, performers, event managers and experts from Russia, USA, UK and the Netherlands) led a making laboratory with local communities. This culminated in walkabout performances for the festival finale combining beautiful and quirky cardboard structures and props, performance, participation, dance and Tyran of Cardboardia’s newly developed giant Alchemical Music Box. On Tuesday 26 September a conference was held for educationalists and industrialists called Inspiring Change. This is the rst regional conference to explore the impact of models on working within education which incorporates arts practice into the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths.

The Festival of Imagineers is transforming the cultural landscape of Coventry, and we are very excited to see how this evolves over the next four years and beyond.

About Imagineer Productions

The team which came together to form Imagineer has a wealth of creative arts experience and a strong track record of working together to deliver high quality performances and events. Collectively we have been responsible for many of the major cultural interventions in Coventry over the past three decades including the revival of the Coventry Mystery Plays (2000, 2003 & 2006), founding Coventry Arts Alive, a major festival of new work and outdoor art, National tour of Roald Dahl’s The Twits, the revival of the Coventry Carnival and created MAD UK, a sculptural costume design competition.

One of our most high-pro le commissions was Godiva Awakes – a major project for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad funded by Arts Council England. A beautiful ten-metre-high Lady Godiva, awoke in Coventry and travelled to London to play a part in the London 2012 Celebrations in Victoria Park. This spectacular performance was developed over three years where Godiva, powered by 50 cyclists, joined 2000 dancers, actors, aerialists, musicians, pyrotechnicians and carnivalists travelled in a processional performance with young performers at its heart. This was a moving piece of public art the like of which has never been seen, running on cycle power/sustainable energy.

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