Where Light Falls: Coventry

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.

Where Light Falls

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.

Where Light Falls

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.

Where Light Falls
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Day Trip from London

I bow to no one in my belief that London is one of the greatest cities in the world. I never intended to stay here. I came meaning to leave after four years. That was long ago. How do you leave a city that is endlessly fascinating, that is the definition of multicultural, where there is so much to do, to see?
This weekend we have been enjoying Lumière London organised by the amazing Artichoke, it gets people onto the streets in the coldest part of the year to enjoy wondrous illuminations. It’s free, so a great leveller. Old and young, monied and hard up can all enjoy the fun.

With events like these I fall in love with London all over again. Not that it stops me visiting ng other parts of the UK. Belfast is a favourite destination, and I am lucky that as my mother came from Co Derry I have family and friends in Northern Ireland it is a second home.

However, I wouldn’t do a day trip to Belfast from London. I’ll leave that fro the business travellers. But there are many other wonderful places you can visit from London. This year i have enjoyed two day trips. The first was to Leigh-on-Sea on the Essex coast. I have been there before and really enjoyed it. This visit confirmed my impressions.

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C is for Christmas and Coventry!!

I have been away and it was while I was away that the news came through that Coventry has been awarded City of Culture 2021, weyhey!! And yes I did do a jig round the room.

2017 is when I fell in love with Coventry. In 2016 I read The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss which immediately became my book of the year. In the novel one of the protagonists, Adam, is researching the history of the cathedral. Like most people I know that Coventry cathedral was bombed in the blitz, that the new cathedral was designed by Basil Spence, and was controversial.

It was that novel that sent me to Coventry. Twice. I loved it. Coventry is a wonderful city. It is vibrant, friendly, make that very friendly, diverse, the new cathedral is astounding – reading The Tidal Zone is a great way to prepare for the building – there are depictions of elephants all over the shop, every corner you turn reveals something of interest and wonder.

George Eliot moved to Coventry and her novel Middlemarch – a must read in any language – is set in a fictional town based on Coventry.

Then there’s Lady Godiva, endless people connected with the industrial revolution, Angela Brazil, John Hewitt and Philip Larkin, but if you are still unconvinced, watch Nativity directed by the very wonderful Debbie Isitt

Let me know if you want a tour.

Well done Coventry, you deserve it.

Coventry Cathedral

Although I am a London Blue Badge Guide, I do get to leave the capital and even guide in other cities and towns.

I should love to add Coventry to that list. Everyone knows how Coventry was devastated in the Second World War, how the day after the bombing that destroyed the cathedral the decision was taken to rebuild.
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