Shop Front Festival, Coventry City Centre, March 23/24.
The UK's first Shop Front Festival, presenting theatre, music and dance performances in shops and out on the streets, springs into life across Coventry city centre next month.
The two-day festival, presented by Chris O'Connell and Julia Negus from the city's award-winning Theatre Absolute, features newly commissioned work from some of the UK's most exciting theatre makers and performers. It is the first major event to be announced under the banner of City of Culture 2021.
The final festival line-up is still to be confirmed, but home-grown commissions include Made In Store by Coventry writer Nick Walker, a semi-improvised show that culminates in a shop-made drama about the city on that day.(Pictured right)
The Unfinished City, with words from Chris O'Connell and featuring Coventry musicians, is a poem set to music that brings to life at night one of the city's iconic shopping precincts.
DIY Dance invites local youth and community groups to perform short dance pieces in response to the architecture of the city centre, while Leamington-based Motionhouse Youth will be creating two new pieces alongside a number of Coventry groups, all working on different dance styles.
Among national and interrnational artists bringing their work to the festival is The Empathy Museum, a collaboration between cultural philosopher Roman Krznaric and artist Clare Patey who are presenting A Mile In My Shoes, in which visitors are told stories from life while wearing the storyteller's shoes. Susannah Hewlett brings to the festival her Latherland, a city centre soap opera in a shop unit with the audience performing as extras.
Events aimed at the family include the Actual Reality Arcade by Matthew Harrison, a life-sized interactive game zone for all ages, Inflation, from Tangled Feet, which features an unco-operative bouncy castle and The Q, a novel take on the age-old British pastime of queuing, from Coventry's own Talking Birds (Main picture).
Chris O'Connell said, " We're delighted to announce these first highlights of our pilot Shop Front Festival. We hope to bring something for everyone from young to old, from those who have experience of theatre, dance and music events to those who might stumble across one of our events for the first time. By taking over unusual and disused shops and spaces, the Festival is a unique opportunity for us to see our city through fresh eyes, and experience how culture can bring every part of the city alive."
Most events in the festival are free, but some are ticketed. For more details, go to www.theatreabsolute.co.uk/shop-front-festival/.