Children play amongst artwork from Totally Thames 2019 ©

Milo Robinson

Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 will commence on 15 May 2021, running for 12 months. The 365-day cultural programme will reflect Coventry as a diverse, modern city, demonstrating that culture is a force that changes lives. Coventry is known internationally as a city of welcome, a city of activists and pioneers, peace and reconciliation, innovation, and invention, and now a City of Culture. The British Council is the International Partner for UK City of Culture 2021.

Rivers of the World is an international art project which harnesses creative talent amongst students, develops learning and interest in natural and local environments and provides a framework for international schools to work in long-term and mutually-beneficial partnerships.

In 2019, the programme launched in Coventry, UK and a two-year programme of artist-led workshops and international collaboration began. A cluster was formed including every SEN school in the city who were then partnered with peers in Bagamoyo and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. This resulted in a twenty-strong contingent of schools in two countries. A cluster of this nature and size had never been seen before in Coventry, nor in Rivers of the World, and it is hoped that this successful partnership can provide a blueprint for future iterations and cities both in the UK and further afield.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, all schools successfully submitted a piece of artwork for exhibition. Students attended workshops (both virtually and in person) and designed individual pieces based on a specific theme. These were collated and merged onto panels by local artists Amanda Randall and Colin Yates (UK) and Ernest Mtaya (Tanzania). The final panels (well over 6ft in size and an impressive array of colour and detail) were some of almost sixty pieces that were exhibited at Totally Thames 2020 on London’s Southbank. The exhibition was free to view for the public throughout the month September.

Students are about to embark on the second and final year of Rivers of the World, in which the focus of the workshops and artwork will switch from the river Sherbourne in Coventry to the river Ruvu and its tributaries in Tanzania. These will again feature prominently in Totally Thames this year, with a location to be announced in the near future.

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