Coventry University’s Director of Arts and Culture and leading member of the city’s bid for City of Culture 2021, Dr Geoff Willcocks, has joined the board of the trust behind ambitious plans to revitalise Coventry’s heritage. Responsible for the development of the University’s cultural assets and partnerships with external cultural organisations, Geoff’s role is pivotal to the development of the city’s cultural scene integrating the University’s resources, education and students with the creative community.
Dr Willcocks said: ‘The city’s heritage buildings and landscapes offer fantastic potential for the development of our cultural offer in the build up to 2021. The trust is looking to boost the visitor economy through restoring Coventry’s historic buildings but at the heart of it all is the need for these places to be used in a way that engages the community and visitors to the city. The character of the old buildings and landscapes, especially at Charterhouse, offer so much potential for performance and other creative uses that will bring people into the city centre, from Coventry and much further afield. Heritage in Coventry has been an overlooked asset for far too long – few cities, if any, can compete with our breadth of history from medieval times through to the post-war reconstruction and this makes Coventry unique. By joining the Trust’s Board, I intend to make sure that we make the best use of these opportunities and bring in the city’s arts organisations to bring these exceptions places back to life. The University is based in the heart of the medieval city with almost all of our heritage on its doorstep. There is a lot to be gained from improving the city’s visitor and student experience but also the University has a lot to offer as a key partner to the trust in developing facilities for the community.’
Cllr Linda Bigham, Cabinet member for Community Development said, “Geoff is a great addition to the Historic Coventry Board he will provide valuable input. We are lucky to have such and rich and diverse history and heritage in this city and we want to make sure that it is celebrated and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.”
Ian Harrabin, Chairman, said “Geoff is a great addition to the Board and brings a wealth of experience and contacts that will help us develop our exciting plans for the reuse of the city’s heritage. The incredible success of the University in recent years has meant that they have a huge effect on the local economy and in particular the growth in visitors to the city. It is very important that we work together to ensure that we improve the city’s visitor offer to make sure that we get maximum benefit for local jobs and the community. The University also have a wealth of talent from expert staff through to eager student volunteers and established links with the city’s wider creative community. Geoff will help us to work in a joined up way that is essential if we are to win City of Culture.’
Historic Coventry Trust are working in partnership with Coventry City Council on proposals for a number of heritage buildings in the city, the largest project being the creation of a 70 acre Heritage Park centred on the c14th Charterhouse and Paxton’s Arboretum Cemetery in London Road. The community park features the naturalisation of the River Sherbourne to create Coventry’s ‘beach’ – locally dubbed the Godiva Riviera. The plan includes a 2 mile loop walk and cycle path along riverside parkland and through woodland, creating a green alter ego to the city’s ring road. The first phases of the project at the Charterhouse and Cemetery have received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and designs are currently being worked up. The Trust’s plans will be available to view by the public over the weekend of 10th & 11th September at Charterhouse as part of the Heritage Open’s Days event.
For more information visit www.charterhousepriory.org.uk
Dr Geoff Wilcocks, is Director of Arts and Culture at Coventry University, where he was also formerly the Head of Department for Performing Arts. He is also the Chair of Coventry’s Music Education Hub and the Chair of Music Coventry. Geoff has also advised ACE on the role of Higher Education in UK Culture, is a member of the Advisory Board for Ludicrooms, the CU Social Enterprise Advisory board and is a member of the Executive Committee for Coventry’s 2021 City of Culture Bid.