New start for Coventry's old Daimler factory building

Coventry’s Daimler factory building has been given a lease of new life. The building is part of Coventry’s beating industrial heart, it was the first car factory in Britain and was where the production motor car and the first Fork Lift Truck was created. As reported by CoventryLive, the old factory building has been turned into a GBP2.5 million creative hub for artists in time for the City of Culture.

Led by Imagineer Productions, the purpose-built Daimler Powerhouse will provide an accessible space where artists and groups can come together to create outdoor and site-specific creative work. And on April 14, to celebrate the completion of the Daimler Powerhouse project, the keys were handed over from Robert Wigley from Wigley Group developers to Roger Medwell, Chair of Imagineer’s Board. Aerialists Luka Owen and Daniel Connor performed as part of the key handover with a Fork Lift Truck, in a nod to Daimler’s engineering past.

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The emails come out twice a day with the latest news and what’s on stories from across Coventry. It is likely you are familiar with the work of Imagineers Productions. They were responsible for the bridge in Broadgate with aerial performances, the 20ft mechanical statue of Lady Godiva, and the much-loved Festival of Imagineer, which would take Coventry by storm every year.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: Aerialists Luka Owen and Daniel Connor perform with a Fork Lift Truck to mark the handover of the former Daimler Car Factory to Imagineer by the Wigley Group on April 14, 2021 in Coventry, England.

The building will include a sound recording studio and edit suite, as well as a Sprung Dance Floor and Vertical Dance Wall. As well as providing a home for Imagineer’s innovative education and training programmes aimed at young people and people with disabilities. (Photo by Darren Staples/Getty Images)

Last week CoventryLive shared the fascinating memories of a former automotive industry worker Albert Smith, who started his apprenticeship at the Daimler factory in 1944 aged just 16. Mr Smith actually worked as a junior draftsman on the design of the first British fork lift truck ET199, pictured below.

The Coventry Climax Engines ET199 the first British-produced forklift truck, seen here being demonstrated by a girl worker at the Coventry factory that produces the truck.

The demonstration included lifting a large racing car weighing nearly one and a half tons.

8th October 1946

When will the Daimler Powerhouse open?

The grand opening of the Daimler Powerhouse is set to take place in August 2021 as part of the City of Culture celebrations.

A computer-generated image of the new Daimler Powerhouse creative hub for artistsA computer-generated image of the new Daimler Powerhouse creative hub for artists

The GBP2.5million creative hub has been funded through GBP1.9 million from the Cultural Capital Investment Fund which is resourced from Coventry City Council and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal.

History of the Daimler Powerhouse

1860 – Mass unemployment in Coventry due to the collapse of the silk ribbon trade

1863 – First big Factory built on the Daimler site to provide employment for starving weavers

1896 – The factory is turned into Harry Lawson’s The Motor Mills

1898 – The Motor Mills becomes the Daimler Works the first car factory in the UK

1904 – Daimler’s 600 employees produce 25 cars a month

1907 – Daimler Powerhouse – An electric power station for Daimler Co Ltd built and up and running

1910 – Daimler’s 4000 employees produce 200 cars a month

1940 – Daimler Powerhouse survives significant bombing of the Daimler site

1940s – Coventry Climax move on to the site

1946 – UK’s First Forklift Truck designed and manufactured, The Coventry Climax ET199

1959 – 1965 – Coventry Climax powers four F1 World Champions

2010 – Imagineer moves into the Daimler Powerhouse

2020 – Work begins on the capital redevelopment of the Daimler Powerhouse

2021 – Building completion anticipated for official launch August 2021 as part of the UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations. The Wigley Group, which owns Sandy Lane Business Park and have undertaken the development work, have contributed an additional GBP350,000 as well as agreeing a highly-discounted 20-year lease on Daimler Powerhouse, as well as a neighbouring building, as part of the redevelopment. Additional funding has been raised from The Foyle Foundation, Medwell-Hyde, The Garfield Weston Foundation and The May 29th 1961 Charitable Trust.

With building works complete, the interior of the creation centre will be completed over the coming months.

GBP150,000 from Arts Council England will ensure state of the art infrastructure is embedded within the building including a sound recording studio and edit suite, as well as a newly installed Sprung Dance Floor and Vertical Dance Wall.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: A dancer performs to mark the handover of the former Daimler Car Factory to Imagineer by the Wigley Group on April 14, 2021 in Coventry, England. The building will include a sound recording studio and edit suite, as well as a Sprung Dance Floor and Vertical Dance Wall. As well as providing a home for Imagineer’s innovative education and training programmes aimed at young people and people with disabilities. (Photo by Darren Staples/Getty Images)

Roger Medwell, Chair of the Board for Godiva Awakes Trust said: “It really is testament to the dedication of our partners and funders that, even during these challenging times, building works are complete on time and on budget.

“The Wigley Group have done a fantastic job of preserving and maintaining the heritage of the building whilst also creating a modern and accessible space that will support not just Imagineer and the resident companies but the outdoor arts sector as a whole.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: Roger Medwell, Chair of the Board for Godiva Awakes Trust stands with Aerialists Luka Owen and Daniel Connor after the handover of the former Daimler Car Factory to Imagineer by the Wigley Group on April 14, 2021 in Coventry, England. The building will include a sound recording studio and edit suite, as well as a Sprung Dance Floor and Vertical Dance Wall. As well as providing a home for Imagineer’s innovative education and training programmes aimed at young people and people with disabilities. (Photo by Darren Staples/Getty Images)

“Daimler Powerhouse will be a space for future generations of artists and creative engineers and it is wonderful to see the building coming to life again.”

James Davies, managing director of The Wigley Group, said: “This has been a joint project with a number of partners to create a cultural legacy on a site of great historical importance to the city and we look forward to seeing how it can develop the talents of existing and emerging artists and creatives well beyond this important year for Coventry as UK City of Culture.”

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry City of Culture Trust said: “I can’t wait to see this new centre spring to life, and am excited to be working with all of the Powerhouse’s artistic residents to create new shows within our UK City of Culture year.”

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