Final countdown for City of Culture champions

As the odds for the city to bag the City of Culture crown hit high, we look at a few of their unique artistic outputs

With the UK City of Culture 2021 decision imminent – it was announced today that the winning city will be revealed on December 7 – the judging panel have been making their way through the five shortlisted hopefuls: Sunderland, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent, Swansea and Coventry. With the final countdown now underway, The Big Issue decided to take a look at a lesser-seen side of one of the candidates in this week’s Big Issue.

The odds for Coventry to win have now hit 6/4, with Paisley and Stoke-on-Trent hot on the heels at joint 4/1 and Swansea and Sunderland 9/1 and 5/1.

To celebrate the upcoming announcement, the collected work of Maganbhai Patel, one of Coventry’s most celebrated photographers, has had his work published for the first time.

Patel would tell his subjects that they looked like film stars: “Making people relaxed and showing another side of themselves is what made photography enjoyable,” he says.


Patel, better known as Masterji (the Hindi word for teacher), came to Coventry from India in 1951 and spent decades photographing his community. His collection of images was rediscovered by his daughter and led to an exhibition held last year to support the city’s bid to be UK City of Culture.


In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.

Now, 95-year-old Masterji is releasing his first book of portraits that capture the characters involved in a transitional period of British history.

A head teacher in India, Masterji worked in a factory in Coventry until his growing reputation with a Box Brownie led to him becoming a full-time photographer. People would travel from across England wearing their finest clothes to Masterji’s home studio for pictures that they would send back to their families in India. The book, called simply Masterji, is out now.


Ahead of the cities’ final bids being sent off to London earlier this year, we spoke to Paisley buddy Paolo Nutini about why he thinks his home town should bag the title.

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