Coventry City of Culture team recognised in Queen's Birthday Honours
As the baton passes to Bradford for UK City of Culture 2023, three of the major figures behind Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture 2021 have been recognised in HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive of Coventry City of Culture Trust, has been awarded an OBE, while the Trust’s Creative Director Chenine Bhathena, and Director of Audience Strategy Laura McMillan receive MBEs.
The awards were announced at the start of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and day after it was announced that Bradford would succeed Coventry as UK City of Culture.
Martin Sutherland’s award recognises his services to Culture and to Economic and Social Regeneration in Coventry. He joined the Trust in 2018 from his role as Chief Executive of Royal & Derngate theatres in Northampton.
He is also Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Cultural Leadership Board, which he established following an invitation to do so from the Mayor, Andy Street.
Under his leadership, the UK City of Culture programme has delivered major skills, training, volunteering and sector development activities – all intended to strengthen the cultural and community sector post-pandemic and as the city moves into the City of Culture legacy period.
He will remain in his role until March 2023 to oversee the transition of the Trust and to ensure the success of the cultural legacy.
Chenine Bhathena receives the MBE in recognition of her services to Culture and to the community in Coventry. She joined the Trust in 2018 from her role as Senior Culture Manager for the Greater London Authority, where she conceived, designed and delivered the Mayor of London’s first London Borough of Culture competition and as London 2012 Creative Programmer, delivered the biggest outdoor festival London has ever seen.
She been the architect of the Coventry UK City of Culture creative programme, putting co-creation with citizens at the centre, bringing national and international creative partnerships to the city, initiating the creative vision for The Reel Store digital gallery, and with additional responsibility for developing significant broadcast opportunities with partners such as the BBC and Sky.
She leaves the Trust in June, but will continue to support the Trust to develop broadcast partnerships, and with the evaluation and storytelling of the year.
Laura McMillan also receives her MBE in recognition of her services to Culture and to the community in Coventry.
She was the Trust’s first employee in 2015 when she joined as Bid Coordinator, going on to be part of the Team that presented to the Judges to secure the title. Before joining the Trust, she worked for both the Royal Shakespeare Company and Warwick Castle.
She is also on the Board for Coventry’s Destination Management Organisation and the Regional Board for Tourism. She will continue to work with the Trust until the beginning of October before embarking on a freelance career.
Martin Sutherland said the honours reflected the success of the 12 months, but also the lasting impact UK City of Culture had made on the city and the region.
He said: “From day one it was our aim to deliver a UK City of Culture year that was created with and included all communities in the city and brought lasting social and economic benefit to Coventry and its citizens.
“It meant delivering a very different UK City of Culture than those that had gone before, and that was obviously made more challenging with Covid. It is therefore a great tribute to everyone involved in the year that we were able to deliver on so many of our promises to the city.
“I am grateful that our work has been recognised in this way”.
Chenine Bhathena said: “I don’t think any city other than Coventry – with its history of resilience and its indomitable spirit – could have made a success of UK City of Culture in such difficult times.
“We built a caring, collaborative and dynamic City of Culture programme, that was co-created and shaped by our many different citizens, rooted in our broad heritage, celebrating our differences, and that has shared our evolving identity as a pioneering and inclusive 21st century city.
“Our year has been playful, engaging and at a time of great need created connection and much joy. I am proud that we are the first city of culture to put social activism at the heart and am forever thankful to the work of our brilliant team.
“We have nurtured a huge cultural movement, developed talent, invested in young leaders, built amazing new partnerships and demonstrated the value of culture in all aspects of everyday life.
“The broadcast partnerships that we continue to cultivate have brought Coventry to the world, and the stories we have captured will live on as a legacy of our year of Culture.”
Laura McMillan said: “To work on such a transformative project, in a city I have made my home, has been a unique opportunity and it’s been a privilege to work alongside such a talented and committed Team.
“Securing the title was just the beginning, having been involved from the starts it’s been incredible to watch how the city has changed and I’ve enjoyed every moment of seeing audiences enjoying City of Culture events.
“It's taken the work of so many people to make a success of UK City of Culture, and I think we have shown the absolute best of Coventry”
Martin Sutherland is Chief Executive of Coventry City of Culture Trust, the organisation charged with delivering Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2021 and planning its legacy.
Born in Paisley in Scotland, he was educated at Alva Academy before going on to study at Lancaster University, the University of California (Davis) and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
He was Chief Executive of Royal & Derngate theatres in Northampton for 11 years, during which time he also developed and launched the Northampton Filmhouse and the Core at Corby Cube arts centre and transferred productions, Made in Northampton, to the National Theatre, the West End and Broadway.
He also spent four years as Director of The Corn Exchange & New Greenham Arts in Newbury, Berkshire and eight years in London working as a theatre and comedy producer.
Martin is also Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Cultural Leadership Board.
Chenine Bhathena is the Creative Director for Coventry 2021, the UK City of Culture. She has been the architect of the creative programme, with additional responsibility for Broadcast partnerships.
Chenine is committed to leading cultural movements: putting culture at the centre of city change initiatives, harnessing community activism, creating initiatives that are playful, joyful and celebratory, but with a strong social conscience.
She brings her own mixed heritage (British/Pakistani) background into all her work, to ensure that inclusion and difference are centre stage in all of her cultural programmes.
Chenine previously worked for the Greater London Authority where she conceived, designed and delivered the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture competition. As London 2012 Creative Programmer for the Olympics/Paralympics she led London’s biggest ever outdoor festival, and at Arts Council England (London and national offices) she led strategic programmes for Outdoor Arts, Creative Producers, local authorities, young people and disability arts.
Laura McMIllan is Director of Audience Strategy at Coventry City of Culture Trust, the charity responsible for the delivery of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture 2021.
Since leaving University with a Drama degree, Laura has lived in Coventry. Working in the Midlands for over ten years, she initially worked in the Sales and Marketing department of Warwick Castle before moving to the Marketing department of the Royal Shakespeare Company where she spent four years marketing their productions.
Laura was the first employee of Coventry City of Culture Trust in October 2015 where she was responsible for overseeing all aspects of the bidding process including the coordination of writing the bids, managing multiple stakeholders across the region and presenting to the judges.
In her current role, Laura is responsible for the Marketing, Communications, Ticketing, Digital Content and Monitoring and Evaluation departments and is part of the Senior Management Team. Laura oversees the audience development and tourism strategies for the Trust and is a member of the West Midlands Combined Authority Regional Tourism Board.