A fiercely contested Javelin competition, reported in tweets.

If you didn’t make it to our Javelin competition (no 5 in our Decathlon) a competition to sculpt the most interesting structure using only mini-javelins (aka cocktail sticks) and marshmallows, then you can experience the tensions and glories vicariously via our Storify story of the night (basically the entire event documented through tweets – with lots of pictures).

It was a good night!



9000 cocktail stick javelins stand ready for Friday’s #tbdecathlon event @covartspace


Cocktail sticks come in bundles of 100, in boxes of 1000. I’m less sure how many mini marshmallows are in the litre buckets, but hopefully there will be enough… Whether your ambitions stretch to making a geodesic dome or a metre high Eiffel Tower, a javelin-throwing athlete or an alternative Olympic Torch, we’re looking forward to welcoming you to our sociable evening sculpture competition – aka the Javelin (see what we did there?). This is the latest event in the Talking Birds’ Decathlon and will take place at Coventry Artspace this Friday – 20th July – rounding off their day-long Artspace Hijack event. Talking Birds is hijacking the community room and will be giving it the fairy godmother treatment throughout the day to prepare it for an evening of chat and invention…

Bring a friend or two and register a team (of up to 4) to work together to build something magical using only cocktail sticks and marshmallows…there’ll be refreshments on tap, we’ll provide the materials and the space. And there will be a *magnificent* prize for the most interesting/imaginative/impressive sculpture – as judged by our tame *celebrity* judge.

Register teams from 5.30. Build starts at 6pm.

At Coventry Artspace, 16, Lower Holyhead Road, Coventry CV1 3AU.


See you there!

How to see some stuff and get your mitts on a tremendous loyalty bonus prize (or something)

Crikey there’s a lot on this week. Ready? Grab your hats…

If you are in COVENTRY, BIRMINGHAM, STRATFORD or environs tomorrow (THURSDAY) come & see us alongside Graeme Rose, Kindle Theatre, Caroline Horton and Teasel Theatre and Lucy Ellinson at Pilot Night at the RSC.

If you are in LICHFIELD on SATURDAY go & see The Whale at the Lichfield Festival.

If you are in LEAMINGTON SPA on SATURDAY come via the Pump Rooms for the Long Jump bit of our Decathlon project.

If you are in SUSSEX on SUNDAY go & see The Whale at the Dromos Festival.

If you are in or around COVENTRY (or prepared to travel!) the following Friday (20th) get a team together and come and compete in our sociable cocktail-stick sculpture competition (aka our Decathlon Javelin) as part of the Coventry Artspace Hijack event.

And if you can provide compelling photographic evidence (post on facebook or tweet to @birdmail) that you were at FOUR or more of these events we’ll shell out for a TREMENDOUS LOYALTY BONUS PRIZE for you because, y’know, we’re nice like that every once in a while…


Photo by Charlotte H N Cooper, taken in Exeter and shared on Facebook.

Did we show you *your* Coventry?


Song for a Phoenix, commissioned to mark the arrival of the Olympic Torch in Coventry, told a potted 1000 year history of Coventry, while the city was built on stage around our narrator, John Flitcroft. Then, from the Olympic cauldron (metaphorically, you understand), the Phoenix (played by Jumoké Fashola) appeared – to sing a love song to the city. 

We were slightly terrified (to say the least) of playing to 20,000 people, but it seemed to go down well and we’ve had some lovely audience comments. We’ve posted the script, lyrics, credits, comments, some pictures and a tiny video here, and we’re collecting audience photos in a facebook album. If you were there and would like to share your pictures or video – or just tell us whether we showed you your Coventry – we’d love to hear from you.


Song for a Phoenix: commissioned to mark the arrival of the Olympic Torch in Coventry on July 1st 2012


Song for a Phoenix

[The curtain opens. There are two trees on stage. A man appears, and tells this story as the city is built around him.]


And then after the flame was lit, it burned for the city of three hundred thousand, the city of Coventry.

 A city which grew out of a clearing in the forest of Arden. A city which was invaded by the Romans. A city which was invaded by the Vikings. A city which was invaded by the Normans. A city which built itself a castle to stop people invading it all the time. A city which was once the capital city. A city which was once the royal city. A city which had the English parliament governing from just near where we’ve got a Pizza Express now.

A city of hope and a city of lost love. This is the city where William Shakespeare jilts a lovesick Coventry woman at the alter, Anne Whately, and goes off to marry a pregnant Stratford girl instead, heartbroken at his mistake, he takes up writing. This is the city where David Hasslehof proposes to his girlfriend at the Ricoh Arena for the fifth time, and gets turned down.

This is a city of firsts. The first jet engine, the first safety bike, the first beat officer from an ethnic minority, the first theatre in education company, and perhaps most excitingly, the first car indicators. This is the city which nearly burned down the Mermaid Tavern while giving demonstrations of new fangled electricity. This is the city which produced Ellen Terry the finest actor in Britain. This is the city which produced the founding father of modern Australia and put a kangaroo sculpture at Canley station in his honour.

This is a city of local heroes. People like Private William Pepper who died at the Somme and who had a tree planted in his honour. It’s leaves are keeping someone in this park in the shade right now.

This is the city which saw its factories felled, its houses smashed, its cathedral burnt. But with the fires raging and the rubble falling, it’s a city whose women sent a tablecloth to Stalingrad signed with their names as a message of solidarity and hope.

This is a city where architect Donald Gibson and sculptor Trevor Tennant, on a piece of quarry stone, carved a phoenix, and laid it in the city centre as a levelling stone, around which the new city would be built.

This is a city of little victories for the ordinary people who live here like Peter Cox who borrows his first book from the library in Pepper Lane. In 1940 usherette Betty Brown dashes out of the air raid shelter wearing nothing but a small towel. It’s the one bright moment of local fire watcher Alfred Williams’ night. In 1947 a ten year old Cov schoolboy Michael Spellacy waves at Laurel and Hardy as they arrive at the Coventry Hippodrome. In the same year David Vernon reaches seven miles an hour sledging in the snow at Allesley Park. His mum uses 4 shillings in the meter to thaw him out. In 1951 A Belgian called Joseph Draps watches the Godiva Carnival and decides to name his world famous chocolates after the legendary woman.

In 1960 the first mosque is built in Eagle Street in Foleshill. The same year Phillip Larkin’s family home is demolished to make way for the Ring Road.  Olympic swimmer Bob Lord swims the first length at the new Coventry pool on Fairfax Street. A year later, sportsman Deep Singh plays a Kabbadi match in the first Coventry Kabbadi tournament. And four men start collecting ten shillings from every Sikh family in Coventry to build the city’s first temple. In 1967 seventeen year old assistant zoo keeper Richard McCormack is barged by Harry the Hippo at Coventry Zoo. His bruised bum is treated at the Cov and Warwick Hospital. Melanie and Bill from Eastern Green watch John Lennon and Yoko Ono plant two acorns under a peace bench. A week later Melanie and Bill come back but the acorns are stolen. And the bench has gone too.

In 1972 Come Dancing, hosted by Terry Wogan, is recorded at the Locarno Ballroom, now the central library. Nine years later the Locarno becomes Tif
fany’s and is one of the clubs that get closed down in the nineteen eighties. City pub crawls take in the Alhambra, the Silver Sword, the Penny Black, the 3 Tuns, and The Thistle. At the Cabin Studios on London Road the Primitives record their first album, the pope kisses the ground at Bagington airport, and newly elected MP Dave Nellist is earmarked to share an office with Gordon Brown.

In 1987 Sohen Singh Cheema sleeps under a blanket outside Highfield Road to be sure he’ll get a ticket for the FA Cup final at Wembley. Four weeks later forty thousand Coventry fans fall in love with Gary Mabbutt’s knee. <sung> Let’s all sing together, play up sky blues, while we sing together, we will never lose, Tottenham or Chelsea, United or anyone, they shan’t defeat us, we’ll fight til the game is won.

In 1992 The British juggling convention is set up in Coventry. In 95 the Depot Studios on Bond Street starts offering courses on something called the internet. And at Baginton airport Jill Phipps dies making a stand for something she believed in. Bill and Sue from Wyken who first held hands at the Odeon on Jordon Well, hold hands again at the newly opened Skydome. On Millennium Eve the city watches Frenchman Ramon Kelvink walk the high wire between Holy Trinity spire and Saint Michael’s spire.

So now in the 21st century, Andy Green slips over on the ice at the ice rink, but is helped up by Mandy Bennett who buys him a hot chocolate. Olly from Binley sees Concorde for the first time as it takes its last flight over the city. And a freak apple storm hits Keresely but an apple pie is made by schoolteacher Mrs Collins for her neighbour Sue. Sprinter Marlon Devonish wins gold at the Athens Olympics and walks the medal through the streets. The Enemy play Wembley stadium. Maggie Gallagher wins the Glass Boot and joins the Linedance Hall of Fame. Bex Shiner wears an I love Cov t-shirt on Big Brother. Chris Harris wins the British Speedway Championship at Coventry Stadium. And at the same time, Ryan Gleeson dresses up as batman and proposes to his girlfriend in West Orchard shopping centre. She says yes.

These are just some of the stories, big and small, from this city of three hundred thousand.

And today’s story the 1st July 2012 the Olympic torch, made right here in the city, arrives carried by Debbie Horton of Nuneaton and he lights a cauldron of fire.

And out of the flames comes the phoenix.

[Phoenix appears, walks through the cityscape and sings:]

Out of the furnace and
Out of the flame,
White, red and orange
The fire has a name.

Heat in its wings
It rises, and hovers
To look at the earth for
The city, its lovers:

The old Highfield Road,
Memorial park,
The Swanswell pond
Reflecting the stars.

The circular market
Cathedral glass
The joke shop, the batch bar
The Triumph Vitesse.

Mosaics in subways,
The bright orange lights
That flash on the ring road,
When driving at night.

Out of the furnace and
Out of the flame,
White, red and orange
The fire has a name.

I only love
A city that changes
A city that lives with its
Triumphs and failures.
I only love
A city that’s suffered
A city that knows
What it is to be beautiful. Beautiful.

The Ferodo Bridge
The moon bright and silvery
Casting light
On the London Road cemetery.

Wainbody woods,
The marshes at Brandon,
The Ryton pools,
The Wedge at Coundon.

Roof of the Herbert
The Odeon dome,
The big old grey sports centre
Shaped like an elephant.

The cobbles on Bailey Lane
Under your tyres
The newspaper vendors
Who shout ‘City Final’

The old Dog and Trumpet,
The ice rink, the bars
The Belgrade pantomime
Bands with guitars.

The sweet shop in Foleshill,
All the black cabs
The sun setting over
The batwing flats.

Wyken and Willenhall
Churches, and bells,
Cheylesmore and Styvechale
That no one can spell.
Rivers and fields,
The hills and the fords
The houses in Earlsdon
That we can’t afford.

I only love
A city that changes
A city that lives with its
Triumphs and failures.
I only love
A city that’s suffered
A city that knows
What it is to be beautiful. Beautiful,
You’re beautiful,
You’re beautiful,
You’re beautiful.

Love for the Harriers
Love for the Bees
Love for the Sky Blues,
Love the twin cities.
Beautiful, you’re beautiful. Love for the Sherborne,
Love for the ribbon.
Love for the Two Tone
Love for the Jaguars
Love for the Velodrome.
Love for the city,
Of three hundred thousand.

Cast & Credits:

Phoenix City (where the city is built and it’s stories are told)

Performed by:
John Flitcroft (Narrator)
Sam Fox, Hannah Rhodes and Alison Symons (Vocalists)
Fred Davidson, David Steggles, Emma Thompson and Nick Walker (bringing on the buildings)

Words written by Nick Walker
Music composed by Derek Nisbet
Set & Costumes designed by Janet Vaughan

Music performed by The Orchestra of the Swan conducted by David Curtis
Music recorded and mixed by Matt Katz

Illustrations drawn by James Bourne
Set construction by Belgrade Production Services

Stage management by Steve Cressy and Lou Lomas

Research by Anne Forgan and Mollie Davidson

Torch Song (where the Phoenix sings a love song to Coventry)

Performed by:
Jumoké Fashola (the Phoenix)

Backing Vocalists:
Sam Fox, Hannah Rhodes and Alison Symons

Words written by Nick Walker
Music composed by Pete Wyer
Costumes designed by Janet Vaughan
Costumes constructed by Alison Kirkpatrick

Music performed by The Orchestra of the Swan conducted by David Curtis
Music recorded and mixed by Matt Katz

Stage management by Steve Cressy and Lou Lomas

Both pieces (collectively known as Song for a Phoenix) were commissioned by Coventry City Council & supported by Arts Council England