Civic Spaces in a Ghost Town: Anchoring identity change in the 2021 City of Culture

Emily Hopkins

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


As Coventry becomes UK City of Culture 2021, the local anchor is repeatedly playing a crucial role in facilitating community involvement with urban cultural policy: providing small-scale spaces for discussion, debate and the design of a yearlong programme of arts-focused events.
The DCMS City of Culture competition encourages ‘ordinary’ cities (Robinson, 2002) to adopt ‘creative city’ strategizing (Florida, 2000), bidding for a chance at the title - and the consequent economic donation - by exhibiting local culture on a national stage. Allowing ordinary cities to foster a renewed sense of place (Massey, 1991), this could increase sociocultural engagements to address current urban identity anxieties and territorial stigmatisation (Butler et al, 2018). Coventry wants a long-lasting cultural legacy to rejuvenate its civic identity, local economy and tourist numbers.
However, this placemaking strategy garners criticism regarding its neoliberal co-option of creative processes (Peck, 2005; Mould, 2015). It draws further questions regarding the increased governance of cultural spaces and practices, often celebrated for their organic nature and intrinsic relation to local people and place. While authorities focus on future legacies, local anchors can attend to the present.
This paper evaluates how cultural governance in Coventry is transforming. Formerly a chippy, the Shopfront Theatre is now a community-focused arts venue within a receding retail precinct. This example offers insight on the importance of local anchors as valued sites of critical community engagement, and how the presence of top-down cultural management could alter these sites and their empowerment of local voices in an overlooked ‘Ghost Town’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 30 Aug 2019
EventRoyal Geographical Society-IBG Annual International Conference -
Duration: 28 Aug 201930 Aug 2019


ConferenceRoyal Geographical Society-IBG Annual International Conference

Cite this