23rd Jun, 2021

BBC special on Coventry Cathedral construction provides in-depth insight and rarely seen footage

A SPECIAL film about the construction of Coventry Cathedral will be shown tonight by the BBC.

The programme is the broadcaster’s contribution to the UK City of Culture year and features Pauline Black, lead singer of the iconic Coventry band the Selecter, as the narrator.

The Friends of Coventry Cathedral assisted the making of this film by facilitating access to previously unpublished archive film footage of building works in progress taken by the late Coventry architect Barnard Reyner.

The silent 16mm film on loan from his family has been digitised by the Friends. The BBC hopes to complete his film with an added soundtrack and to show it to members of the Friends at the 2022 Diamond Jubilee of the Consecration of the Cathedral.

The BBC production is edited by Todd Macdonald and directed by John Wyver.

In November 1940, German bombers destroyed much of the city centre of Coventry and reduced the city’s medieval cathedral to rubble.

Just 22 years later, in May 1962, a new cathedral designed by Basil Spence was consecrated on the site.

Built in a bold modern style, incorporating the ruins of the old cathedral and adorned with a wealth of modern artworks, Coventry Cathedral is recognised today as one of Britain ‘s greatest post-war buildings.

Using a wealth of rarely seen archive film, together with voices from yesterday and today, the film tells the story of the new cathedral and of the times in which it was created.

The documentary was informed by research for Ghost Town: Civic Television and the Haunting of Coventry, a project led by Prof Helen Wheatley of the University of Warwick, who has acted as a consultant on the new documentary.

He said it was a great privilege to work with producer-director John Wyver on Coventry Cathedral: Building for a New Britain.

“This collaboration grew out of our project Ghost Town: Civic Television and the Haunting of Coventry which sees us working with media archivists to bring programmes made in and about Coventry back to the city.”

“The footage, which had been sitting in an attic until a family member who attended one of our events in December 2018 brought it to our attention, has been used to wonderful effect in John Wyver’s film to bring the story of the Cathedral’s building to life.

“It has been a real pleasure to be part of this process and to see how new programming can be constructed from archival sources; John has been patient and generous in sharing his process with us. I can’t wait for the people of the city to see the finished result.”

It will be screened at 9pm on BBC Four tonight (Wednesday) and again at 2.15am and 11pm tomorrow (Thursday).

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