Pioneering People: Sadler and the City

The photography of Richard Sadler in ther post-war era
All images copyright the Estate of Richard Sadler

From early February to mid March 2022, the first of three exhibitions looking at post-war Coventry through the photography of Richard Sadler.

There can be no thinking of returning to the good old days. The days of cramped houses and crippling streets. Of slums still living on in a lingering death from the last century.​​ (Dylan Thomas, A City Reborn, 1945, BFI)

In the aftermath of World War Two people looked to the future with one clear motive: never again must there be such devestation. The future must make life worth living: good jobs, good company and good living.

Coventry was bombed repeatedly by the Luftwaffe from early on in the war: the first bombs fell before Christmas 1940. Much of the city burned, particularly the city centre of medieval streets and a 14th century cathedral.

Reconstruction began quickly: Coventry's new City Architect, Donald Gibson, had been hired to moderise the city before the war. Though his plans had been accelerated in the worst possible way, he and his team set about their work quickly.

New ideas for a pedestrain shopping precinct, cathedral, leisure facilities, housing and roads were implemented, reflecting the optimism for future peace and prosperity.

Richard Sadler documented these times. He was a young photographer, working commercially for a variety of industrial and artistic clients, including the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry Cathedral, the RSC, Jaguar and Courtaulds, but also spent time as what we now call a street photographer, hanging around, documenting the life and times of Coventry.

We've included here 88 photographs from this era, a long list including many that haven't made the physical exhibition at the Old Grammar School, Hales Street, Coventry.

In it you'll see how young people passed their time in the city during those times: the young cowboys, dancers, teddy boys and teens. You'll see the Foleshill Jazz Club and the Umbrella Club as Coventry embraced new ways of spending time.

We also feature a look at Broadgate and the Godiva Cafe as examples of change. You'll see the loss of the old, the temporary shops, and the new, futuristic Coventry.

If you have enjoyed the online exhibition please come and visit us at the Old Grammar School, Hales Street, Coventry from the 8th February 2022.

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