I visited Manchester recently to see the mighty Status Quo at the Apollo. As ever, they were magnificent and showed a clean pair of heels to bands half their age and pedigree. But what impressed me even more was the city itself. It had a life and a vibrancy which really struck me. It was both original whilst being familiar. It was British whilst being international. It wasn’t ashamed of its past nor of its present. In fact it was just like the Quo. Not ashamed of its past but looking to the future. A higher compliment I cannot pay!
What evidence do I have to make these claims then? Do I still have my tourist hat on or am I wearing my rose tinted beer goggles?
The first thing to say was how impressed I was with its transport infrastructure. I haven’t seen that many buses since being in London. And they were complimented by trams going to places people want to go. One quick look around and you can see this is made for Manchester and no one else. And that’s the first obvious difference between Coventry and Manchester. We need a transport system with Coventry the centre of its attention, not the West Midlands or Birmingham.
Secondly, the city was full of old fashioned pubs, eateries and buildings yet if you wanted a Weatherspoons or a Premier Inn your luck was easily in. On top of this, they have their various quarters such as the Chinese, Gay and cultural areas. These aren’t just side streets tucked away but well known, well visited and greatly appreciated and loved parts of the city. Coventry has an unfair disadvantage when comparing itself with the likes of Manchester and I don’t seek to do that. Manchester is a regional capital. Coventry is not. We are working towards a cultural area in Far Gosford Street which with hard work and some luck can work. The innovators at the heart of this work are to be congratulated. The rest may come. We will have to see!
The other thing which I really noticed and I have seen this elsewhere across the country. Statues! The best and most iconic cities have statues of their most esteemed sons and daughters. Soldiers, artists, politicians or sports men and women litter plinths across the country and none more so than in Manchester. In Coventry, I believe in the past we have had a distaste for such things which to me is a great pity.
Yes, we have Lady Godiva and latterly Sir Frank Whittle. Yet, where are our great industrialists or benefactors? What of our history? Did you know the War of the Roses began in Coventry? Coventry was also the capital of England for a period of years can you believe? Where are out statues which mark these historic and momentous events? I know people will say we have signified these events with plaques or the information is buried away in some dusty historical tome. Yes it’s true; there is a real tapestry of exquisite design and importance in St. Mary’s Guild Hall which with a trained eye can explain itself. What of the person who made it? What of our great ribbon traders, car makers or watch making entrepreneurs?
People like looking at people. It gives a sense of awe and wonderment to think about their lives by looking deep into their soul through their eyes. Think about how you feel when you eyes gaze upon a statue of a long gone but famous Roman Emperor? You imagine how he lived, what he felt, how his subjects felt. You think what a tyrant he was or the great battles he fought or temples erected in his name. All to his glory of course. It’s awe inspiring. These sorts of monuments mark a city out without doubt. It gives a place real character.
I doubt this idea will ever happen in Coventry though. Why? Since the war, in the main the city has been run in part to try to get away from a past which had just been devastated both physically and mentally. We have spent 70 years reinventing ourselves. Yet to know the future, you must know your past. It is part of you. Part of a city and it cannot be erased no matter how much you want to. We should celebrate and remember the good and the bad. In Coventry we have had great people from all sorts of backgrounds with all shades of political opinion and we should celebrate that not deny it.
With that last point in mind, I leave you with an idea. After the war, the Cathedral was rebuilt giving a symbol of hope and giving Coventry the title of the City of Peace and Reconciliation. Who opened the new cathedral? Queen Elizabeth II. What greater monument to our past and to our future than a statue marking that historic moment. It would make Coventry proud. Every great city in our country celebrates our country.
That would define the Status Quo in Coventry perfectly!