26th Sep, 2021

Coventry taps into literary heritage with new £97k 'One Million Reads' project for UK City of Culture

COVENTRY’S year as UK City of Culture is building on the region’s literary heritage from Shakespeare, Eliot and Larkin to Lee Childs and Caz Frear with a new £97,000 project encouraging residents to read one million books by May 2022.

After announcing the International Booker prize winner will take place in Coventry in 2021 as part of its UK city of culture events, One Million Reads Coventry (OMRC) is the latest ambitious multi-faceted programme to receive Arts Council funding.

One million reads in a year – is the target for city book fans after Coventry Libraries and Information Service won the award.

An artist will be commissioned to create a One Million Reads Coventry interactive digital read-o-meter installation counting the number of reads completed during 2021/22 building up to a One Million Reads total by May 2022.

It will count all formats of reading and materials loaned, plus those read in all OMRC projects.

A floating library, reading rooms, a photographer in residence and an interactive ‘book bench’ are just a few of the other literary projects being lined up this year by the Library Service.

Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry City of Culture Trust said: “I am delighted that Coventry City of Culture Trust is working so closely with Coventry Libraries and Information Service.

“This new funding from Arts Council England will see our libraries ensure that so many people in the city, young and older, can enjoy reading, the power of storytelling and the beauty and importance of words.

“This builds on our announcement at the start of March when we announced a new partnership for the city with the International Booker Prize this summer.

“Coventry is a city with a rich and proud literary history from George Elliot and Philip Larkin to Caz Frear and Lee Childs. The One Million Reads Coventry project, and the other incredible events in the Library Service programme, will make sure that this legacy is reflected and celebrated across 2021 and into 2022.”

Placing reading and libraries at the heart of Coventry UK City of Culture, One Million Reads Coventry (OMRC) aims to connect local residents with the joy and pleasure of reading, using literature to spark the imagination, offering opportunities to share stories of the city, lives, and experiences.

The full programme, in partnership with Coventry City of Culture Trust, includes:

  • Small Bells Ring – a floating library canal boat artwork created by Studio Morison delivers a literary programme of short stories read, performed, and discussed on the boat, in libraries and canal side spaces in the most deprived and multicultural parts of the City.
  • Reading Rooms – offering children in care weekly facilitated, inclusive sessions reading novels, poetry, and short stories aloud with a trained practitioners to help improve resilience and wellbeing.
  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – is bringing the stories of Shakespeare’s plays and childhood life to early years children. Learning experts and drama educators will deliver story sessions and themed resource packs to libraries.
  • Photographer in Residence – a local photographer will be commissioned to work collaboratively with individuals and community groups to co-produce a series of portraits revealing: their responses to literature, their stories about what and why they are reading, the impact reading has on them.
  • A new interactive storytelling ‘Book Bench’ – will be commissioned. Wild In Art’s book benches are designed and decorated with inspiration from literature. The bench will be interactive with an audio function, stimulating different senses and offering a range of uses for audiences across OMRC.
  • Digital – connections to new reading experiences via QR codes placed across the city promoting OMRC and offering tasters /extracts from stories with links to more reading opportunities

Coun Kevin Maton, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “After such a difficult year, I’m so pleased to see such an exciting programme of events on the horizon and I know Coventry is equal to the challenge of reaching one-million reads.

“This programme promises to bring the joy of reading and people’s own experiences to all and will be an integral part of the year of the City of Culture 2021 with a legacy beyond.”

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