Disappear Here is a project that aims to bring together nine writers and nine film-makers to make a series of films about the Coventry ringroad. We are currently crowdfunding start-up support to get the project off the ground and, to-date, we are almost half-way to our target figure of £1000.
The challenge of Disappear Here is to bring together artists of different stripes, some more experienced practitioners, others up and coming and hungry; native Coventrians and people who might be coming to the city for the first time and seeing it with fresh eyes; expressing the human aspect of what is so commonly seen as an inhuman structure, another one of HRH Charles’ “concrete monstrosities” – by way of contrast, witness the faux-Kensington banality of his ideal housing estate, Poundbury – but it is also fair to say that few near-monolithic concrete structures inspire such intense feelings of love and loathing.
But there is a positivity to the project. As much as it is anything, Coventry Ringroad is an archetype of reinvention. Each time the same A4053 road, but every journey around it different. It is the eye through which Coventry is (notoriously) seen, and can be seen, from above and below; a looping horizon where tarmac sea and brilliant blue sky meet and form a sinew of shuffling perspective. Here is one of the first videos we created a test-run for the Disappear Here concept – Antony Owen – The Dreamer of Samuel Vale House:
Having spent many hours, day and night, circumnavigating (traipsing about) Coventry ringroad, I became fascinated with its welcoming overhang of proud underbelly. The swell of concrete, the gross lump of potential energy as mass is a perpetual question – round and round, enacting flux, but arriving at no answer, generating only questions.
Coventry is an ex-working-class city, chock-full with post-industrial grit from crumbling fire of red brick, after many of its 70s, 80s and 90s industries successively closed down. As such, the city has become an affordable and welcoming haven for artists with a burgeoning community of creative and socially-conscious practitioners – there is a story to be told there. I think the people and the city’s physical attitudes speak to this, guarded but protective. As both defensive wall and encircling stranglehold – the ringroad echoes this taut insularity, but also provides us with a blank canvas for reimagining public space. I think this push/pull reflex makes for an interesting tension as to how we define a city and its search for its centre.
It’s an irony that the creation of the ringroad brought about a series of displacements (the least of which being the destruction of the childhood home of errant Coventrian poet, Philip Larkin, more rightly, of Hull) that sought to unite and focus the city as shopping precinct, promenading arcades and preservation of ruins and sites of heritage, including the Coventry Baths Elephant, a modernist beast of epic girth that was sadly not granted listed status and is due for demolition.
But in place of fear, new generations of artists, eager to look beyond the apparent greyness of concrete, swept-up in the internationaliste fervour of post-Situationist post-Ballardian psychogeographic dogma that has voraciously absorbed hipsters/Brutalism/Iain Sinclair/The Guardian/Shoreditch wankers/Will Self with gruff uniformity of common interest – thus what’s brute is automatically beautiful (Milton Keynes?) – but each will have their own stories to tell – whether they are born-and-bred citizens, London ex-pats, outsiders or newly-arrived to the city (unlike other UK centres, Coventry has a strong reputation for inclusively welcoming and embracing immigrants and refugees a la Two-Tone). There is an argument that the self-loving lust of interstices and abandoned spaces (ruin porn) has become insular and in its own way alienating, which is where Disappear Here has a fresh perspective around urban space, to aggravate as much as analyse the good, the bad and the less deceived of Coventry ringroad.
As Larkin identifies in his poem, Here, so many modern cities share a history and formation of modernist town centres as well architectural and town-planning follies, such that they could be mistaken for one another. For me, this makes many themes of Coventry ringroad universal to citizens across the UK (and the rest of the world), both as physical space and in the social make-up and attitudes of its population. In spite of its relatively small size, Coventry is one of the most diverse cities in the UK which is something to embrace in the relatively niche world of poetry films; an emerging medium that is highly adaptable in creating impressionistic, conceptual films, or more straightforward narrative performances, often clocking-in at under 5 minutes. The mercurial nature of a written poem then read or performed alongside visuals is actually a highly-accessible medium as it breaks down barriers of language and can be enjoyed on many levels.
So, if you want to see alternative histories, new beginnings and the creation of unique poetry/film collaborations about Coventry ringroad (and future cities) please support the fundraising campaign, submit your pitches once the project is launched and SHARE and disseminate our propaganda:
About the author of this post
Disappear Here is a project created by Adam Steiner, an artist who co-founded the Coventry-based not-for-profit publisher, Silhouette Press and Here Comes Everyone magazine back in 2012, as well as holding various literary events across Coventry, including the Fire & Dust poetry open-mics at The Big Comfy Bookshop (Fargo).