Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre this week unveiled a new look to go with an ambitious strategic vision focusing on co-creating work with and inspired by our local communities.

Under the rallying call ‘Sharing Coventry’s stories since 1958’, the new brand was presented by Creative Director Corey Campbell and Chief Executive Laura Elliot with Chair Jonothan Neelands on Thursday 29 February for invited guests including local artists, audience members, funders and investors. The presentation included work-in-progress performances, interviews with project partners from the local community, and a short promotional film to go with the refreshed website

The new look was devised after extensive consultation and testing with stakeholders including audiences, local artists, participants, staff, trustees, funders and partners across education, healthcare, and the arts industry. It accompanies a new business plan to strengthen and grow the theatre’s reputation towards 2030.

The Belgrade Theatre’s unique history as a post-war community symbol of peace and reconciliation, famously named in recognition of a gift of timber from the Serbian capital, is strongly reinforced at the core of the vision. The theatre has long been recognised for its pioneering work over decades in Theatre-in-Education and is deeply engaged in creating projects with communities. With increased investment from Arts Council England, it announced last year a major expansion of producing capacity including five new roles running innovative programmes across the city.

Future artistic work fulfilling the new vision already underway or in development includes Swim, Aunty Swim! by Siana Bangura directed by Madeleine Kludje (May/June 2024), a new retelling of Romeo & Juliet directed by Corey Campbell (spring 2025), and Nanny Maroon the West African who escaped enslavement in Jamaica (spring 2026). This work will have co-creation at its heart, with local communities closely involved with these productions – for example, some of the music in Romeo & Juliet will be made with pupils from Extended Learning Centres in the region.

The launch event also coincided with Seaview, a three-part urban sci-fi drama, being streamed on Amazon Prime. This 2021 City of Culture project, developed by Corey Campbell during the pandemic, was shot predominantly in Coventry.

Following the best attended Pantomime in decades (2023/24), popular touring shows continue to grow at the Belgrade with record numbers of new and returning audiences since the lockdown period. Further co-productions are in progress with Bristol Old Vic and Hackney Empire, with Rose Theatre, tiata fahodzi, China Plate and Talawa; and tours of The Woman in BlackShrek the MusicalSister Act and the return of SIX are proving popular with new and long-standing audiences.

Launching the Belgrade’s new vision, Creative Director Corey Campbell said “Our responsibility to the communities of Coventry is founded on our rich legacy of Theatre-In-Education, co-creation and working with young people. In this new model, we’re taking that to the next level. True co-creation is more than collaboration; it’s interdependency. We rely on our communities to produce new work, and they rely on us to help them share their stories.”

Laura Elliot, Chief Executive, added, “In 1958, the Belgrade Theatre opened as part of the redevelopment of a city still healing from collective trauma as a piece of vital municipal infrastructure for the people of Coventry and our wider region. With our new plan, it will be as much a resource for health and wellbeing, education and career development as it is a space for entertainment. By 2030, success will be a theatre that is reflective of all Coventrians, a shared space for stories, creativity and civic pride, where diverse voices converge to explore, challenge, and celebrate the human experience. We are grateful to all our funders and supporters who journey with us as we roll out this ambitious new vision.”

Chair Jonothan Neelands of the University of Warwick commented, “The Belgrade will also play a major role in supporting Coventry’s professional and amateur cultural sector through its leadership in the new Coventry Cultural Works organisation – making Coventry a cultural beacon offering pleasure, learning and wellbeing to residents and visitors to our City. Across the UK, everyone knows these are tough times for regional councils, especially in the Midlands. And here at the Belgrade we have always been grateful for the generous support of our mission, from Coventry City Council who see the wider beneficial impact it has for all of our communities.”