When I was approached by publisher Emons to write the guidebook ‘111 Places In Coventry That You Shouldn’t Miss’, I jumped at the chance – I really wanted to contribute something to the buzz around Coventry’s UK City of Culture status in 2021.
I’m a Coventry kid through and through – I was born at the hospital in Walsgrave, grew up in Tile Hill and went to the Woodlands School in the late 1980s. I loved it there!
I worked in various jobs in Coventry before and after university – from bar work to the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh – then moved to London in my 20s for a career in magazine writing and editing in titles that included travel, sports and campervans.
I returned to the area six years ago and although I live in Rugby now it’s still a CV postcode! Several members of my family and a number of friends still live in Coventry, and I love to watch the city evolve at an exhilarating pace.
The 111 Places series are guidebooks for local people, for a city’s inhabitants primarily, as well as for experienced travellers. So I tried to explore hidden gems and tell their stories, to include some of the outlying neighbourhoods to reveal more of Coventry’s character and history.
I’d love local people to read the book and see Coventry with new eyes, discover again what a wonderful and storied city it is.
I was spoilt for choice with my selection, even though photographer Ian Williams and I produced it during the pandemic in 2020, which made it hard to access some places and people. The format of the book – a current, full-page image alongside a page of text – meant I couldn’t include some venues that were inaccessible during the pandemic.
But those that were able to accommodate us were fantastic: I loved the 2-Tone Village for its style and tribute to that unforgettable era in Coventry’s music history, found the Phil Silvers museum at FarGo Village and the Coventry Watch Museum at Spon Street absolute treasure troves, and loved sampling the produce at two artisan breweries, Dhillon’s and Twisted Barrel. The passion of all the people I met here – the enthusiasm and love they pour into their work – was wonderful to encounter.
As for quirky discoveries, I love the John Parkes headstone in the Unity Lawn of Coventry Cathedral – a native of the city, he was Coventry’s own gladiator. And it was a thrill to re-walk the streets of Tile Hill with images of artist George Shaw’s celebrated paintings as a guide.
I was proud and honoured to be involved with the guidebook that celebrates this city I love and hope others find a few things of interest in its pages too.
The book published in spring 2021 and costs £12.99 and you can order it online at Hive, Waterstones and Amazon. Or you can buy it in bookshops around Coventry, such as the main Waterstones branch on Smithford Way in the city centre, where at time of writing this blog it’s part of a wonderful window display and even has its own table near the front entrance. I enjoyed going along there, meeting some of the team and signing a bunch of copies.
Producing the book was a passion project and I’m proud it’s been well received so far.