Coventry Creates

Since May 2020, BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire (CWR) have scheduled a new weekly show, led by our very own Creative Lives Producer Rachel New; Coventry Creates. Each week Rachel New shines a light on Coventry’s everyday creativity - featuring local practitioners, makers, amateur artists and grassroots creative groups. The show provides opportunities for local people to share their work and gain access to new audiences. Listeners can Upload their work to and get their work featured on the show.

Radio Club at BBC Contains Strong Language Festival

Back in June, 36 (primary) year 5 children from three Birmingham schools took part in a poetry workshop on held by Coventry's Poet Laureate Emilie Lauren Jones, The children read and explored poems with themes on growth, and then worked in groups and individually to write their own poems about growth, with another theme worked in. Their poems covered topics including friendship, the environment, Covid-19 and racism.

The pupils performed their poems at a live event on Sunday 11 September as part of the Contains Strong Language Festival, inside PoliNations' Wondersphere.

Best moments from Coventry 2021 UK City of Culture

Discover Rachel's highlights from the events that have been happening in Coventry in the last year as the City of Culture. in her radio piece. The Sound of Cov project engaged eight local community radio stations into programming inspiring shows. 

Listen now via BBC Sounds!

Creativity and Wellbeing Week

Picture of a women standing in front of a white table with art supplies.

As part of this year's festival (16 - 22 May 2022) delivered by London Arts and Health in partnership with the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance, Rachel New chatted with Lindsay Jane Hunter - a wonderful creative spirit - who shared a bit about her artistic practice and some creative journaling tips to help boost wellbeing. Listen to their conversation below.

Some of our favourite quotes from Lindsay are:

What I'm interested in is the scope of creativity to prevent us to get to that point [where we feel overwhelmed] or to help us be more resilient in the face of difficulty, overwhelm, day to day stresses and strains in our mental health. 

One of the things I'm particularly interested in is creative journaling and the way that we can use creative expression in short verse without any sense of end product. 

[If you're struggling with the blank-page syndrome and don't know how to get started] 

Don't be afraid to just make pages less blank - get some watercolour or some colouring pencils and just splash some stuff across pages and that itself can be a very wellbeing activity.

You can find more about Lindsay's work on her website

Dealing with dementia through arts & creativity

In April, Rachel went on to interview Jenny Davis, from Arts Uplift CIC is a not for profit Community Interest Company, and writer Rob Gee who went into care homes to teach staff how to run creative writing sessions with those living with dementia. Arts Uplift specialises in arts and health and heritage and works with a wide range of the community from children and young people to older people from across Worcestershire, Coventry and Warwickshire.

Listen now!

Speaking about the benefits of getting creative to memory, wellbeing and mental health, Jenny said: 

It's a really good way to keep connected to other people and it really stimulates the brain. The arts can bring back memories that are lost. It's just really, really fantastic!

Talking about the creative writing sessions delivered to the care home staff, Rob highlighted that "it's much more about the process than it is about the outcome. It's about allowing people to write and explore themselves through writing. The need for us to do that doesn't lessen when we have dementia." 

Ebony Ademola at Making Places event

The Making of Coventry

Rachel New created a collage of audio recordings from the workshops and events ran as part of The Making of Coventry project

Listen to the audio piece via BBC Sounds.

Taking about the waist beads making workshop, led by Ebony Ademola, one participant said:

I've learnt quite a lot today and I think the workshop's been fantastic to support body confidence and get women to love themselves.

EGO Performance Company

Ahead of the Pirates of the Canal Basin performance for Coventry City of Culture, Rachel New chatted with a few of the cast and Georgina Egan, Co-Artistic Director of the EGO Performance Company.

Georgina shared a bit about the EGO Creates ensemble formed of creative adults with learning disabilities who contributed to the design and production of the props and set of the pirates' performance. The show was the result of a fruitful collaboration between the ensemble members and a crew of professional artists. 

Talking about how getting involved in this creative endeavour, one member of the EGO Creates Ensemble whose stage name (for the pirates show) was Crazy McHammer, said:

It makes me feel free.


Window Wanderland

From 20 February to 19 March 2021, streets across Coventry and Warwickshire lit up their front windows and gardens and became beautiful walking trails. Thanks to support from The National Lottery Community Fund, we worked with amazing people across the city who were determined to get their local communities involved.

At the beginning of March 2022, Rachel New had a chat with women from Create to Motivate taking part in a window design making workshop as part of Window Wanderland. Listen to the full conversation below.

Learn more about the project via Coventry City of Culture's website.

Arty Folks logo

Back in February, Rachel New had a chat with Lorella Medici who runs Arty Folks a Coventry-based organisation that engages the local communities of Coventry and Warwickshire in creative activities to tackle mental health issues and boost wellbeing. In this audio piece for BBC CWR, you'll also hear from Angela, one of the participants, about the benefits of getting creative to her life. Listen below.

Try It!

The Try It! programme from UK City of Culture encourages Coventry residents to have a go at a range of new, and often quirky, health-giving creative activities. The project aims to enhance the lives of community members and leave a lasting legacy of creative activities in Coventry. 

Listen to one of Rachel's shows about the Try It! programme open to everyone in Coventry who would like to have fun and connect with others while taking part in creative activities.

Collage of pictures from crafts workshop as part of the Try It! programme in Coventry

One of the workshops on offer is Art and Stitch with MICHALA GYETVAI who encourages participants to explore different ways of being creative, through looking at art history, painting and textiles. The emphasis is on developing individual ideas through the freedom of playing with materials. Rachel went to one of the workshops and met Michala and some of the participants. Take a listen!

Contains Strong Language 

BBC Contains Strong Language

Photo source: BBC Arts website

Mollie Davidson is also working in Coventry in partnership with the City of Culture 2021 to support the BBC spoken word festival, Contains Strong Language to foster community engagement, alongside Writings West Midlands. Creative Lives (formerly Voluntary Arts) has worked in partnership with the festival since 2017 when CSL featured as part of the City of Culture in Hull. 

The annual poetry and spoken word festival BBC Contains Strong Language came to Coventry this year with over fifty Covid compliant and in-person poetry events taking over the city between Thursday 23 and Sunday 26 September 2021 for all the family to enjoy. 

We're extremely excited that our #CreativeLivesOnAir colleagues have contributed to the production of:
Live showcase of poems written and performed by young Coventry Poets. Poet John Bernard has been working with schools across Coventry to produce poetry for BBC Local Radio.
An outdoors writing and walking workshop led by poets poet David Morley, and Charlotte Ridpath from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust's Sherbourne Valley Project.
A discussion with poets Roy McFarlane, Siana Bangura and young Coventry writers exploring Aldridge's impact on the city. Chaired by Chrissie Okorie, We Are Maokwo.

Photos by Cody Maycock for Creative Lives

Now in its fifth year, BBC Contains Strong Language launched in 2017 where it ran successfully in Hull for three years and travelled to Cumbria in 2020. The festival’s slot in Coventry represents a fantastic opportunity for the region to celebrate contemporary poetry at a plethora of live and in-person events, after two summer seasons of cancelled or stripped back festivals elsewhere. BBC Contains Strong Language 2021 is a partnership between the BBC, Coventry City of Culture Trust, Writing West Midlands and Nine Arches Press, and is supported by Arts Council England, the British Council, Creative Lives and Jerwood Arts. 

The programming this year draws on aspects that have come through from Coventry's City of Culture key themes - such as green cities and international connections - while also being informed and inspired by the city's fascinating history, culture and environment.

This is a festival which reflects Coventry by its involvement with talented and exciting voices in poetry from the city and region and by its creation of many interesting commissions which extend to poets being involved with schools and community groups in order to make poetry happen in all manner of interesting and unusual spaces.

Poets are also running workshops and creating brand new work to highlight the multiplicity of stories that Coventry holds. The festival brings all these stories together - whether about historic lives or hidden rivers - and out onto the streets, stages and pages for all the family to enjoy. 

Sixteen local poets hailing from Coventry and the Midlands are included in the programme and event locations vary from London Road Cemetery to Charterhouse Park, from FarGo and The Belgrade Theatre to the Coventry Caribbean Centre.

Learn more via Coventry 2021 City of Culture’s website or via social media: Twitter @bbccslfest | Instagram @bbccslfest | #ContainsStrongLanguage