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Festival of Imagineers 2017 Programme Announced

Festival of Imagineers 2017 Programme Announced

Transforming the Streets of Coventry with Free Live Arts, Installations and Performances

From 25 – 30 September 2017, the Festival of Imagineers returns to Coventry, bringing the streets to life with extraordinary live arts, astounding performances and incredible installations.

Now in its third year, the Festival of Imagineers has become a staple of the region’s arts scene; a vibrant celebration of art, design and engineering in the heart of the industrial Midlands. The Festival is presented in partnership with Coventry’s bid to be the 2021 City of Culture.

International artists, designers, architects and engineers will come together for this free family-friendly celebration of creative ingenuity. The event is an opportunity for residents and visitors to the city to imagine, make and be inspired, as city spaces and streets are transformed through a residencies, talks, workshops, visits and outdoor performances.

Highlights of the 2017 festival include;

  • Museum of the Moon by artist Luke Jerram; a seven-metre diameter illuminated replica of the moon suspended over the Sports Centre Swimming pool. This will include a new, underwater and poolside performance by Balbir Singh Dance Company.
  • Helen Marriage will deliver a talk in Coventry Cathedral; an opportunity to hear Founder and Artistic Director of Artichoke, speak about the company’s extraordinary work which has inspired millions of people over the past decade.
  • The Winter’s Tale at Coventry Cathedral Ruins; A co-production between Imagineer Productions and leading Polish street theatre company Teatr Biuro Podrozy and will see the Imagineer team working in partnership with TBP for the first time since thelegendary Millennium Mysteries. This processional performance includes extraordinary stilt walkers, visceral visual images, fire and music.
  • Dancing Bicycles by Balbir Singh Dance Company; action packed performance features Keelan Phillips, UK and Euro champion BMX rider.
  • Illumaphonium; a dynamic, multi-sensory, generative and interactive music installation. Everyone is invited to play this semi acoustic music making sculpture.

Throughout the week Cardboardia (an international community of artists, performers, event managers and experts from Russia, USA, UK, the Netherlands) will lead a making laboratory with makers and local communities at Moat House Leisure & Neighbourhood Centre in Wood End. This will culminate in walkabout performances for the festival finale which will combine beautiful and quirky cardboard structures and props, performance, participation, dance and Tyran of Cardboardia’s newly developed unique, giant Alchemical Music Box.

In addition, on Tuesday 26 September there will be a conference for educationalists and industrialists. Inspiring Change (presented by Imagineer Productions in partnership with Warwick University and The Paul Hamlyn Foundation) is the first regional conference exploring the impact and models of working within education which incorporate arts practice into the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects).

Claire Maddocks Festival Director explains; “We are excited to announce two years of funding for the festival from Arts Council England, and this year have a tremendous programme of events and activities happening across the city. From dramatic performances in the Cathedral to an enormous moon suspended above the sports centre swimming pool, there will be a host of unexpected and joyful experiences for all to enjoy. This year’s theme is ‘transformations’, and we hope we’ll be able to transform both residents and visitors’ perceptions of our city through these works.”

For full programme click here.



Festival of Imagineers culminates with a shower of creative  sights and sounds in Coventry

Festival of Imagineers culminates with a shower of creative sights and sounds in Coventry

The culmination of the Festival of Imagineers 2016 on 1 October saw a soggy City Centre brought to life with ingenious, quirky and extraordinary performances both inside and out, bringing smiles to young and old as well as the occasional glimour of sunshine.

University Square was animated with outdoor theatre including an astronaut flying above umbrellas, a model town experiencing its own apocalyptical weather and adventurers headed to Africa, Australia and Menorca by air and sea aboard the Flycycle and Submercyle.

Festival of Imagineers 2016
Urban Astronaut by Highly Sprung
Festival of Imagineers 2016
Ye Gods! took place regardless of the rain

Live animation and dance created some amazing choreography by Hungarian Bandart Productions at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery. The weather brought last minute venue changes which saw hair sculpting move indoors to the Herbert, and Osadia’s creations could be seen wandering the streets and squares of Coventry throughout the rest of the day.

Festival of Imagineers 2016
Hair art with Osadia

Coventry Cathedral became the venue for the evening’s final performance, its high ceilings and beautiful lighting gave the impression of a town square for a stunning waltz on stilts to the music of Johann Straus by Italian company Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo with Valse, followed by Addictive TV’s acclaimed Orchestra of Samples, created over five years and featuring 200 musicians mixed live on the evening.

Festival of Imagineers 2016
Valse was performed in Coventry Cathedral

Jane Hytch, Chief Executive Imagineer Productions said: “What a week it has been in Coventry, we have welcomed artists from across the World to join with artists from the UK to create some special moments and extraordinary sights.

The Festival has involved everyone from school children who have created their own inventions at our making space, the Daimler Powerhouse, to passers-by who have stopped in their tracks, despite the weather, by some amazing performances.

The Festival of Imagineers has also seen the start of exciting new projects with artists, designers and engineers exploring everything from Daimler’s manufacturing past to the City’s unique history with elephants as well as creative collaborations with business which we hope to build on in the coming months and years.”

The third annual Festival of Imagineers was delivered in partnership with Culture Coventry.

Sheetmetal workers of the world unite

Sheetmetal workers of the world unite

Award-winning writer Chris O’Connell and visual artist Julia O’Connell, co-directors of Coventry’s Theatre Absolute, are leading a creative research project – Witness – inspired by the Daimler building and the stories and lives of the labourers and tool makers who worked there during the building’s manufacturing past. Chris shares his latest thoughts on the project:

I’ve been working as part of a creative research project commissioned by Imagineer at the old Daimler Powerhouse premises, now their base, with textile artist Julia O’Connell. The research project is funded by IDP, who are based in Coventry.

So what sort of piece might a writer create in response to a building like the Powerhouse and a company like Imagineer? There are many strands connecting – the old truths of the Daimler factory and their contribution to industry and innovation at times of change, its tragic flattening in World War II. Yet also I want to think about the future, this is very much where Imagineer sit in their imagining of how their amazing building and their energies as creative artists can power them and the city and the region towards a unique blending of arts and engineering; that the arts and engineering, the arts and industry are not diametrically opposed as some trains of thought might entertain, but can share common goals.

Part of my time has been spent talking to engineers – in particular, myself and Julia spent a morning at Premier Group Co. – read all about them they are a very focused organisation – and what struck me in in particular was their passion both for apprenticeships and developing young people, and for their work, for their cherishing of the art of metal and how they are driving their industry forward into the 21st century, but underpinning new technologies with a determination that all of their apprentices learn the trade from trade from the bottom up.

So I wrote this:


Yes, of course!
all of the above,
PEOPLE are one of the many things, we do.
Rest assured, the door is always open
Rest assured this place, is about you.
Where might young people arrive in their working life?
Many, here
Some kids come though our door, they know,
mad on cars
focus, focus,
Some, they’re not so sure,
Ok, well we’ve got your measure,
we’ll see some promise,
and let us test you, guide you,
we built our own training school
of course,
these things of metal are our passion
let them become yours!
Practical and academic
you can’t get it,
but we’ve got it.
sheet metal workers of the future unite,
if needs be
we’ll bring you
the trade gets tough,
because sometimes, life gets

It’s about how we all look after each other.
It’s all English Wheel to us
we chase panels
for the future
from the past
it’s an art
a craft
parallel lines
square to round
radial lines
we’re saying yes to the future,
welcome prototype, and sheet metal manufacture,
welcome state-of-the-art 2D Prima Syncrono,
welcome Olympic torch,
welcome computer aided engineering
welcome all.
BUT if you can do it first, by hand,
isn’t that a great thing?
High strength DP 600, DP 800.
beading and crash tests, okay?
750, 250
high spot
low spot
dreadnought file
sheet metal workers of the heart
because our work is an art.
Listen up!
hand shrinker
.2 of a mill tolerance
plus or minus on trim,
holes and form .2
4 hours
a panel,
it doesn’t split.
at the end
of the day.
Old skills for new skills
shrinking and stretching
technology can take us a long long way,
but let’s not lose the skills
Isn’t that it?
Forming metal and man
isn’t that it?

Chris O’Connell ©
September 2016

Julia O’Connell looks at the life of a sheet metal worker

Julia O’Connell looks at the life of a sheet metal worker

Award-winning writer Chris O’Connell and visual artist Julia O’Connell, co-directors of Coventry’s Theatre Absolute, are leading a creative research project – Witness – inspired by the Daimler building and the stories and lives of the labourers and tool makers who worked there during the building’s manufacturing past. 

We asked Julia to share some of her experiences ahead of their sharing event at the Festival of Imagineers:

I’m part of a creative research project at Daimler Powerhouse with writer Chris O’Connell. The research project is funded by IDP. As an artist, being able to have a dedicated period of time to research early ideas and ’play’ is rare and it has been brilliant to be able to trust the silences within this period of work without the pressure of creating an ‘end’ piece as such for the time being. So huge thanks to IDP!

I’ve spent the first week collecting images from the Powerhouse, as well as talking with Chris about the site and what direction we might shape our research as we work towards the full production in 2017.

I’ve also become fascinated with the work of sheet metal workers too and after an early visit to Premier have such admiration for the skill and art of hand shaping and forming metal at an industrial scale.

Here’s a fab American archive film I found on the web that gives an insight into the job of a sheet metal worker, using traditional hand skills. Something which Premier in Coventry are themselves still teaching these days alongside the newer technologies: The Sheet Metal Worker

In our research, we’ve considered not only the Daimler site and its unique heritage but also its current use and future work under the guardianship of Imagineer. We’re particularly struck by the canal nearby and how that can ‘deliver’ both goods and people to and from the Powerhouse or should it be ‘Power’House… I’ve also thought about gender during my time here. Imagineer is led by a team of women and how that fact in itself sits within the site’s previous historical context and male dominated hierarchies.

We will be sharing our initial responses to the site on Friday 30th September at 1pm. Do come along and hear what we have been up to. Leave plenty of time to check out the building too.

Julia O’Connell

WITNESS will receive its full premiere in 2017. Julia and Chris run Theatre Absolute. In 2009 they founded the UK’s only professional Shop Front Theatre in City Arcade, Coventry.


Building bridges at Coventry Cathedral

Building bridges at Coventry Cathedral

This weekend Imagineer Productions have worked with engineers from Arup to create Bridge, a 15 metre bridge made out of rolled paper. 1000 Coventry school children have contributed to the project, which is a prelude to a bridge installation that will be created as part of the Cathedral 100 Celebrations in 2018.

See the Bridge in Coventry Cathedral as part of Festival of Imagineers.

The completed Bridge
It extends across the Nave
1000 school children have contributed paper scrolls
See the Bridge in Coventry Cathedral as part of Festival of Imagineers
Arts and culture are good for business

Arts and culture are good for business

Ahead of the Festival of Imagineers taking to the streets of Coventry on 1 October, Trish Willetts, Manager of Coventry BID, tells us how events that celebrate the arts bring vibrancy and excitement to the city centre, which can have significant benefits for businesses and the local economy.

The Festival of Imagineers is a wonderful and extremely important event and the Coventry BID is delighted to host its finale in the heart of the city.

This is the third year the event has run and it has been an extremely popular draw in the past – last year brought more than 30,000 visitors to the city centre.

Not only does it give talented local artists and performers a platform to gain exposure and showcase their work, but the festival also allows visitors to experience the impressive and diverse shopping and dining offering our city centre boasts – with more than 600 shops, restaurants and bars to choose from.

And with Coventry’s bid to be the UK City of Culture for 2021 growing momentum, the Festival could not be coming at a better time to place Coventry on the map.

Trish Willetts
Manager, Coventry Bid

Plan your day on 1 October with our handy guide to the city centre events here.

IDP and those who care for Coventry

IDP and those who care for Coventry

Have you ever considered how Coventry’s built environment can be improved? You’re not alone… Architecture studio IDP host a fun thinking session on Tuesday 27th September as part of the Festival of Imagineers. Imagineer’s David Long tells us more:

The Festival of Imagineers is all about creative thought and imagination.

When IDP mentioned that they wanted to challenge perceptions of Coventry by encouraging people to see what is wrong with city spaces and coming up with alternatives, Imagineer realised this was a prime opportunity to put Coventrians to the test. IDP’s informal design workshop on Tuesday 27 September gives us a chance to put together a wishlist of ‘what should be’ in our built environment.

A crucial element of the Festival of Imagineers is the partnership and relationship work that goes on between business and the populous – something which arguably doesn’t happen enough in our city and we all suffer from as a consequence. The evening at IDP gives the chance for anyone with a passion for Coventry to engage with professionals and come up with some new creative solutions – whilst having a lot of fun in the process.

The evening will run as an informal design workshop (pens, paper, post-it notes; you know the score) with a keynote speaker at the beginning to set the scene and give a bit of an overview on Coventry and how it’s currently being transformed.

Visitors will take a closer look at Coventry’s under-utilised spaces, those in decline and ones which just don’t work to see what could be done to improve them – in essence we will “Imagineer” how they could be transformed for the public good, either aesthetically or practically.

We really hope to generate some interesting, innovative and tangible suggestions that can ultimately be channelled towards all the appropriate players.

Tour and workshop at IDP
Tuesday 27 September, 6.30pm
27 Spon Street, Coventry CV1 3BA
Tickets are FREE but should be pre-booked by emailing

Read more about IDP at

Guest post from Julia O’Connell

Guest post from Julia O’Connell

Award-winning writer Chris O’Connell and visual artist Julia O’Connell, co-directors of Coventry’s Theatre Absolute, are leading a creative research project – Witness – inspired by the Daimler building and the stories and lives of the labourers and tool makers who worked there during the building’s manufacturing past.

We asked Julia to share some of her experiences ahead of their sharing event at the Festival of Imagineers:

Def: marks present on machinery or surfaces that are testimony to a repeated action which, over time, leaves a trace of the occurrence

Today is the first day that myself and writer Chris O’Connell have spent some time on site in the Daimler Powerhouse. The Powerhouse is the creative making space of Imagineer Productions but used to be part of the motor manufacturing industry in Coventry and where Daimler cars went into production.

I’m an artist whose practice is based in textiles, and early on in my research my heart skipped a beat as it was revealed that the site used to be part of the Widdrington Cotton Mills.

Much of the area was decimated during World War 2 but my walk around the existing spaces this morning is about linking various industrial occupancies via ghost signs and the building repairs and extensions.

In the residency I want to capture not only the essence of an important industrial heritage but also give weight to the building’s future. All around me are artists, makers and crafters, busy with plans for the impending Festival of Imagineers. The space is bustling and bright with creativity, even though it’s a dull wet Monday outside.

I stand for a while and watch…and listen.

I hear the chatter bounce off the walls and disappear into the eaves of the wood panelled roof. I think about the activity on the factory floors over the years…the work, the toil, the hours, the mechanical noises, the banter, the laughs, the worry of war, the loss of friends, the industry changing as new technologies emerge, the pride in a pay packet, and the nerves of a new apprentice…

Julia O’Connell

Julia leads a FREE sharing event  about Witness at 1pm Friday 30th September. The project receives its full premiere in 2017. 


Addictive TV explain their inspiration for the Orchestra of Samples, playing at Festival of Imagineers

Addictive TV explain their inspiration for the Orchestra of Samples, playing at Festival of Imagineers

The Festival of Imagineers culminates with an outdoor gig by the remarkable Addictive TV. The pioneering audio/visual remixers and electronic artists scoured the world to record musicians playing all kinds of instruments, from Brazil to Egypt to Bhutan. The result is the Orchestra of Samples, a digital supergroup of artists who have never met.

We asked Addictive TV to explain the inspiration for this ingenious project:

“Orchestra of Samples has been a huge undertaking, with loads of organizing! We spent five years recording musicians while touring and performing around the world. We really wanted to collaborate with as many musicians internationally as possible and that’s impractical in the real world – but not in the digital world of sampling!

Recording in Lanzarote

“So we took a camera and recording equipment with us for years, filming hundreds of musicians everywhere we travelled, from Brazil and Mexico to Senegal in West Africa, across Europe, Kazakhstan, China and even Egypt during the revolution. In fact people often seem quite stunned by the fact we filmed all the artists in the whole project ourselves, and that we know every one of them personally.

Recording in Senegal

“We then spliced up all these thousands and thousands of recorded samples, creating new music, and of course visual music, as audiences can see the samples. When you see the show, we’ve recontextualised the musicians as if they are playing together, when in reality none of them ever met or heard any of the others.

“Our creative process is simply just seeing which samples work together. The whole Orchestra of Samples project is an exploration into musical probability and serendipity. We bring together people who wouldn’t normally play together, and instruments that normally would never be heard alongside each other. Working outside of normal musical conventions has really opened our eyes, finding incredibly unexpected combinations of instruments – some of which we didn’t even know about!”

Recording in Dakar

See the Orchestra of Samples as part of Festival of Imagineers on Saturday 1 October at 9.30pm in Coventry Cathedral Ruins. Addictive TV give a pre-show talk at 7pm at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. 

Performing the Orchestra of Samples
Study Inn Group announced as sponsor of Festival of Imagineers

Study Inn Group announced as sponsor of Festival of Imagineers

Imagineer Productions are delighted to announce the Study Inn Group as lead sponsor for the FREE performance programme taking place as part of the Festival of Imagineers which runs from 26 September – 1 October 2016.

Imagineer and Study Inn Group, along with the Festival’s other sponsors, supporters, artists engineers and designers will collaborate in order to present a programme of ingenious, quirky and extraordinary performances from inspirational local, national and international companies transforming public spaces around the City.

Jane Hytch, Chief Executive Imagineer Productions said: “I am delighted that Study Inn Group join us as lead sponsor for our fantastic performance programme which this year features everything from an astronaut to hair sculpting to a spectacular waltz on stilts. Their support demonstrates the importance of culture to businesses across our City and we look forward to working alongside Study Inn Group to deliver a fantastic Festival.”

Study Inn Group Operations Director Hannah Jefferson said: “We are very proud of the standard of our accommodation but we don’t see the provision of quality accommodation stopping at our front door. It’s not just about the facilities we provide, it has to encompass the life experience we can offer our residents during their stay and that includes the vibrancy of the City and their interaction with it.

We are all stakeholders in Coventry and through collaboration on projects such as this, we vitalize the City and raise its profile as a destination and an attractive place to live, work and study.

We wish the festival well for this year and for the years to come.”

The full programme can be found online here.

Imagineer Productions is working in partnership with Culture Coventry to deliver the third annual Festival of Imagineers which is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Coventry City Council.

As well as Study Inn Group funding partners include Medwell Hyde, Premier Group, Coventry & Warwickshire LEP, Heritage Lottery Fund, Imagineer Technologies, Talent Match, Coventry University, the University of Warwick, IDP, Coventry University Students’ Union and Arup.

The festival is also supported by Imagineer Productions’ business patrons including; Shortland Horne, The Imagineering Foundation, MTC Midlands Training Centre, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Coventry Cathedral and Think Higher.