Two cities; two cathedrals.
London and St Paul’s; Coventry and St Michael’s.
In both cities the cathedrals were and are strong emblems of unity and identity. London’s current cathedral replaces one lost in the Great Fire of 1666; Coventry’s one lost in November 1940 during the Blitz.
A few weeks ago I attended a special event at St Paul’s. A light show played across the west front of the cathedral; images from the war interspersed with text from a poem written especially for the occasion which was simultaneously broadcast, read by Keith Jarret who wrote it together with people from London.
This weekend I was in Coventry for the sister event. More light, more images of a ruined cathedral, rubble piled high, a different poem projected onto the walls, simultaneously broadcast, read by Jane Commane who wrote it together with people from Coventry.
Until a few years ago. I had never been to Coventry. Now it is a city I look forward to taking people to visit. In 2021 it is to be the City of Culture. Preparations are very much underway.
I defy anyone to stand in the ruins of the old cathedral and not be moved. Watching the light show, listening to the poem, witnessing the rapt attention of the crowd, gearing the pride in their voices for their city, amplified my admiration and affection for Coventry. There is huge civic pride. The people love their city. They have good reason too.
I hope these few photographs will give you a taste of what it was like to be there. I understand there is a video which will be uploaded.
If you have never been to Coventry, never explored, never stood in those ruins, or in the place of light and hope that is the new cathedral, put a visit on your to do list. You won’t regret it.
The cathedral is at the heart of a city that has much to offer the visitor.
It’s a mix of old and new; has the first public funded theatre in the country; a vibrant arts and music scene; literary associations – George Eliot’s Middlemarch is based in Coventry, Philip Larkin was born here, John Hewitt worked here, Angela Brazil lived here, and that’s just for starters; and from the day after the dreadful bombing that destroyed the cathedral it has been a place of hope, of peace and reconciliation not vengeance.
Coventry people aren’t just proud of their city. They are welcoming, friendly, warm.