A Cov Kid's Memories - What Coventry Means To Me by Dan Taylor
Updated: Jul 19
They say home is where the heart is and my heart has always been in Coventry. Coventry is where I was born and where I grew up during the 90s and early 2000s. I have always been passionate about and proud of my humble Midland City. The City means so much to me and 2021 is such an exciting time for it. Like anywhere, Coventry has its challenging sides and growing up I experienced the City's tribulations, its limitations and at times its struggle to keep pace. However, it was still a City that offered so much. Coventry is a place that has so many positive and inspiring messages that emanate from its story, its buildings, its sons and daughters, its music and the industries it was built on. It has a defiant and determined working class spirit that has never shone away from innovating and moving with the times. Coventry's character and messaging influenced me enormously growing up and as a result the City played a large part in shaping me, my choice of career and hobbies, how I view the world and what drives me today. I feel the City had a positive effect on me and this reflective piece seeks to explore where my passion for Coventry comes from by describing my feelings as a young Cov Kid growing up in this City of elephants, courageous women, the gambol, sky blue, spires, ska and the batch!
Some of my earliest memories are of my Grandparents taking my Brother and me on days out into town. As a young, impressionable Cov Kid I remember really noticing how the City and its buildings looked as I quickly became familiar with Coventry's modernist spirit. I can remember vividly how I felt when exploring the Cathedral for the first time. I remember visiting the Herbert and Transport Museums, going swimming at Fairfax Street baths, shopping with my Mum in the Precinct, and going to the pantomime at the Belgrade Theatre. The iconic ring road was striking when standing underneath it and when travelling high up on it I loved gazing out of my parents' car window across the City's skyline of spires and tower blocks, getting a unique view of the whole City. As a kid the City felt imposing, but in a comfortable and sincere way and its buildings felt bold and purposeful, with an honest quality to them. The story of Coventry's post-war rebuild is dynamic and profound and one that includes stunning public art everywhere. This total modernist character gives Coventry a distinct and coherent appearance. It was all-encompassing, forward thinking and being so planned out and consciously considered it felt very relevant and it grabbed my attention as a young Cov Kid. As a consequence I think I interacted with the City in a more inquisitive way. Parts of the City's rebuild may have worked better than other parts, but its sincere aim was to do better than what had gone before and this modernist spirit would be a spirit I would come to admire.
The historic heart of Coventry left an equally strong impression on me as a kid. I was in awe every time I walked through the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. It is an emotive and wonderful experience. They are a memorial to the past and walking between them and the New Cathedral is an experience I am still humbled by today. As a Cov Kid I grew up with the Cathedral's inspiring message of friendship, forgiveness and reconciliation. The link and symbolism between the old and the new Cathedral is special and uplifting and it captivated me as it depicts mankind at its worst, but able to be forgiven, mirroring the life of Christ. The Cathedral is also filled with amazing 20th Century art works and is truly a "casket of jewels". The Cathedral is the ultimate symbol of the City and of its story, of its spirit and identity, of it reaching out to the world and of its resilience and reinvention. It is so important to Coventry and to so many Coventrians. It is amazing and unique and this Cov Kid could not get enough of it.
Coventry's mediaeval and modernist appearance fascinated and inspired me as a kid and I believe it played a part in my choice of career working in the built environment. The War is a big part of Coventry's history, and from learning about it at school, listening to my Grandparents' stories and seeing its impact on the City every time I walked around it, while also understand the link to Coventry's working class roots, allowed me to appreciate Coventry as a place, what it had to offer and its strong, resolute and distinct character. Coventry had confidence in itself after the war and it is finding that again now.
What was also exciting for a young Cov Kid growing up was knowing people that worked in the City's Jaguar, Massey Ferguson, London Taxis and Peugeot car factories, and visiting those factories and their sports and social clubs. These large, commanding places of industry that powered the City and which sat cheek by jowl with ordinary houses and my secondary school were an impressive sight. The factories seemed to stretch for miles and seeing thousands of workers arriving and leaving every day and the lorries carrying the new cars out of the factories made me feel as though all of us Cov Kids were part of something significant. This was Coventry’s contribution to the world. I saw the City at work and it was something that stuck with me growing up.
Running my first Cov Fun Run, and doing well in it, is an experience that has also stuck with me. I loved racing alongside hundreds of other runners, being cheered on by the crowds, running through the subways into town and under makeshift showers people had erected in the streets and sprinting down the avenue of trees in the War Memorial Park to the finish. These were my streets I was pounding, and have continued to pound ever since, with the experience leading to me going on to represent the City in races around the country.
Coventry's great outside spaces gave me a love for the outdoors. Our street is where my Brother and I would always be out playing with friends; but Coventry’s parks and scenic countryside is where I played sport, went walking and cycling with family, went camping and where our Mum and Dad took us sledging in the winter.
I will never forget my first experience of an atmospheric floodlit football match at Highfield Road, the smell of the bikes at a Brandon speedway meeting, players slamming against the side of the rink at a Skydome ice hockey game and the hard hitting tackles at a rugby match at Coundon Road. It was great growing up with so much sport in the City and being able to go and see it live and to cheer my City’s teams on as loud as I could.
I have seen some amazing live bands at the Colly and the Godiva Festival as well as at the City's smaller venues, which includes great nights watching my Brother's band. I love my music and growing up in a City where a new genre of music was born, pioneered by truly progressive and diverse bands, singing about real issues in a difficult period in time, was not only cool, but inspirational. Coventry has a sound, one it should be truly proud of, and recognising songs like Ghost Town and A Message to You Rudy before having consciously sat down to listen to them is a skill only a Cov Kid can have.
Coventry is wonderfully diverse, people have always moved here from around the world, and as a Cov Kid I grew up experiencing different traditions and cultures at school and around the City. I learnt about the importance and strength of Coventry's international ties, pioneered through the Cathedral and the cities around the world it is twinned with. All of which reinforced my interest in people, in different ways of life and in the wider world.
My schools were ordinary comprehensives, not always with the best of reputations or facilities, but they gave me the skills and opportunities that helped me get to where I wanted to be. They reflected the City in many ways, especially as Cov Kids from all across the City went to them and I experienced and engaged with different attitudes and views to my own. Away from the classroom I always enjoyed competing throughout the year for my secondary school in 'Cov Schools' sports competitions. They were just about us Cov Kids, battling to be 'Cov Champ' come the end of the season. They were big occasions for young Cov Kids, especially when the competition from the other secondary schools came to you, their buses rolling into your school and you were competing on home turf.
As a Cov Kid I grew up learning about the City's long and influential history, how it has constantly fought to reinvent itself and thrived doing so and about the many things it has pioneered, invented and given to the world. Coventry's history is something to be proud of, as is seeing the massive potential for its future. The potential for it once again to be Britain's Motor City, leading a green automotive revolution with the help of its oldest and greatest firms and its two immensely successful, innovative and pioneering universities.
There are many inventors, engineers, poets, politicians, artists, composers, musicians and other dedicated and hard working people that can all call Coventry home and are worthy of the legacy of the City's most treasured icon - Lady Godiva. Celebrated and revered by all Cov Kids, Lady Godiva is the spirit of Coventry. Her name and image adorns so many aspects of Coventry life with shops, businesses, festivals and sports clubs named after her. As a Cov Kid I grew up learning about a strong female icon who stood up to more powerful men and fought for the people and for social justice no matter what the personal sacrifice. Her statue occupies the most prominent location in the City and it is significant and amazing that as a woman she has been, for centuries, the City's most respected figure. It is something the City does without realising and something it should be proud of.
I started writing this reflective piece to try and understand my strong passion for Coventry and I think what stems from the influences above is that to me every side of Coventry and every interaction I have had within it, good or not so good, has given me something meaningful and has mostly been a source of motivation and comfort. All of us Cov Kids have grown up with the City's culture and messaging and been influenced by it on some level. We have all experienced first hand the struggles our hard working class City has gone through, however I think it is because of this that Coventry has always felt true to itself, as true as Coventry Blue, in terms of how it sees and defines itself; its sense of place; the industries it has built itself on; its reinventions; and its culture. It is this that I think makes it so endearing. As Cov Kids we may moan about the place from time to time, but the majority of us are proud of our home town and fiercely defensive and protective of it. I feel the influences have given me a broad and open minded view of the world. Wherever I go I carry the grit and determination of Coventry around with me along with its principled, positive, and inspirational messaging. Coventry has a great story to tell and a great future ahead of it. 2021 sees a new phoenix rising, new opportunities within the City being created and a new sense of optimism in the air. It’s all a proud Cov Kid wants to see and I hope this will help the next generation to be even more inspired and proud and make more people want to send themselves to Coventry.
It's the City where my amazing family and friends live and where I first experienced the world. It's the City that means a lot to me and it's the City that helped raise me, helped contribute to the values I hold and helped shape the life I have now.
This is Coventry! And it's ours! And this is Coventry's time!