Colors: Blue Color

Representatives from Coventry City of Culture Trust, city and national partners and community representatives will announce further programmes, initiatives and moments that will form part of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture, which begins in May this year.

Coventry is a city of welcome, a city of activists and pioneers, a city of peace and reconciliation, a city of innovation and invention, and now a City of Culture. Coventry has always been a symbol of regeneration. Of movement. Of hope. Coventry is the city that rose from the ashes of the Second World War, a city that rallied through music when others were divided. This year, of all years, we will summon that same spirit.

Starting in May 2021 and running for 12 months, the 365-day Coventry 2021 programme will reflect Coventry as a diverse, modern city, demonstrating that culture is a force that changes lives, moving the city and the region forward. It is one of the first major cultural programmes of its scale, breadth and length to commence since the arrival of the pandemic. This will include announcements and updates from:

·       Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director for Coventry UK City of Culture

·       Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive for Coventry UK City of Culture

·       Cory Barrett, Cultural Leader on the Coventry Leadership Programme

·       Cara Pickering, Visual Arts Producer for Coventry UK City of Culture

·       City Hosts: Dennis Brittain, Vijay Lakhanpal, Zowie-Jade, Si Chun Lam

·       Laura McMillan, Director of Audience Strategy for Coventry UK City of Culture

·       Cllr David Welsh and Cllr Jim O’Boyle from Coventry City Council

·       Stuart Thomas, Head of Midlands at BBC

·       Gaby Wood, Literary Director of The Booker Prize Foundation

·       Lee Child, Author, 2020 Booker Prize Judge

·       Tania Mahmoud, Cities Programmes Lead at the British Council

·       Simon Vaughan, Director, Creative Giants

·       Heather Peak Morison and Ivan Morison, Co-Founders, Studio Morison

·       Sue Bent, Chief Executive, Central England Law Centre

·       Clare Wightman, CEO, Grapevine

·       Lorna Couper, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre

·       Susie Murphy, Senior Manager, Positive Youth Foundation

·       Corey Campbell and Balisha Karra, Co-Artistic Directors, Belgrade Theatre

·       Doreen Foster, Director, Warwick Arts Centre

·       Jen Davis, Associate Director, Royal Shakespeare Company

·       Dom Breadmore and Anne Forgan, Creative and Programme Director, Ludic Rooms

·       Mark and Sarah Worth, Company Directors, Highly Sprung

·       Ruark Jon-Stevens, Marketing and Communications Manager, Culture Coventry


Event format - The programme briefing will last for approximately 45 minutes – followed by a media Q&A session.

A media Q&A session will take place from 10.45am approx. and will last for 15 minutes. Journalists will be able to submit their questions via the chat system available during the broadcast (name and outlet will be required).

Interview opportunities - Media interested in one-to-one interview opportunities (via video or email) should get in touch with Four Communications to co-ordinate.

Development work has started on a £30 million package of bus priority measures to improve reliability and journey times on commuter routes covered by some of the region’s busiest bus services between Birmingham, Sandwell and Dudley. The measures will include new bus lanes, priority junctions and bus gates, with brand new state-of-the-art bus stops offering real time information along a cross-city corridor from Druids Heath to Dudley via Birmingham City Centre.

It will allow buses, including the 50, 82 and 87 routes in Birmingham, Sandwell and Dudley – primarily following the A435 and A457 - to cut through traffic congestion and offer passengers more reliable journey times. Improving bus reliability and services will also contribute to the region’s #WM2041 plan to become carbon-neutral over the next 20 years by making public transport an even more attractive option.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is currently working with partner councils to plan the package of bus priority measures. Public consultation on proposals for Birmingham City Centre has launched this week, and further consultation on the wider measures will take place later in the year.

Construction on some early measures will begin this summer and the entire project will be completed during the second half of 2023. That will open opportunities for a new cross-city bus route providing better connections to bus, tram and rail services including the new state of the art Dudley bus and metro interchange, due to be opened in 2023.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “This cross-city bus route will enable buses using the Alcester Road and A457 Dudley Road to beat traffic jams and offer commuters a convenient and reliable alternative to the car. It will also come on stream around the same time as our Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension and our new Dudley Interchange, transforming public transport for people and businesses living in that part of the Black Country.”

Improving the region’s public transport infrastructure better connects people to jobs and leisure opportunities which is seen as crucial for the region’s economic recovery from Covid-19, as well as helping the region in fight against climate change

Measures could include:

·         Improving bus journey times through Cape Hill 

·         Improvements to Burnt Tree junction in Sandwell and Dudley

·         Safety improvements on Waterloo Road

·         Dudley Road improvements alongside works planned by Birmingham City Council

·         Bus improvements  on Alcester Road South through Druids Heath, Highter’s Heath, Billesley and Kings Heath.

·         Brand new shelters with RTI at key locations

The investment is backed by a grant of more than £24m from the Department for Transport, topped up with funding from West Midlands Bus Alliance partners, which includes Birmingham City Council and TfWM.

Councillor Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio lead for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “These bus lanes and junction upgrades will improve services for the many thousands of people who use the number 50, 82 and 87 bus routes every day.

“It is also being developed in parallel with the reopening of the Camp Hill rail line stations to transform public transport and better link the people of Moseley, Kings Heath, Stirchley and Druids Heath to the city centre and wider West Midlands region.”

Cllr Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “We welcome these improvements, which come on board at the same time as the Metro extension and the new bus interchange in Dudley town centre.

“The net impact of all of this is that it will be easier than ever for people to get to Dudley town centre and into our borough.

“The increase in footfall that will bring will be massive for our shops and businesses looking to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a game changer.”

Cllr Jackie Taylor, cabinet member for sustainable transport for Sandwell Council, said: “The introduction of highway improvements along this cross-city bus route will not only benefit bus passengers but also other road users and this investment in Sandwell is most welcome.

“It comes at a time when we already have significant investment in transport projects across Sandwell with the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension on its way and the recent announcement of funding for the improvement of Birchley Island to name but a few.

“This will provide better connectivity between the Black Country and Birmingham, including for the residents of Sandwell.

“This is another great example of how we are working together with partners to provide sustainable transport routes in and around the borough and wider region.”

Consultation over the first phase of bus priority measures in Birmingham city centre has been launched this week. These measures are set to be introduced later this year, benefitting hundreds of thousands of residents and bus users daily.

These include:

·         a bus lane on Bristol Street between Wrentham St and Lee Bank Middleway

·         bus lanes on Summer Hill Road between Newhall Hill and Ladywood Middleway

·         a bus lane on Snow Hill Queensway

·         passenger improvements around Margaret Street; and

·         improvements to the junction of Newhall Street with Great Charles Street Queensway

To commemorate Midlands Air Ambulance Charity’s milestone 30th anniversary in 2021, heritage Midlands jewellers, Deakin & Francis, has exclusively crafted a limited edition of cufflinks, which are now available. 

Just 100 sets of the meticulously crafted cufflinks have been created by the seventh-generation jewellers, which display the charity’s distinctive and popular ‘pulse’ design. In addition, just 100 lapel pins carrying the distinctive pulse have been crafted to complement the cufflinks.

Henry Deakin, managing director of Deakin & Francis, states: “The limited edition pulse collection, made in the Midlands for the Midlands, is a design we are particularly proud of as the sale of every pair of cufflinks or lapel pin will directly help fund lifesaving air ambulance and critical care car missions in our region.”

Fundraising and marketing director for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity,Emma Gray, adds: “While our heritage is two centuries behind that of Deakin & Francis, this is a fitting partnership for two organisations founded in the Midlands. We are extremely grateful to Henry and James Deakin and the whole team for supporting our pre-hospital emergency service by crafting such a beautiful collection to commemorate our 30th anniversary.

Their support and that of our buyers will help fund future vitally important missions in our area as each pair sold will fund one of Midlands Air Ambulance Charity’s critical care car missions.” 

On the reverse, all cufflinks and lapel pins will display their individual number in the limited edition, making them a collectors’ piece from day one.

With raising sufficient money for a deposit often the biggest stumbling block to homeownership, new data analysis from Key shows that older home owners gifted an average of £42,500 to younger relatives to help them get on or move up the property ladder in 2020.

Gifted Almost Two-Thirds of the Average First Time Buyer Deposit: This is almost two-thirds of the average first time buyer deposit (£57,278**) and will have gone even further than before due to the stamp duty holiday announced in July 2020. Older homeowners in London (£102,826), South East (£61,500) and Wales (£44,200) were the most generous while those in the North West (£23,467) and Yorkshire (£25,217) were less so [see table below for full analysis].

That said, more modest house prices in these regions meant that first time buyers still benefitted from 76% of the average deposit needed in Yorkshire (£33,313) and 67% of the average deposit required in the North West (£34,347).

Interestingly in four areas - Wales, the East Midlands, Northern Ireland and the North East - the average gift from property wealth was higher than the average needed by a first-time buyer.  This seems to suggest that in these regions some people who relied on family funding were able to put down a larger deposit, purchased a more expensive property or undertake renovations.

Helping family is a major motivation

Helping younger family members is a major motivation for equity release customers with £755 million of the £3.4 billion in property wealth released last year used for gifting.

The Stamp Duty holiday on all purchases up to £500,000, currently scheduled to end on March 31st, was a major driver with 43% of these gifts used for housing deposits and 26% for an early inheritance – some of which was possibly used for other types of property costs.

Will Hale, CEO at Key, said: “Finding almost £60,000 to use as a deposit for your first home is tough – especially in the current economic environment - and therefore it’s not surprising that many younger people have looked to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.   In 2020, older homeowners released almost £755 million of equity in order to help younger members of their family meet a range of costs including supporting them with an average of £42,500 to use for a house deposit.

“For many people, these gifts will have been the enabler to them buying their first home and is a perfect example of how intergenerational wealth transfer can deliver positive societal benefits.  The stamp duty holiday has certainly been a catalyst for more activity in this area but helping family is always a major motivation for older homeowners exploring their equity release options.

”That said, it is vitally important that homeowners get specialist advice if they do decide to use some of the value tied up in their home to help their families.  Balancing generosity with their own financial security is vital and a good adviser will help them explore all their options.”

The picture across the country

Gifts for house deposits were highest in London at £102,826 and lowest in the North West at £23,467 as the table below shows.  However in Wales the average gift at £44,208 was the biggest in comparison with the average first-time buyer deposit with Northern Ireland at £34,167 the second highest proportionally. Gifts in the North East and the East Midlands also exceeded the average first-time buyer deposit.










South East








East Midlands




East Anglia




South West




West Midlands








Northern Ireland




North East




Yorks & Humberside


£ 33,313


North West




Awards season is well underway… but the Oscars, Baftas and Golden Globes have nothing on the Virtual BHF Heart Hero Awards 2021. Nominations for the 2021 awards have just launched. And, as the BHF celebrates its 60th anniversary, we are looking for health professionals and members of the public going above and beyond to save and improve the lives of those battling heart and circulatory diseases.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic hit the BHF hard in 2020 – cutting their research budget by half. So, this year we are adding a special award – Innovative Fundraiser – to acknowledge those who found new and creative ways of raising money, despite events like the London Marathon and the BHF’s London to Brighton Bike Ride being cancelled.

A ‘Heart Hero’ can be anyone: From a nurse or doctor working in the field of heart disease that may have helped you or your family, to a young person with heart disease who has shown incredible courage and determination or a fantastic fundraiser. All nominees and winners will be invited to our glitzy star-studded online awards ceremony premiering Live on YouTube on World Heart Day on September 29th when the winners will be announced. There are three categories to nominate in: My Healthcare Hero, Innovative Fundraiser and Young Heart Hero (under 18).

Some of last year’s inspirational winners included: 104 year-old Joan Willett, a double heart attack survivor who raised more than £60,000 with a daily hill climb outside her care home during the pandemic; Toddler Sophia Marshall who was born with 11 complex heart defects and  survived against the odds to raise awareness of congenital heart disease and raise funds for the BHF with her family; Dedicated couple June and Jim Machin who channelled their grief from losing their two sons to congenital heart disease to raise over £600,000 for the BHF over 45 years.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Following the huge success of last year’s Virtual Heart Hero Awards, this year’s event will again be virtual. It has been an incredibly challenging year for heart patients and their families, the heart research community and the BHF which has seen its research budget halved due to the impact of Covid-19.

That is even more reason to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our supporters who have gone above and beyond – despite the pandemic - to help the BHF Beat Heartbreak Forever.”

A Wolverhampton community group is helping local people discover the fun of cycling after setting up its own cycling hub using a Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) funding grant.

The Park Village Education Centre in Low Hill used its Better Streets Community Fund grant to create secure cycle storage and workshop facility, cycle parking and a safe training area.  And it is working with the Whirling Wheels Cycle Training to offer lessons and bike maintenance services to help local people get out and about on two wheels.

Park Village Education Centres' Dr Yusuf Shafi said: “We used the funding to purchase two 20ft containers for cycle storage and repair and set up a secure cycle shelter for Centre users and locals.

“In partnership with Whirling Wheels we were then able to engage 86 young people and 37 adults in a variety of cycling training, cycle repair and safety training sessions. It has been an absolute pleasure and delight to see so many people getting on their bikes and realising the fun of cycling.”

The hub covers an area with a rich and diverse community and high levels of social deprivation and has not only promoted healthy activity but also provided emotional and social support during lockdown.

The £2 million Better Streets Community Fund was set up for groups and organisations to apply for funding for small scale active travel infrastructure such as bike racks, cycle clubs or safe road crossings.

The group was among 34 projects throughout the region to benefit from grants of between £10,000 and £250,000 for projects to improve cycling and walking in their areas.

These include:

·         An inclusive cycling project run by Midland Mencap at Woodgate Valley Country Park in Birmingham to provide adapted bike and wider cycle paths for their use

·         New toucan crossings at Stevens Park in Dudley to allow children from Old Park School and Thorns Primary School to safely cross the Thorns Road and better enjoy the park

·         Secure cycle parking facility at the YMCA in West Bromwich town centre

·         A Wheels for All inclusive cycling centre, including adapted bicycles, at Aldersley Stadium in Wolverhampton

·         Creation of a community cycle hub at Walsall Rugby Club, which included balance bikes for young children

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who launched the Better Streets Community Fund in 2019, said: “These community led projects can make a real difference to people, particularly children, by giving them a lifelong love of cycling.

“Encouraging more people to cycle and walk, especially for those shorter journeys, is a key part of our plans to reduce traffic congestion and improve our environment and health.

“That is why we have put unprecedented investment into active travel, including our region wide Starley Network of safe cycle routes and our new West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme rolling out across the region from next month.”

TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is currently investing £40 million, including £23 million from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund and £14 million from the Active Travel Fund, into cycling and walking infrastructure.

Encouraging more people to cycle and walk for shorter journeys can play a part achieving the #WM2041 target of becoming net zero carbon region over the next 20 years.

Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “These community led projects, such as pedestrian crossings, better cycle paths and bike training can make a real difference to a neighbourhood by giving people the confidence to walk and cycle and make streets safer for children.

“As well as backing these smaller projects we are also investing in larger cycle routes and a region wide cycle hire scheme because getting more people to cycle, either for their commute or leisure is healthy and good for our environment.”