art, history, performance, events
Our vision is to reprise the hugely successful @CETPOPUP arts and heritage initiative, in a new dramatic, permanent setting - the iconic 1976 ‘Elephant’ sports & leisure building on Cox St, next to the old swimming baths in Coventry City Centre. What we have in mind is exhibiting a vibrant mix of art (small, and large), heritage displays (using cool technology to engage new audiences), and making big spaces available for performance (music + theatre) - all curated with the same down to earth (‘explore the building.. get excited about cool stuff in Coventry’) inclusive style that made the popup such a hit with new audiences.
The vision also includes widening the scope of activity to include a major focus on establishing a major new ‘boutique’ conferencing and event hosting facility with a difference; strong 70s theming throughout to match with the striking mid-70s zinc clad architecture on the exterior.. (we’re thinking lava lamps, swathes of geometric wallpaper, shag pile carpet, terence conran ‘egg’ chairs etc) - but all with a distinctly modern twist.
Capital costs to fund an upgrade to the building, and operating revenue to cover ongoing overheads to be via the creation of a new social-enterprise organisation 'CET2 CIC' - overseeing the artspace and eventing businesses, but also several other innovative initiatives including a project to convert and enlarge the existing (external) 4 squash courts annex into 10 serviced boutique apartments. Other revenue opportunities are envisaged from the hire of spaces, creation of a first floor bar/cafe (with great views overlooking the University!), public admission donations, and premium ticketed events.
Dwindling usage and increasing costs have taken their toll - and with new leisure facilities coming on-line elsewhere in the city early 2019, the Elephant sport centre building has an uncertain future. Its fair to say though that many of Coventry’s citizens have a strong attachment to this iconic emblem of the city skyline - and we’re campaigning to keep it as a Community Asset; the hub of a vibrant new cultural scene, building momentum toward 2021.
We believe the opportunity exists for an ambitious new usage scheme incorporating these three central themes; a permanent cultural artspace, a 2000 capacity ‘boutique’ conferencing & events capability, and loft-style residential accommodation for owner-occupiers - at the heart of Coventry’s inner-city creative quarter.
The concept is for a sustainable multi-purpose arts & mini-museum/heritage facility across the entire first floor space (approx 1600m2 - encompassing the present 30m x 40m indoor bowls auditorium, 35m x 10m ex-shooting range, and 15m x 2m bridge link) - together with elements of the 2500m2 upper second, third, and fourth floors (gym/changing/squash/committee room/upper bar & conferencing). The present bridge-link would be closed off at the swimming baths end to form a gallery space - with primary access into the building provided instead via the present disabled persons doorway/glassed area at ground floor level on Cox Street. The sports hall and bowling areas provide possibilities for larger performance-based events, conferencing, music events, and/or the display of large format visual arts.
Short term funding is envisaged via a £0.5M directors loan from Alan Denyer (the proposed chairman of CET2 CIC) - with a loan facility of up to £2.5M already pledged in principle c/o a major commercial development lender for the proposed apartment construction element.
engaging a new audience: the 'cetpopup' model
(ALAN DENYER - concept originator, and curator)
‘The CET Building’ pop-up set out to get people back into a habit of visiting Coventry City Centre for culture. In the first few months many visitors were ex-employees, returning to reminisce. However we then refined the offer to motivate a wider audience - who like many people in Coventry (including myself!) wouldn’t typically think culture is 'for them' - to come along and explore. The free admission 'walking tour/ explore the building’ format introduced visitors to curated experiences along the way - and we’d also purposely swap things out regularly so as to get a reputation for always having something new to enjoy.
Essentially, the pop-up existed to give free space to anyone doing anything interesting (so that's basically artists, performers, workshop facilitators etc) - opening up opportunities for many original uses. The only proviso being; no closed doors - every use had to have a public facing ‘output’ that visitors would get to see, touch, hear - or even smell. . The 'CET self guided tour' worked phenomenally well as an approach - set up as a series of 'reveals', each making for great photograph, it attracted over 25,000 visitors of all ages during the 1 year opening.
Placing architecture and culture together in a dramatic way that makes folks feel they’ve seen something special - it’s this experience that we want to recreate.. with 'The Elephant'.
statement of support from Coventry University Social Enterprise unit (CUSE) re: the proposed ‘CET2’ Elephant concept’:- (Gabriella Matsoukova, Business Development Manager, CUSE).
'At the heart of the Coventry Culture Strategy 2017-2027 and the City of Culture 2021 is pride of place, its recognition and legacy and architecture has been identified as a key aspect of Coventry's cultural DNA.
'The Elephant' Arts and Heritage Centre offers a unique proposition complementing the existing culture, arts and creative hubs in the city (Warwick Art Centre, Coventry Music Education Hub, The Belgrade Hub, The Herbert etc.). The building's prior use, its community centre focus and pop-up model would limit the barriers that formal cultural and heritage institutions often face in attracting diverse artists and audiences. The CET Pop-up model has enabled artist and creatives from all walks of life - students, individuals, community groups, refugees and migrants etc to bring their art to life. The Elephant will be able to extend its reach to engage and inspire young people across all backgrounds, to engage schools, families and the neighbourhoods through special projects, collaborative exhibitions and performances, thus contributing to the City of Culture 2021 key step changes "Culture closing the gaps in participation and engagement" and "Culture building bridges: diversity and equality".
Given its "sporting history", the Elephant would support innovative practice in arts and mental health through hosting of inclusive arts and wellness programme and community led arts projects that reduce social isolation, aligning with the vision of "new hub for professional and community arts and wellness" described in Coventry Cultural Strategy. The CET Pop-up has been a base for Hope for the Community CIC "gratitude wall community art project", inspired by Coventry University research which has shown that gratitude improves positive wellbeing, resilience and builds friendships. With thousands of contributions, the project has had a positive impact and the walls offer an opportunity for visitors to share their gratitude, to reflect and act as a visual reminder that there is always something to be grateful for, however big or small.
Coventry holds a Social Enterprise City status and The Elephant will be a beacon representing social and creative mission driven organisations in the city. In partnership with CU Social Enterprise CIC (CUSE), a sustainable business model will be developed for the Elephant which will also host CUSE Creative Sector Start-up Offer, a specialist support to budding entrepreneurs from the creative sector including access to funds, training mentoring, IPR advice to build capacity in the City, developing an approach for a cadre of creative arts' entrepreneurs tied into a wider approach for recruiting and retaining local talent, whilst building resilience and legacy.'