Belgrade Theatre to reopen its doors on May 17th

Belgrade Theatre to reopen its doors on May 17th

The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – the UK City of Culture for 2021 – is to reopen its doors to the public on 17th May – the first day that the government’s roadmap allows – with socially distanced audiences able to enjoy Joe Pasquale and Sarah Earnshaw in John Godber’s April in Paris, which kicks off its UK tour at the Belgrade.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Those first audience members through the doors will also be able to enjoy the brand-new upstairs Café Bar Nineteen58 and newly refurbished downstairs Belgrade Café which has been created in the building as part of the £5.5m 2020 Redevelopment Project for the theatre; as well as the enhanced food and beverage offering, this has provided new spaces for audiences, visitors and additional capacity for workshops and community groups.

Prior to this, from 12th April, The Belgrade Café will be offering a full range of locally sourced food and drink for patrons to takeaway and enjoy on tables outside the theatre on Belgrade Square. The refurbishment was inspired by and named after the theatre’s founding year and is decorated with vintage show posters and artwork from across the decades.

Above and right: The new-look cafe (Artist’s impression by Corstorphine + Wright Architects)

Coventry, Belgrade Theatre, cafeThe Belgrade is Coventry’s largest professional theatre, producing and presenting a diverse range of shows, events and ground-breaking community and education initiatives. In its landmark building, across the region, the UK and online, it uses theatre to entertain, inspire, share the city’s stories, uncover hidden histories, and unleash the creativity of diverse communities.

Joanna Reid, Executive Director of the Belgrade, said, “The whole team can’t wait to reopen on 17 May and to welcome shows and audiences back into our two auditoria as soon as possible.  We are delighted that we are launching a tour of APRIL IN PARIS on Monday 17 May and are continuing to work to secure more shows during May to August. We’re excited that we’ve been able to complete our 2020 Redevelopment in time for City of Culture despite the challenges posed by both the pandemic and Brexit.  We hope to see you back at the Belgrade soon!

Following April in Paris, the Belgrade continues to book in performances at short notice and audiences will be able to enjoy an eclectic mix of music, theatre and comedy  over the summer months The theatre’s digital offerings also continue: Jabala and the Jinn, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Private Peaceful and the MT Festival UK will stream at various times between the end of March and the beginning of June.

The UK Asian Film Festival will also be hosted at the venue, with socially distanced audiences watching five film premieres in the Belgrade’s B2 auditorium, including the world premiere of Beatles and India. These films have been selected by five Coventry locals, after training in film curation. The UK Asian Film Festival celebrates the art of storytelling extending from ancient oral traditions to tales told in today’s digital age, giving wings to South Asian roots since 1997. This year’s programming theme is Ray of Hope to mark the birth centenary of Satyajit Ray. The film choices reflect the shift in power that bring hope to the lives of the protagonists. Further details to be announced.

An autumn season of non-socially distanced work from 1 September will be announced on 1st June.

A key partner of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, the Belgrade Theatre’s 2021 programme is being delivered by three diverse artists under the role of Co-Artistic Directors alongside members of the local community.  Corey Campbell, Balisha Karra and Justine Themen are developing a new vision and way of working for a 21st Century Theatre, bringing with them a unique perspective that celebrates the City’s diversity and drives positive change.

As well as directing the City of Culture opening event, Coventry Moves, Justine Themen has commissioned a brand-new digital version of Like There’s No Tomorrow (Weds 19 May – Sun 13 June 2021), one of the first National Theatre Connections plays to be specifically commissioned for and created by young people. Originally devised by Belgrade Youth Theatre in March 2020, in 2021 it will amplify the voices of Coventry’s young people and their views on climate change, across the country. The Belgrade will also be hosting the region’s NT Connections Festival this summer, showcasing work by local youth theatres across the West Midlands.

The new Roundabout pop-up theatre

Another cornerstone of the City of Culture programme, The Belgrade will co-present with Paines Plough, a festival of new world-class plays and community-led activities in the world’s first plug-in, pop-up and play theatre Roundabout (Monday 26 July – Sunday 8 August 2021). Balisha Karra will direct Coventry based playwright Frankie Meredith’s May Queen, and the other plays that will be played in repertory throughout the festival are Hungry by Chris Bush, Really Big and Really Loud by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, Black Love by Chinonyerem Odimba, with music by Ben and Max Ringham.

Belgrade Theatre, Seaview, Coventry
A scene from Seaview

Filming has also begun on SeaView, an original digital series developed by Strictly Arts Theatre Company and Belgrade Film and Digital Ltd using theatre techniques, conceived before Covid-19 took the world of theatre online, and directed by Corey Campbell. Inspired by a true story, and lived experiences, SeaView is a supernatural drama centred on urban, working class communities in the Midlands. It follows the story of Steven, a high-flying university student who appears to have a bright future ahead of him… Release dates and further information to be announced shortly.

Whilst – as with so many theatres across the country during 2020– The Belgrade wasn’t able to present live work on stage during much of the year, the whole team worked hard to keep engaging with local audiences and communities. The theatre rapidly adapted to making its offerings digital, including taking their annual pantomime online – Jack and the Beanstalk was watched by 55,600 people in the UK and in 25 countries across the world. The team behind the theatre’s renowned participation programme Click Spring also continued to offer workshops, Summer School and Acting Classes over Zoom. They also kept engaging with audiences on social media, including Facebook pub quizzes and online play-reading groups, and created podcasts, education packs and Spotify musical theatre playlists.

Councillor David Welsh, from Coventry City Council, said, ““There has been so much work happening throughout the Covid outbreak to improve facilities at the Belgrade Theatre and I am really pleased that they can now take the first tentative steps by announcing what future productions they will be able to host. I want to thank all those involved for the hard work they have put into getting the Belgrade Theatre ready, and I wish the theatre every success.”

Makers to ‘pop up’ at theatre’s outdoor market

Makers to ‘pop up’ at theatre’s outdoor market

ALL things bright and beautiful are arriving in Coventry with the Belgrade Theatre’s first Outdoor Makers’ Market from 11am-4pm on Saturday 29 August.

Organised by Craft On, the Belgrade’s resident needlecraft for wellbeing group, the event will see 16 local artists and makers assemble to sell their wares outside the theatre in Belgrade Square.

Pop-up craft shop, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

A wide range of handmade items will be available to browse and purchase, including greetings cards, wall plaques, paintings, jewellery, dolls, dreamcatchers, felt and fused glass ornaments, knitted baby clothes and accessories, and more.

The event is child-friendly and free to attend. Throughout the day, the Belgrade café bar will also be open and serving a selection of snacks and drinks which you can enjoy either outdoors or inside the theatre’s spacious foyers.

A wet-weather contingency plan has also been putting place, allowing the market to take place inside the building while maintaining social distancing, should it be unable to go ahead outside as planned.

Pop-up craft shop, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Craft On group leader Niki Doughty Lee, who is managing bookings for the pop-up shops as well as the Makers’ Market, said: “We’re grateful to the Belgrade Theatre for all they’ve done to accommodate our weekly craft sessions and to support and promote our work, so we’re delighted to be able to help them in return as COVID restrictions start to lift. We hope events like this will send a clear message that the theatre is now open and accessible to the community, even if shows are still unable to go ahead.

“I set up Craft On with the aim of reducing isolation and promoting mental wellbeing in Coventry – something which has never been more important than it is now that we are beginning to emerge from lockdown. Theatres like the Belgrade play a vital role in holding the community together, so we want to do everything we can to help keep them going through this difficult period and ensure their work can continue in the future.”

The Outdoor Makers’ Market will take place in Belgrade Square from 11am-4pm on Saturday 29 August. For any enquiries, email needlecraftforwellbeing@gmail.com.

Good option for entertaining the family in post-pandemic school holidays

Good option for entertaining the family in post-pandemic school holidays

AS we’re still getting to grips with the realities of a post-pandemic lifestyle – while the rest of the school holidays span ahead of us – there are now fewer ways that we’re comfortable in spending our family time.

So when Go Ape in Coventry recently reopened after lockdown it presented a tempting option in our ‘neck of the woods.’

Go Ape, Coombe Abbey Country Park, COVID-19, safety measures, Coventry

Set in 500 acres of historic woodlands at Coombe Abbey Country Park, there is no shortage of excitement – but also with a choice of courses for different thrill levels.

My teenage sons and three friends took on the Tree Top Challenge which is open to all experience levels (over 1.4 metres). But this doesn’t mean it’s a pushover for the more confident adventurers as there’s a mix of crossings cleverly designed to test everyone’s limits.

If you’re supervising someone younger, you’re not restricted to following in all their footsteps as the crossings do split off in various places offering different challenge levels while reuniting at the other end.

Go Ape, Coombe Abbey Country Park, COVID-19, safety measures, Coventry

And, despite traversing a few of Go Ape’s 35 courses over the years, the boys were delighted by Coombe’s new elements, such as a dual Tarzan swing and the exclusive Alpine zip-to-zip – a series of zip wires. Exclusive to Coventry, this feature soon has you swinging through trees with abandon, culminating in a 200m double zip course landing. Plummet – a vertical drop from a 12-metre-high platform is currently suspended but, from previous experience, I can report, is particularly exhilarating.

 

The zip to zip provides a thrilling finale to a course that, in my opinion, helps Coombe stand out from the others we’ve experienced.

For the younger ‘apes’ there is also The Tree Top Adventure (for all ages over 1 metre) and Tree Top Adventure + (for six plus and over 1.2 metres).

Compared to our first visit just after it opened last spring, the woodland area has matured and now and, more than ever, participants feel like they’re truly swinging in the trees.

But, in a new climate of cautiousness that’s been forced upon us, did we feel reassured by Go Ape’s COVID safety measures?

The equipment is regularly cleaned, there’s a hand sanitisation station, screens at the booking kiosk and distancing is encouraged between groups on the course. Instructors also wear visors.

Even the pens we borrow to sign the waiver form are deposited back into a separate container for wiping down once we’re finished.

But it’s the peace of mind of the open air and sensible, yet unobtrusive, safety measures that left us feeling comfortable on the day.

What better time than post lockdown to appreciate the freedom of the great outdoors – and from what better vantage point than the canopies of beautiful Coombe Abbey Country Park.

So swing on by, you won’t regret it.

Further details at: https://goape.co.uk/locations/coventry

Can you solve the Murder on. . . the Northern Belle?

Can you solve the Murder on. . . the Northern Belle?

IT’S going to be murder on the Northern Belle, the luxury British train once owned by the Orient Express group, when it pulls into the Midlands this month.

Passengers must use their detection clues to solve a dastardly crime while sipping champagne and tucking into a slap-up seven-course meal.

The Northern Belle, Murder Mystery, Coventry, Birmingham

The Murder Mystery Lunch trip, on March 27th will be the first ever held aboard the train as actors play out a dastardly scene in the 1930s-style Pullman carriages.

“We’re dying to see how it goes,” laughed Northern Belle managing director Jeanette Snape.

“Passengers will have to exercise their little grey cells while they eat lunch to try and discover whodunnit. Even I don’t know the culprit – although I can exclusively reveal that it probably wasn’t the butler this time!

“But even if passengers don’t solve the crime, they’ll still have a great day out. For our chef Matthew Greene has devised a menu to die for!”

The Northern Belle, Murder Mystery, Coventry, Birmingham

The Northern Belle, widely regarded as one of the most luxurious trains in the world, is now celebrating its 20th year of operation.

The seven carriages – one of which was formerly used by the Queen on her Royal Train – are always pulled by a heritage locomotive.

And every year around 18,000 passengers drink their way through 7,000 bottles of champagne and 12,000 bottles of wine.

Jeanette said: “Nothing is too good for them. They are pampered from the moment they step on board to the time we wave goodbye.

“This is travel the way it was in the golden era of railways.”

The Northern Belle, Murder Mystery, Coventry, Birmingham

The train departs from Coventry at 12.05pm before picking up more passengers at Birmingham International at 12.20pm.

It is scheduled back  at Coventry for 5.50pm and then Birmingham at 6.25pm.

The train will be back in Birmingham in April to take passengers for a blooming lovely day out at the Harrogate Flower Show and again in May to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Then dig out your top hats and fascinators, because in June the Northern Belle will take race-goers to Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot.

There will be several more excursions during the summer and autumn before a Christmas Lunch Trip in December.

The Northern Belle will make three more visits to Coventry this year, including one to the Dorset Seafood Festival at Weymouth.

Fares start at £210. For more details see www.northernbelle.co.uk or phone 01270 899681.

REVIEW COMING SOON.

Revving up for the new year!

Revving up for the new year!

NEED something to blow away the post-festive season cobwebs but feeling too chilly to venture outdoors?

Coventry’s newest state-of-the art go-karting track is fuelling a lot of excitement – and ticks all the boxes.

Teamsport Karting, Coventry,

Eager to get a piece of the action, we geared ourselves up to take the wheel for a spin around TeamSport’s latest venue.

Even seasoned karters will be impressed with the lengthy 500m circuit on multiple levels, featuring more bends, ramps and straights than your average track.

But it’s geared to all ages and abilities, whether you’re looking to improve your skills or take part in a team event, the karts – and the team – are revved up and waiting.

www.team-sport.co.uk/go-karting-coventry

So there’s as much scope for competitive adrenalin junkies to showcase their skills in the 200CC petrol karts as there is to simply enjoy some family fun.

The track can accommodate younger drivers (under 13) in specially designed Cadet Karts and offer birthday party packages as well, in the dedicated party room. Older party-goers aren’t forgotten either and Stag and Hen celebrations are also welcomed.

The flexibility and inclusiveness is great. But the most impressive feature of Coventry’s venue is the track itself. And with multiple short sessions to familiarise oneself with the layout, there’s plenty of opportunity to build your confidence and put your pedal to the metal for a genuinely thrilling ride.

Team Sport Karting, CoventryAll that said, nervous onlookers are quickly put at their ease as it’s clear safety is also at the forefront. No drivers are permitted on track until they’ve watched a lengthy safety video where, amongst other things, the all-important flag signals are explained. Plus the karts are slowed on the track at the first sign of a driver experiencing problems. But that doesn’t mean the brakes are continually put on the fun. The marshals are sensible about when they feel the need to intervene so the ‘flow of traffic’ can be maintained wherever possible.

Balaclavas, to be worn under helmets, are compulsory. With a choice of material ones for £2.50 or disposable ones for 50p, the reusable washable variety are better value if you’re likely to return – and, let’s face it, look way cooler on your teenagers!

Teamsport Karting, Coventry,

It’s a pleasant experience for non-participants as well with a comfortable bar area with food and drinks are available for purchase and a balcony area with seating for the perfect viewing platform. (Take a jumper in the colder months though as the cavernous building isn’t particularly warm for long periods spectating.)

The minimum age for taking part here is as low as eight and there are family karting sessions available so you can all compete against each other. (How many dads dare open themselves up to a thrashing from their fearless offspring?)

Great fun and highly recommended. Check out regular offers on their website. For further details and to book visit: www.team-sport.co.uk/go-karting-coventry