‘Crafting’ community the Grapevine way

Bell Green library arts and crafts group

17 April 2019.

A purl-er of an idea from two women who met at a Coventry knitting group is blossoming into a network of friends coming together weekly to chat, craft and overcome isolation.

Even when one member is having a bad week or thinks they may not show up, the others rally round and they come anyway.

So how did the arts and crafts group start?

Michelle, from Grapevine’s Help and Connect project, met Tracy at Bell Green library’s knitting circle – a large, animated, all-female group who gather each Thursday to swap skills and put the world to rights.

Although beneficial for many, Michelle and Tracy felt the dynamics weren’t quite right for quieter voices who needed time to talk and get to know others first.

The ladies they were thinking of had learning disabilities, long term health conditions or different experiences with their mental health.

So the duo took a shared love of arts and crafts – plus a generous helping of Tracy’s personal craft supplies – and set up a new, smaller group on a different day.

Still at the library, the two-hour Tuesday session provides a space to create and catch up on the week’s events, lending an empathetic ear, advice or practical support as needed.

There are five core members (including a man now) of the purposely select group, meaning it remains safe and supportive – no posters on a notice board here. Everyone involved is accepting of one another’s differences.

Tea and crafts at the library
Members bring a contribution towards refreshments

Its need is undeniable as people regularly arrive early and leave later than the scheduled finish time. The session helps them feel more connected.

The library location has stuck because it is local and accessible even on days when it can be hard to leave the house. The library provides hot water and the group brings the tea, coffee and biscuits.

The five have also enjoyed Christmas lunch together at a local café and a cooked breakfast at another eatery across town.

Tracy windmill painting
Tracy’s latest painting

Encouragement was evident at the session we attended when painting was on the agenda (other crafts have included Christmas decorations and 5D art) as Tracy coaxed: “If you always do the same thing, you never stretch yourself and you never find out what you can do.”

A fitting way to sum it up we thought.

Michelle recalls another recent exchange with Tracy along the lines of: “Are we doing something good here then?” – to which Michelle replied, “You don’t realise the impact this is having on people!”

From small gestures, come big things. And when Michelle moves on to help others get connected, she can be sure the group will continue.

Help and Connect by Grapevine is commissioned by Coventry City Council.

We’re celebrating this story as one of our 25 stories for 25 years of Grapevine. Look out for more stories and a big event coming this October!

25th anniversary logo

£250k government and lottery funding puts Stoke Aldermoor community at helm to tackle local issues

Community choice

18 February 2019.

A quarter of a million in government and lottery cash is being injected into one of Coventry’s most deprived areas following a successful bid by Grapevine and a group of community-minded citizens.

PBSA map

It’s part of a £2.3 million nation-wide pot of funding to help people across England make their local areas a better place to live by investing their own time, skills and connections.

Announcing the funding in a House of Commons debate last week (14 February), Minister for Civil Society Mims Davies said:

“This investment in communities the length and breadth of the country will help even more people take action on the issues they care about most, including helping more volunteering, giving more money directly to local causes that people feel connected with in their community and supporting even more simple neighbourly acts, which can mean so much.”

Of the 10 triumphant partnerships, just two are Midlands-based and only Grapevine in the West Midlands / Warwickshire area will benefit from the money provided jointly by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and The National Lottery Community Fund.

It follows January’s news that Grapevine is bringing another £97k into the city to boost a community of connected self-care amongst residents with a long term health condition or a chronic illness (also funded by DCMS and The National Lottery Community Fund).

Six women from Stoke Aldermoor
Six women from Stoke Aldermoor are leading the project

The £250k Place Based Social Action Scheme in Stoke Aldermoor will continue to build on foundations already laid by a group of local residents led by six women.

The six have been meeting weekly for several months to share stories and ideas on how they might transform their neighbourhood into a place less divided by difference and more united by a common purpose to be better.

The process to this point has involved around 500 conversations, 10 social suppers, a trip to Weston-super-Mare and a bit of Grapevine magic!

Social supper
Social supper

The group’s vision specifically focuses on children, young people and their families with a series of ongoing activities to help integrate and connect the different communities living there.

Some of the ideas in the ‘social action plan’ so far include a one stop support shop; more training opportunities for young people; improved provision for families to build parenting skills and raise aspirations; a family walking group; a summer school; and the creation of an annual festival to celebrate the area’s diversity.

Stoke Aldermoor is not unique in many of the challenges it faces – reduction in services, integration of new arrivals, unemployment, crime, social apathy and external stigma.

The funding however greatly increases its chances of changing these dynamics by getting others involved, building community cohesion, dealing with problems together and embracing future possibilities.

Follow the Stoke Aldermoor story as it unfolds on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Wakelet and very soon… Instagram!

Two sisters take on The Big Smoke

Mel and Melissa masterclass audience

11 February 2019.

The two Mels – not to be confused with classic comedy duo The Two Ronnies – are today giving a masterclass on movement building at the Social Media Exchange event in north London.

Mel and Melissa Feb 2019
Mel and Melissa at #SMEX19

Otherwise known as #SMEX19, the day-long training day is about the power of storytelling to help those in the charity sector harness the impact of stories to raise awareness of their cause, spark action and bring more people (and funds) into their world.

It is presented by social enterprise Sound Delivery.

Grapevine Deputy CEO Mel Smith and her sister, community organiser Melissa Smith, are hosting an interactive session called ‘Building a movement on a shoestring’ which they hope will inspire members of their audience to nurture their own communities, bringing out people’s “hidden gifts” and enjoying some “golden moments”.

The two sisters are combining their learning from building a number of movements over the years including Good2Go, Swim and Tonic, Feel Good Community and more recently, Connecting for Good and Self Care Social.

The latter two movements share a common thread in trying to tackle the widespread social issue of isolation. While Connecting for Good cuts across loneliness in all people and communities, Self Care Social’s community is dedicated to those with long term health conditions and chronic illnesses. Both movements are Coventry-based and by Grapevine, with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and Better Health, Better Care, Better Value programme respectively.

As with any honest imparting of knowledge, Mel and Melissa will also share some of the mistakes they’ve made along the way and the lessons they learned from them.

To mark the event, Mel recorded a short vlog and has also written an interesting blog about the emergence of a new movement called Swimmers Social which is tapping into the collective power of a group of – you guessed it – social swimmers. We are hosting her blog on our Connecting for Good site here.

H Team brings learning disability to life for trainee social workers

The H Team

15 January 2019.

The next generation of social workers from Coventry University have been getting an insight into people with a learning disability directly from the very people who know the most about it!

Grapevine’s Sam and a core group of people with different learning disabilities who make up the H Team visited the university last month for the innovative session.

The H Team
Here come the H Team!

The ‘H’ stands for Health and that is what the team is all about – educating peers, professionals and services alike on how to stay healthy and well when you have a learning disability.

This advice and training is vital for a section of the community proven to have generally poorer physical and mental health and a significantly lower life expectancy than the rest of the population.

But it wouldn’t be this way if there was greater uptake on annual health checks with GPs, promptly diagnosed health conditions, effective treatment and more informed self care.

And improvements can always be made in the way health and social care professionals communicate with people with a learning disability – hence the need for some interesting training right at the beginning of a career in social work.

During the Coventry University awareness session, students were able to get to know the seven members of the H Team, each one with his or her own unique story, likes and dislikes.

Games and quizzes helped break down any barriers, including one called ‘Scaredy Pants’ where the students wrote their fears on paper pants hung on a make-shift washing line.

Each fear was examined with H Team participants giving students advice and strategies to help overcome them. Some fears were even reflected on both sides – for example, a fear of communicating in a way that was not understood or misinterpreted. The students didn’t want to make a person uncomfortable and the H Team didn’t want to appear ‘stupid’ for not understanding.

The ‘New Perspective’ game then sees society’s labels discarded on the floor and ‘Mum’ or ‘Activist’ (and many others) used instead. Team members said they are not defined by their disability.

By the end of the session, the students and H Team were working together to develop an assessment tool that would equip professionals to phrase questions in different ways and encourage them to consider individuals holistically, particularly including their mental health. Social prescribing and making community connections may be things not previously considered for example.

“We got great feedback,” Sam said. “The students loved the session – having the H Team there to talk to them and give them advice was better than any pen exercise! It was learning through a first-hand experience that they will always remember.”

H Team sessions like this continue on a regular basis throughout the year and the H Team is always looking for new members to bring diversity and knowledge to their group.

If this could be you or someone you know, please call Sam on 02476 631040 extension 112 or email skeoghcollins@grapevinecovandwarks.org

£97k coming to Coventry to boost emerging culture of self care

7 January 2019.

Grapevine is leading the charge against loneliness for local people with long term health conditions, thanks to £97,261 in new government funding.

The sizeable slice of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) £11.5m pie is one of only two grants in the Warwickshire area (the other being the People’s Pantry in Nuneaton and Bedworth), with several more awarded across the West Midlands.

99,000 people in Coventry have a long term health condition
Artwork by @FeelGoodMel

The Building Connections Fund provides a cash injection for 126 much-needed organisations and projects throughout England that are finding innovative ways to tackle the ongoing social issue of loneliness.

The fund was created in 2018 in partnership between the government, Big Lottery Fund* and the Co-op Foundation.

Minister for Loneliness, Mims Davies, said: “There is no one cause of loneliness and therefore no one solution. That is why we are working alongside a broad range of businesses, voluntary organisations and local councils to ensure that those who feel alone are best supported.”

Happiness Walk
A Self Care Social ‘Happiness Walk’

The announcement about Grapevine’s successful bid came just before Christmas and will help bolster growing Coventry-based initiative Self Care Social.

The first Self Care Social event took place in July 2018 at Coventry University’s Social Enterprise Hub and has been gathering momentum ever since.

The movement’s vision is of a connected culture of self care for the estimated 99,000 – or approximately one in three – residents in Coventry who have a long term health condition.

The vision itself was co-created by some of the people it is aimed at – including former teacher Melissa Smith, who was forced to find an alternative career after being diagnosed with the rare spinal condition Symptomatic Tarlov Cyst Disease in 2014.

Common shared issues
Members of the movement have shared the common issues they face daily

Melissa went on to secure a role as a community organiser for Grapevine through the Better Health, Better Care, Better Value programme and build her own social enterprise Feel Good Community.

She and the Self Care ‘socialites’ hope to gather more people in from the fringes to support one another’s ideas, build collective action for positive change and most important of all, make the journey together. The Building Connections funding will help them do that.

If you or someone you know would like to get involved in Self Care Social – sharing self care tips, making friends, telling your story to inspire others, organising social events… making cake – visit Self Care Social on Facebook or drop us a line here and we’ll pass your details on. There are free events coming up in January and February.

Read more about how Self Care Social got started on the Feel Good Com website here.

*The Big Lottery Fund becomes the National Lottery Community Fund from 30 January.

Farewell 2018! You’ve been great…

Farewell 2018!

19 December 2018.

Our final post of 2018. And what a year it has been.

We’ve sparked new movements of people who care about an issue – Connecting for Good (isolation) and Self Care Social (long term health conditions/self care) – and grown existing ones with Feel Good Community.

Longer term projects such as Help and Connect and Better Lives have gone from strength to strength, building the capacity of individuals and families to lead the lives they want and deserve.

Accelerate continues to help people with a learning disability or autism find secure, paid work.

System change in Willenhall through the Ignite partnership with Central England Law Centre has made tangible in-roads into nurturing strong communities who get early and effective help when they need it.

And the young people involved in Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists have progressed in leaps and bounds throughout the year with – amongst other things – appearances on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio, a performance at the Godiva Festival and a weekend away to see a gig in Brighton! Phenomenal.

The Big Plan is helping young people, alongside their families and friends, to think creatively about and plan for the life that they want after school.

Plus our involvement in Warwickshire is expanding from Warwickshire Empowerment Service with the new Community Powered Advocacy service, aimed at people with a ‘vulnerability’ not receiving services from social care.

Not to mention our CEO Clare Wightman travelling the length and breadth of the country making sure we’re at all the right tables for change.

There is also some exciting news coming in January on two more new projects. Fingers crossed it is all we hope for.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year from everyone at Grapevine.

My journey into paid work by David

David from the Accelerate project

28 November 2018.

The Accelerate project helps people with a learning disability or autism find sustainable, paid employment.

Journey guides work on a one-to-one basis with participants, helping them understand and navigate the world of work.

David is one such participant who spent years trying to find the right opportunity for paid work – this is his story in his own words.

“My journey to paid employment has been a struggle, as I was abused, neglected and partly separated from society by my late adopted mother.

Even when I had paid work, I never had anything to do with my wages.

After my first meeting with Grapevine I realised I knew the interviewer, Mia.

Mia introduced me to Gordon at Grapevine, who helped me find creative writing groups and voluntary work with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

…in the hope that it would lead to a job I stuck with the Herbert ever since, like everyone else who made the effort to know what was going on with me, suggested.

I then had an opportunity for paid work at the Herbert in June 2014, but failed the interview as they felt I still needed to improve my confidence and skills.

David's journey into paid work
David never gave up on his search

So I kept trying for paid work, even looking at jobs outside of the Herbert, which I have been doing since 2002 by myself and since 2014 with Patrick from Open Doors (housing and support services).

We didn’t have much luck… Patrick then remembered Tess, who had helped other Open Doors tenants with paid employment.

Eventually Tess suggested a job scheme called Accelerate at Grapevine… Patrick and I took up the offer of joining Accelerate and this is when I met Alex.

David from Accelerate
David hopes his story will inspire others

Immediately Alex, in November 2016, found an opportunity for me with Russell’s Garden Centre. They said that I may or may not have a paid opportunity by March 2017, however gave me the chance to prove myself until then.

However, March came and went and I was still volunteering and looking for paid work due to not being qualified enough to replace a more skilled employee. Although they found me impressive enough to keep me as a volunteer.

As time went on with no luck in any paid opportunities for work I became worried that I would always be a volunteer.

However, I never gave up searching for paid opportunities and neither did Alex.

Due to this, as from October 2018, I am now a Casual Museum Assistant at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

I am really happy I finally have paid work, although I feel I need time for it to sink in first, partly due to not having access to wages etc in my past and partly due to the end of the year being busy for me.

Plus, at the moment I am helping a colleague from the Herbert with plants for her garden with help from Russell’s Garden Centre.

I designed a plan for the garden in April last year and both her and her husband liked it and informed the gardener/builder of my idea and he finally finished it July this year.

Anyway even though I have a casual job at the Herbert, I am happy I finally have something to call my own and I hope my journey will inspire others.

If I can get there, anyone can.

David.”

Accelerate is a Building Better Opportunities Project funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery, through the Big Lottery Fund. It is delivered by a local partnership of organisations providing people with access to a wide range of job support services.

Social Living Room #2

Social Living Room by Connecting for Good

28 November 2018.

It’s happening again but this time it’s different.

This Friday (30 November) #ConnectingforGood meet for their second Social Living Room at Theatre Absolute in Coventry at 5pm.

But this time the free event starts with an outdoor game around the city centre, designed by Laina and Alice to work up a good appetite ready for soup, homemade bread and thinking up ideas for new adventures in the city and beyond. Plus some light entertainment from Rishard and Paul!

Please come along if you have experienced or are currently experiencing isolation or loneliness. You may simply care about the cause. We need everyone on board so we can make a real difference.

Click here for the event details on Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, rest assured we’ll be there at 5pm to welcome you. Don’t forget to wrap up warm!

Connecting for Good is sparking a movement against isolation in Coventry and is funded for three years by the Big Lottery Fund.

A week in the life of Grapevine

a week in the life of

27 November 2018.

Dear Diary, it’s been a busy week!

So to catch you up here’s a quick round up of the different things happening at Grapevine in the last seven days! Just the tip of the iceberg really…

Monday 19 November

Teenvine Plus Manager Chloe travelled to London with the Coventry Youth Partnership to attend the UK Youth Awards.

Alongside other local organisations including Positive Youth Foundation (PYF), Coventry Girls and Boys Club and C O Visions, Chloe met Princess Anne.

Chloe and Princess Anne
Chloe is second from left, next to Rashid Bayat from PYF

Tuesday 20 November

Kyla from the Better Lives project joined Coventry City Council engagement staff for a training day on ‘Co-Production in Public Engagement and Consultation Principles and Practices.’

Grapevine was offered a place on the course as one of the council’s community partners and Kyla can now share what she learned with the rest of the team.

Kyla training course


Wednesday 21 November

Project worker Molly from Teenvine Plus and Warwickshire Empowerment Service has started collecting Christmas shoe boxes to donate to Coventry Open Christmas – a project that provides shelter and food each year to the homeless and lonely over the festive period.

Each shoebox (or alternative small cardboard box) can contain items such as toiletries, sweets, hats and gloves – basically anything that might help someone feel a little brighter on Christmas morning. Click the link above if you’re interested in joining in.


Thursday 22 November

Help and Connect’s Michelle finished making her first knitted blanket for premature babies born at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

The weekly handicraft group at Bell Green Library taught her how – next on the list are tiny cardigans! Join in each Thursday from 10am – 12 noon (50p for tea/coffee). Michelle attends so she can make connections for people with a learning disability in Coventry who don’t use formal services.

Michelle baby blanket


Local photographer and friend of Grapevine Alan Van Wijgerden released another of his 50 one-minute films of Coventry people talking about what they’re up to – this time featuring Grapevine’s Melissa!

See what she has to say about how her health problems set her on a path to combining creativity and bringing people together in the shape of Feel Good Community.


Friday 23 November

Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists posted pics of their evening out on Thursday to Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market – looks like they had a ‘fantastisch’ time!

Aged 13 to 18 and passionate about fighting for disabled people’s right to a good life? Contact the team at admin@grapevinecovandwarks.org

Read what Stay Up Late had to say about CYA’s recent stay to Brighton here.

Teenvine at German Market


Monday 26 November

Act Build Change founder Steph Leonard (and regular Grapevine trainer) is visiting to shadow and advise on our work on anti-isolation movement Connecting for Good – look out for a new video coming out very soon featuring one of the people we’ve met.

It is also the first day of a full team (Ben, Alex and Helena) working on the new Community Powered Advocacy service in Warwickshire.

This fresh and innovative service is aimed at helping people with a ‘vulnerability’ overcome their immediate problems, build their capacity to speak up for themselves and connect them to other people in their community. Watch this space as the team start connecting with other services and the people they are there to help.

Looking forward to seeing what the rest of this week might bring.

GV x

The Story of Our Future – two-year inquiry unveils findings

20 November 2018.

This week sees the findings of a two-year independent inquiry into the future of civil society in England revealed for the first time.

The report is the culmination of discoveries made through the course hundreds of workshops, meetings and events and the thoughts, hopes and academic research gleaned from over 3,000 people.

“A stronger civil society is essential for our shared futures.” (Julia Unwin)

Why produce the report?

The need for a ‘big conversation’ was recognised to try to address the many divisions we are now seeing in our society – politically, socially, geographically and between different generations.

It was time to “re-energise and renew” the social fabric in a way that reconnected people in spite of these divides by talking to organisations, groups, movements and networks across the country.

Here is Julia Unwin, Chair of Civil Society Futures to explain in more detail.

What were the key findings?

Read the report foreword by Julia Unwin here.

The final reports can be downloaded here.

What next?

It is hoped the inquiry will enable civil society to effectively support the next decade of a changing society. That although our expectations of organisations and institutions are changing and our demands on their practices and accountability are increasing, the energy all that creates can be used to bring about positive change.

Civil society involves everyone and its future depends on us.

To learn more about how Grapevine is working in this shifting landscape across Coventry and Warwickshire, choose a link below: