Haunting #4: Cathedral of Culture - 29 December 2018
An event celebrating the cultural history of Coventry Cathedral featuring a newly restored recording of Celebration, the television programme of Duke Ellington’s 1966 performance in the Cathedral.
This evening of archive television showcased the important role that Coventry Cathedral has played in the arts and culture, locally, nationally and internationally. At its centre, the event featured the first showing since February 1966 of Duke Ellington and his Orchestra performing the European premiere of their First Concert of Sacred Music at Coventry Cathedral. This extraordinary conjunction of secular music in a sacred setting was broadcast by ITV on the Midlands ABC channel as part of their Easter programming, under the title Celebration. In the half century since, this recording was presumed lost and forgotten in the history of jazz television. Its rediscovery in the Studiocanal archive and subsequent digital restoration by the archive television company Kaleidoscope with generous support from the University of Warwick offered just under 400 people an unmissable opportunity to see Ellington play in Coventry once more.
Interviewed about the Coventry concert, Ellington said, “It’s one of the most satisfying things I have ever done. And the most important.”
Also showing at this event were a complete and partially restored screening of Coventry Cathedral/An Act of Faith which Helen Wheatley discovered in the Cathedral's own archive, and a specially curated package of coverage of the Cathedral's cultural events by our project partners at the Media Archive of Central England.
What were people saying when we asked them how this encounter with the television archive had changed their thoughts or feelings about Coventry:
Lots of people talked about how the evening had opened up the history of the Cathedral and the city for them. Just under a third of our respondents said that the event had increased or confirmed their sense of pride in Coventry or helped them reconnect with the city after living away.
“Reinforced, really, my pride in this city of reconciliation, diversity, inspiration and radical vision”
“It has given me a greater sense of the history and community of Coventry and its cathedral”
“I grew up here so am very used to the cathedral, to the point where I don’t really notice it. Seeing the story of its construction has made me appreciate it in a new light”
“I’ve recently returned to live in Cov after 30 years away and it’s been very inspiring to reconnect with this evening”
People also talked about the fact that they had enjoyed the evening and that it brought back many memories for them
“It is wonderful to see my home in the archives.”
Comments were made about the city and the Cathedral as both an artistic and a spiritual space:
“Cov was doing such rad things such a long time ago”
“It shows how the Cathedral has been used beside Church Services. This makes the whole of Coventry be involved”
“The Cathedral should be celebrated in the same way Sagrada Familia is in Barcelona. I really enjoyed the setting.”
There were also a number of comments about how great it had been to watch both Celebration and An Act of Faith IN the cathedral
“To sit in the cathedral and watch this documentary was a special experience. It highlighted the importance of the rebuilding of the cathedral for the people of Coventry – for both its history and its future”
“Act of Faith – Fascinating – I was left wondering how the documenting of other cathedrals was preserved – maybe scribes and paintings.”
We also asked people whether their opinion of the value and importance of the television archive had changed:
Half of our respondents said something like 'it's important to preserve this archive – this has further confirmed this for me'
“Television is part of our culture and it should also be preserved to compare how our culture keeps changing”
“Having watched the lost Morecambe and Wise episodes over Xmas, I’m struck that there is great interest in TV archives at present. They’re our national heritage – something we grew up with”
A number of our visitors (just under 10%) said that until this event they didn’t realise how important the TV archive was or didn’t know there were such things as TV archives
“I had no knowledge of it as such. I now do. A very good means of documenting culture and history”
“This is incredibly important – just amazes me that these items lay undiscovered”
People had really interesting things to say about the way that encounters with the archive might be a spiritual or emotional experience:
“The archive footage felt really spiritual – I’d not realised it could be so.”
“It is very pertinent how TV archive allows you to see, touch, hear and feel history like other sources do not”
People also highlighted the significance of the archive as part of our local/national heritage:
“Being able to see and hear the thoughts and feelings of local people recorded during my lifetime is great”
“[This event] persuaded me that we need to invest more in preserving documentary and TV footage”