As Coventry begins its stint as UK City of Culture, we find both the town centre and the Telegraph Hotel full of surprises
From the wide picture window in my room at the new Telegraph Hotel in Coventry, I can see the Grade II-listed Belgrade Theatre. There are snazzy retro floor tiles in a mint-green bathroom. A mock tabloid newspaper in a wire in-tray makes a nice change from the usual plastic folder of guest-service info, and the front page offers a bit of history: the hotel is the former home of the city’s local paper, the Coventry Telegraph. Originally built in 1958, this classic example of flat-roofed, mid-century modernism has been reinvented to offer 88 rooms and a restaurant and bar. It opened post-lockdown on May 17 – just in time for the start of Coventry’s stint as UK City of Culture.
On the back page of the mock newspaper, co-owner Ian Harrabin outlines the hotel’s ambition to “recapture the glamour of the 50s and celebrate the unique style of postwar Coventry”. The design brief, I read, was to recreate a Mad Men media vibe (the American TV series was set in New York during the early 1960s). So, is it the sort of place that Don Draper might hang out in – if he happened to be in Coventry? I know what you’re thinking. Aside from Lady Godiva and the famous cathedral, the West Midlands city is best known for bomb damage and concrete reconstruction; in the decline of its once-thriving motor industry, it was more Detroit than Manhattan – a Ghost Town, according to the Specials. But I love a bit of mid-century modernism and come with an open mind.