Coventry conversation [updating]

9th June 2021

John Wyver writes: I know that posting comments to blog posts is so late noughties, and as a consequence no-one does it anymore, but I did want to try this as an experiment – and I’m very grateful to those who posted below. Thank you!

Our new film Coventry Cathedral: Building for a New Britain was broadcast on 9 June on BBC Four and is now on BBC IPlayer for a year. The 75-minute documentary weaves together an account of the rebuilding of the Cathedral in the wake of a German bombing raid in November 1940 with the social history of post-war Coventry, and more generally of the country as a whole. We feel that it uses a wealth of archive sources in a distinctive and innovative way – and we’ve been absolutely thrilled at the positive response to the film.

I’m now updating this post to collect previews and reviews of the film, and to link to one or two resources, including my other blog posts. If you have watched the film and would like to contribute your thoughts away from Twitter, do please consider posting a comment below and help us develop a Coventry conversation. I am moderating what gets written but only to the extent of blocking anything offensive – I promise to feature the negatives along with any positives.

Posts on this site that provide more information about the film include the following (and I’ll be adding further posts in the coming days):

Most of the previews of the film to date have been straightforwardly drawn from the BBC’s press information, but Gabriel Tate contributed a peach of a response to the Telegraph on Saturday:

John Wyver’s film is a marvel, using the postwar reconstruction of Coventry Cathedral as a parable for 20th-century Britain. BBC Four at its best.

For a short taster, you can view a preview clip here.

Press reviews have included the following:

Coventry and its cathedral – the rise and fall of an urban utopia: David Herman’s very kind words for The Article:

There will be no finer tribute to the city this year than John Wyver’s superb documentary.

Now, over to you…


  1. Alison Menezes says:

    Amazing insight into the building of a new city, not just the trauma of the destruction of the former city. Perfect for City of Culture and a salutary reminder that memory is not just about the past, it’s about how we built the future out of the past and the present together.

  2. Steve Bryant says:

    Lovely programme, John. I guess I should be commenting on the use of archive, but my immediate thoughts are mostly concerned with the wonderful retrospective context it gave me to my own visits to the city (my first journeys north of Watford!) in the early sixties – firstly to visit relatives who had moved there from our home area in north-west London (my uncle worked for GEC and proudly took us round the precinct) and then on a school trip to see the cathedral (in a “double bill” with Kenilworth Castle) – they must have seen us as part of that “anxious, hoping, searching generation” for whom it was supposed to be the “premier place of pilgrimage”. Of course, that pilgrimage, and our visits, were made viable by the opening of the M1/M45 at the end of the fifties. I also saw my first league football match there and the rise of Coventry City in the early sixties under the imaginative management of Jimmy Hill is closely linked with the regeneration of the city.
    Anyway, reminiscence aside, I did enjoy your use of overlapping archive, where the clips at times were made to reflect and comment on each other. Unusually for you, you didn’t always respect the original ratios, but I’m not complaining because it worked perfectly. Thanks.

  3. Geraldine O'Malley says:

    A great use of archive that moved beyond the well known blitz footage & provided a glimpse of the innovation and determination of Coventrians. . I particularly enjoyed Louise Campbell’s narrative. This should be compulsory viewing in all Coventry schools. Fantastic shots of the precinct and our ‘Festival of Britain’ designs, many of which have been lost in the last couple of years due to a council with zero appreciation of Coventry’s unique architectural heritage. Thank you for reminding people that we have always had culture in Coventry.

  4. Flo says:

    I really enjoyed how it changed the well-told narrative of Coventry as ‘plucky, gritty, resilient’ to ‘ambitious, thoughtful, creative’ and of course resilient! it showed that Coventry didn’t just ‘bounce back’ but ‘planned and thought’ back realising great and beautiful dreams.

    And that’s apart from the wonderful in-process footage – of the fabulous stained glass, the stunning etched window, and the magnificent tapestry.

    Bravo all round – a beautiful and, well, illuminating (!) watch!

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