MUSIC MATTERS- Rock opera tells family story through the Blitz - The Coventry Observer

MUSIC MATTERS- Rock opera tells family story through the Blitz

Coventry Editorial 18th Jan, 2024   0

COVENTRY Music Museum curator Pete Chambers BEM writes for the Observer. 

A PERSONAL family history and stories of the Coventry Blitz 1940 are combined into a surreal rock opera to be performed in Earlsdon next month.

The City of Burning Spires show, performed by Phoenix From The Ashes, features a full live rock band and audio visual effects to create an immersive theatrical experience.<b>

The Phoenix From the Ashes band is made up of a talented group of Coventry-based musicians and singers lead by Simon Gibbons.

The piece is based on Simon’s family history and the stories of the Coventry blitz of 1940. It combines events from both sets of grandparents to tell a story through 30 original songs in a range of different styles from folk and blues to rock and reggae.

The project has been a labour of love for Simon. He started writing the music and lyrics six years ago after the death of his father.




Simon discovered unseen family photographs and memorabilia in his father’s house in Coventry relating to family events of the Blitz and the Second World War.

These were the catalyst for this very personal project with the storyline following the life-changing events of main characters Jack and Doll.


Yasmin Butt is the creative stylist for the production and designed the costumes and props.

It was hoped The City of Burning Spires would have been premiered in 2020 for the 80th anniversary of the Blitz but due to lockdown, it was delayed by a year.

The rock opera was first performed at the Arches Rock Venue in Coventry in 2021.

Building on this success, Simon is very proud to be bringing the production to The Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry, on from 7.30pm to 10pm on February 3 and 5 (Saturday and Monday) for its premiere theatre performance.

Top of The Pops at 60

I could not let the 60th anniversary of Top of The Pops go without a little mention.

Some of the local artists who have appeared on the show include: Don Fardon, Fun Boy Three, Vince Hill, Frank Ifield, Jigsaw, King, Lieutenant Pigeon, Billie Myers, Hazel O’Connor, Panjabi MC, The Primitives, Pinkertons Colours, The Selecter, The Sorrows, The Specials, Stavely Makepeace, Stevenson’s Rocket and Pete Waterman.

Probably the most famous Coventry connected TOTP moment featured Coventry-born Julianne Regan (fronting All About Eve).

The band were about to perform the hit song Martha’s Harbour, which reached the UK top ten, on the show in 1988.

The music (including a vocal track) began and was being heard loud and clear by the TV audience, sadly not by Julianne and her band. So they waited there motionless listening for their cue whilst the song played.

The clip has consequently been featured on various ‘Worse TV Moments Ever’ packages.

The BBC was mortified and got them back on the following week and sent Julianne a huge bunch of flowers.

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