• Paul O'Donnell

'The Little Guys' - Coventry City of Culture 2021

On the 7th December 2017 Coventry received the extraordinary news that it would be UK City of Culture for 2021. I have been backing the bid from the very start, and anyone who is my friend on Facebook, or a follower of mine on Twitter (@podonnell2) will tell you that I have been extremely passionate about it. I'm so excited about what the next four years are going to bring, not just to the artists but to the whole city.

The morning after receiving the news, after the buzz of jumping around with my colleagues in Coventry hearing the news (And having three very embarrassing appearances on national TV) I woke up at 5am and out of excitement couldn't get myself back to sleep.

I decided to write a something about 'the little guys' of Coventry, the independent artists/organisations (including myself), who have over the past two years all inspiringly pulled together to make this magic happen. This was posted on my personal Facebook account. Have a read below...


In case you haven't seen yet, Covs only gone and won the title of UK City of Culture (of course incredible news for us all here).

I wanted to note, here and now, that this movement (and it is a movement) that will radically and positively change this city, happened not (...just) because of folk in swanky business suits in glass buildings, but because of the artists and creatives who call this city home.

It happened because of a load of folk like myself who should have got 'a real job' when they left school, but instead rebelled and took the low paying constantly struggling job because its simply what we dreamed our contribution to the world around us would be. It's the people who have at times felt like giving up because they're trying to make magical spectacular things happen on very little (speaking on behalf of a lot of my colleagues).

Over the next four years you will see Coventry transform. You might assume in 2021 that folk in swanky business suits in their glass buildings made 'all' this magic happen. And although they will have funded much of it, know that it was us little guys, the artists who rehearse in their bedrooms or work painfully hard to find funding for their next project, who brought the ideas, the vision, the creativity, who built this campaign over the past two years and last night made the rest of the world pay attention. It was us, the little people of Cov who showed up to all the meetings, and gave all we could, without pay, simply because we (without intending to sound like an artsy fartsy musical theatre dovey) believed in a shared dream for the city and wanted more than anything to achieve it.

It was the little guys who created the opportunity to radically improve this city, through... of all things... the arts. Who'd have thought?? Wherever you might be, back the arts and artists around you with all your might... you may just find that they have their uses!!

Constantly proud of all the people I work around, and admire all their passion and ideas and commitment. I simply cannot wait to see what we, the little guys, make of this opportunity.

I made a note afterwards. Mother criticised me because it sounded as though I was criticising the 'folk in swanky business suits'. That wasn't my intention, they have been an incredible asset to this bid, have funded much of it and will continue to support the process as we develop I am sure. We can only be grateful for their help and couldnt have achieved what we have without them.

Instead it was intended as a celebration of those 'little guys' who also made a huge impact, but in a very different way, often tirelessly, without any pay. Now hopefully our success will pay for everyone, the folk in swanky business suits as well as the little guys.