City of Coventry celebrates 1000 years of heritage
The modern concrete city, Coventry, turned into a medieval town when the present-day Lady Godiva and the Godiva sisters set foot once again into the historic St. Michael’s Cathedral through a procession from Broadgate on the 09/09/2016. The cultural city is celebrating 1000 years of its rich heritage, and commemorating the death of St. Osburga, and Lady Godiva as part of Dame Goodyver Day. Dame Goodyver Day’s celebration of colour and vigour is aimed to bring all local communities and cultures together and promote social cohesion.
The event was organised by the Godiva Trust and was supported by a number of organisations including Culturae Mundi of Coventry University, Warwick University, different NGOs and several schools in Coventry. Wearing the traditional ceremonial outfit, our present-day Lady Godiva, Pru Porretta, led the procession, escorted by 19 Godiva sisters in their flamboyant traditional outfits, representing different faiths and races, affirming mutual respect and heralding the notion of ‘One Human Race.’Curious children were also spotted amongst Lady Godiva’s entourage alongside an enthusiastic audience. The attendees included the city’s VIP like the Lord Mayor Lindsley Harvard, City Councillors, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, members of several cultural organisations and students. After paying homage at the ruins of the old city in the Priory Gardens, the procession reached the Cathedral.
Concluding the city tour inside the majestic hall of the Cathedral, Pru Porretta welcomed all and narrated the history and evolution of the city with the Sitar (an Indian string instrument) and the Djembe (a traditional West African drum) setting the background. Sharing the message of peace and reconciliation, Pru as Lady Godiva said, “It is not the steel and concrete that made the city strong. It is the spirit- a real spirit of community that teaches us living on.”The audience celebrated the 1000-year history of Coventry through artistic performances of music and dance by different groups. Tapestries depicting the key events of the 1000-year old history were also unveiled. Each tapestry incorporates multi-faith intergenerational work by schools and communities across Coventry. “Tapestries” says Clive Parker-Skelhon, Public Relations and Sponsorship Manager of Culture Coventry, “are something extremely cool, and that’s what Coventry is all about. The city is full of craftsmen, everybody in it reflects the wonderful glory of the city.” First among the 20 tapestries unveiled was the famous ‘Cofa’s Tree’ which served as the boundary of Cofa settlers’ hamlet in the ancient time.
The Saxon nun song was performed by two talented ladies, Lizzy Perring and Patsy Clarke from Unlock the Music. It tells the making of Coventry, marking the brutal attacks of the Vikings in 1016 AD which brought down the whole of Coventry including St. Osburga’s convent. It is believed that Lady Godiva and her husband Leofric, the Earl of Mercia, rebuilt their church and thus the story of the real city began. It also tells the origin of the name, Coventry, which was speculated a derivation of a plant called the Cofa Tree. The beautiful performance was followed by a girls’ dance group from Pattinson College, which danced to the tune of Carol Williams’ song eulogising the story of Lady Godiva, the legendary Lady on the Horse. While The Coventry Carol retold the Rise and Fall of the city, the industrial history of Coventry was tapped through the ‘Daisy’ song.
Next was the demonstration of a vintage bike which referenced the bicycle manufacturing in Coventry in the early 19th century, amused the children. In fact, the children were the centre of attraction as put by Carol Wright, member of the Soroptimists International of Coventry; “they [children] are the future. We have built the city on the history and the children got to carry on with that message”. The civil war, 1940 Blitz and the reconciliation process after World War Two were brought to the audience through different performances and tapestries. The dance performances directed by the Chinese sister Margaret Tse and the refugee sister Anatasia Chokuwamba, not only moved the audience but also represented the city’s inspiring commitment to different ethnic identities and cultures. The very last performance introduced by the future Godiva, Thalia Porretta, portrayed the city’s hope towards a better future and belief in the next generation. The glorious event thus concluded by exhorting that for a peaceful future all we need is to love each other and this year’s Dame Goodyver Day celebration left a smile on the faces of everyone who participated.