No ordinary gig…

The gang

2 April 2019.

An early Spring evening in Coventry, the last Saturday of March. Crowds are arriving for a gig at a former coal storage bunker in the city’s Canal Basin, now a thriving music and arts venue.

Molly and Kirsty on the door
Molly and Kirsty on the door

But this is no ordinary gig – it’s months of hard work come to fruition to take one troubling statistic and make inroads into changing it.

This is the first Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) #CYASaturdays gig, a campaign aiming to challenge the fact that one in three young disabled people spend less than an hour outside their home on a Saturday. A day when most other people are out and about enjoying what the weekend has to offer.

The story behind the statistic tells how for some of these young people logistics can be the problem – wheelchair access for example – and for others, fear of the unknown, not knowing how to find the place they want to go to and what to do once they get there, stop the fun before it even starts.

Some of CYA chat before the gig
Some of CYA chat before the gig

So Grapevine’s youth democracy group set about doing something about it and everyone – CYA included – has been amazed by its success.

The #CYASaturdays Presents SOLD OUT with over 100 gig-goers of all abilities coming to The Tin Music and Arts event on 30 March.

It showcased three acts, all donating their time for free, plus inimitable double act Rishard and Richard (referring to themselves as Coventry’s answer to Ant and Dec) compering the night.

Rishard and Richard
Rishard and Richard

Young people came from all over the city, finding out about the event through social media, events and meet ups and school mailers. Some came with family, others with friends and some had never been to a gig before. Three even got up on stage to sing!

One Mum commented that her son enjoyed the gig and for her “it was important as it provided an opportunity for him to be a 14-year-old.” And that’s the whole point really.

The CYA ‘crew’ wore their trademark yellow t-shirts firstly to offer a point of contact for anyone feeling unsure and secondly so they could rightly own the success of the night!

Izeidi Izeidi perform
Izeidi Izeidi perform

But they didn’t do it alone. So a big thank you to the venue, to the acts Izeidi Izeidi, Duck Thieves, Lily Hayes (from CYA), Rishard Beckett and Richard Walls. And of course, everyone who came and had fun! Until next time… [mic drop].

Photos by John Whitmore Photography.

About CYA and Grapevine’s 25th anniversary

CYA is a group of young people of all abilities who want to challenge and change inequalities faced by themselves and others.

Their numbers have grown from two when the group was first funded by the Henry Smith Charity in 2017 to 17 this month.

25th anniversary logo

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

CYA are meeting fortnightly to progress their next #CYASaturdays ideas into plans and action. Want to know more, get involved or offer help? Check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or email mgillespie@grapevinecovandwarks.org

Charity dinner and dance proceeds help young people get the future they want

Charity dance cheque presentation

6 March 2019.

A charity dinner and dance hosted by a community organisation in aid of Grapevine has raised almost £3,800 to help fund a project that will see 40 young people with learning disabilities plan for the future they want over the next two years.

The Great Gatbsy themed event at the Doubletree Hilton hotel in Walsgrave in November last year saw guests dressed up 1920s style, dining and dancing to Bollywood, Bhangra and Western music.

Charity dance cheque presentation

The donated money from tickets sold at the successful event can now be channelled into Big Plan training after some of the team from Leuva Patidar Samaj – Coventry, Rugby, Nuneaton (LPS-CRN) handed the £3,789.54 cheque over earlier this week. Included in the amount is £1,000 match-funded by Barclays and a donation of £150 from Jaguar Land Rover.

The Big Plan will take the progress established by Grapevine’s Teenvine Plus project (and others over the last ten years) to a whole new level.

Where Teenvine Plus helps bring together a circle of support around a young person who has a learning disability to grow their confidence, resilience and independence, the Big Plan sees them making plans for their future not on a 1:1 basis but alongside other people their age, plus their families.

This means a far wider network of group supporters all contributing to and encouraging one another’s dreams and aspirations. The more people in the room, the more opportunities to discover talents and resources that can help the young people on their journey.

The result is a Big Plan for a great life.

Grapevine Deputy CEO Mel Smith said: “I am both humbled and delighted for the funds raised to enhance the work we do with young people.

“We also want to train the majority of our staff in this way – we can then maximise the reach of the Big Plan so that it has a greater impact for people with learning disabilities across Coventry.”

LPS-CRN is a member organisation affiliated to registered charity Leuva Patidar Samaj – UK. Its members are from the Surat, Navsari and Valsad districts of southern Gujarat in India.

It has raised more than £20,000 over the last few years for other worthwhile local causes including the Air Ambulance Service and a children’s hospice.

Kiran Patel, President of LPS Coventry, Rugby and Nuneaton said: “It was an honour to be a part of this project and raise thousands to support the great work that Grapevine undertakes.

“None of this would be possible without the kind support and generosity of all the sponsors, raffle prize donors and the attending guests who whole heartedly support these events.

“We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone involved.”

Click here to find out more about fundraising or volunteering for Grapevine.

£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!

CYA Saturdays Presents… their first ever live gig!

5 February 2019.

What do an 18th century former coal storage bunker and a group of young Coventry activists have in common? Well, they’re combining next month to host a live gig like no other at the heart of the city’s Canal Basin.

CYA Saturdays Presents gig poster

For those who don’t know, Coventry Youth Activists (or CYA as they’re known) are a group of young disabled people who want to say “CYA” to the inequalities faced by themselves and others.

They identify the issues that are important to them, give them a good shake and come up with campaigns that set about changing these barriers.

The #CYASaturdays Presents… gig on 30 March is one facet of their latest campaign to challenge the disheartening statistic that one in three young people spend less than an hour outside their home on Saturday.

The Saturday night showcase – on a Saturday of course! – features local talent in the shape of bands Duck Thieves, Izeidi Izeidi and CYA’s own singer/songwriter/guitarist Lily Hayes.

Lily says: ““I have autism but I won’t let it stop me from being a singer. It’s who I am and is part of me.”

The night will be compered by actor / theatre maker duo Rishard Beckett and Richard Walls.

The gig is accessible to all and tickets are just £4 in advance or £6 on the door. The venue is The Tin Music and Arts – a charitable organisation committed to fostering art, creativity and talent at the Canal Basin and throughout the city.

So come out and support what will be a great night as well as a good cause. There’ll be music, laughter and a few surprises and above all you’ll be making a group of young activists very happy! We want as many people there as possible who don’t usually get out and about on a Saturday too.

Get your tickets here – show starts at 8pm.

You can also check out @Covactivists on Instagram.

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.

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:

All-time Children in Need total hits £1bn – here’s how we spend our bit

CYA on Brighton Pier

19 November 2018.

Last Friday’s Children in Need Appeal Show brought in £50.6m according to BBC News – taking the total amount of money raised since fundraising began 38 years ago in 1980 to over £1 billion.

Here at Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire we are part-funded by Children in Need to run our Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) projects to give young people with disabilities opportunities to forge friendships, build confidence and independence, and unlock their potential to live a full, happy life bolstered by a strong network and great experiences.

Thank you to everyone who makes this possible through their donations to fundraising – we couldn’t do it without you.

Here are a couple of quick glimpses into the fun and innovation that surrounds CYA’s activities… the first to mark their one-year anniversary last month and the second is their recent weekend away to watch a gig in Brighton.

Swimming upstream – how a Channel swim made a weekend in Brighton possible

Open water swimming

6 November 2018.

Nine excited young people are off on a road trip to Brighton this weekend – thanks to a group of slightly crazy open water swimmers and their relay fundraising effort across the English Channel.

Open water swimming
#swimandtonic crew diving into one of their adventures

The #swimandtonic crew of six – part of a larger group who connect around swimming in quarries, lakes, rivers, lidos, seas and basically anything deeper than a puddle that is outdoors – took to the water last year to raise funds so a group of young disabled people could enjoy a mini break with their friends.

Now the trip is almost a reality, and is just three days away from happening!

This Friday (9 November), the group of nine Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) plus Coleman, Molly, Chloe and Kirsty from Grapevine, will take two mini buses down to Brighton where they’ll enjoy two nights in a hotel, a meeting with Gig Buddies and a gig.

The Sussex-based Gig Buddies project (there are others around the country) is run by the charity Stay Up Late and matches a person with a learning disability with a volunteer buddy who likes similar music so they can enjoy live music together.

CYA at the Godiva Festival
CYA perform at this year’s Godiva Festival

For some of the 13 to 18 year olds, this will be their first overnight stay without a parent or guardian, their first solo road trip and their first gig. The break gives them the opportunity to experience all of these things with their friends, building confidence and independence along the way.

Two mini buses to get them there and back are necessary because the four wheelchair users in the group couldn’t be accommodated on the same train.

We hope you’ll join us in wishing them a safe journey and a great weekend.

Look out for a follow-up post where we’ll be sharing photos and videos from the trip and also what the young people thought about the experience.

Find out more about Mel (Grapevine’s Deputy CEO) and the #swimandtonic crew here.