International Womens Day

International Women's Day Creative Workshop Photo
For the second event celebrating IWD in Nuneaton, Mel from Escape Arts lead an art session with the customers at the Ramsden Centre.
The group had great fun with paints, brushes, stamps and sponges to create a piece of artwork to be displayed at a series of IWD events over the next two weeks.
We are proud to say lots of mess was made, laughter filled the room and everyone enjoyed the experience.
The session was made possible by Dawn from Grapevine Empowerment Service and Maxine who is the Community Development officer for Nuneaton and Wembroook. It was a great example of partnership working within the local community.
Find out what else is going on and how you can get involved.

Good and Bad Help

Purpose and confidence can transform lives. We know this but how do we know that what we’re doing has a positive, sustainable effect on people and communities?

Helping for the sake of helping can sometimes result in ‘bad help’ that offers short term fixes and fails to hand the reins back to individuals when they’re ready to take over.

This is what the Good Help Project hopes to clarify. The brainchild of Nesta, a global innovation foundation that backs new ideas to tackle big challenges, the project is bringing together case studies from all over the UK to help create a ‘good practice guide for good help’.

Grapevine is one of those case studies – alongside organisations such as The Stroke Association, British Lung Foundation, Mayday Trust, Whizz Kidz and many more. We’ve shared how our work in supporting young people with learning disabilities and the communities in which they live aims to enable everyone to get free of service dependency.

Clare spoke at the launch event in early February and hopes this project might signal a sea-change in the way social programmes are designed and delivered. The project’s seven characteristics of ‘good help’ will also provide public services with a barometer check on how they’re currently delivering these programmes.

Clare will also judge the forthcoming ‘Good Help Awards’ to search out the best of the best in services that are helping people take action.

Read more here:

Good and Bad Help

Our CEO, Clare Wightman, will be a keynote speaker on Tuesday 6 February when national innovation foundation Nesta and social impact lab OSCA bring together practitioners, policy makers, thinkers and funders in London to launch the Good Help report.

Major public service challenges – such as in social care, youth unemployment and long-term health conditions – require people to take action themselves. But many public services fail to work with people’s own sense of purpose and undermine rather than develop the confidence the need to do it.

Good Help explores great examples of how good services give people more control of their lives. It describes Grapevine helping others achieve their own personal goals by connecting them with people across the community.

 You can join the debate by viewing the live stream of the event at from 6pm, and by using the hashtag #Good&badhelp on Twitter. 


TeenVine Plus Family Get Together

In no particular order: Soup, dreams, families and a working microphone – Key ingredients for a successful get together.

Last night at Backhaus & Co there was a gathering of families brought together by our TeenVine Plus team.

We challenged them to think about the moral of the story told by Coleman.

Coleman telling his story

This set the scene for us to think about dreaming big for the lives of the TeenVine Plus young people.

One of the young people, Jacob, who is also one of our Coventry Youth Activis

ts, shared that his dream was to see and feel fairness. We couldn’t agree more!

If you would like to find out more about our TeenVine Plus Project follow along on FaceBook or Twitter



Connect for a kinder tomorrow – new approaches to loneliness.

I was lucky enough to be part of a discussion panel in July to help shape thinking  for the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission. I’m delighted to see today its call to Connect for a kinder tomorrow – new approaches to loneliness.

‘Starting a conversation each day in your neighbourhood can be a radical act of community service’ is advice that resonates strongly with me. We see 100s of people in crisis we know will have had no caring interaction with anyone in their communities that day or any other day.

Even though Graham had a job as a cleaner, Job Centre Plus were worried about him. They referred him to us. Graham wasn’t keen. He’s 57 and proud. He has a learning disability and hearing impairment. Eventually, he met Mia from Grapevine. Reluctantly, he allowed her to help. He really needed help – he was in a vulnerable situation.

He existed on £60 a week, lived on baked beans and never had the heating on in the house he occupied alone (he slept on the sofa under a pile of coats). Worse still, a man would take Graham to the building society and withdraw money – £500 at a time.

Graham wasn’t living in a special or residential group home. He rented his own home in an ordinary street in an ordinary bit of Coventry. This all happened in plain sight.

Mia was able to help Graham solve some problems. She arranged that the building society would contact her before handing over large sums. She sorted out Graham’s debts. But she was realistic about what she could achieve: ‘Yes, I can help sort things out. But what Graham needs is ordinary people in his life – people who will look out for him in the long term so these problems don’t keep coming back.’

Grapevine helped Graham start to move from a life on the margins. But he needs connections with ordinary people who care about him to avoid going back.

Cash strapped public services are exhausted,  our own often constrained by commissioning criteria. But other help is there, it just hasn’t been unlocked.

Frustrated by traditional service models we’ve searched for new solutions that unlock the pre-existing resources in communities and turned to social movements for inspiration. Social movements can teach us how to unlock people’s willingness to act together on a problem.

Social movements have shown us how we can go beyond the model that says every problem needs another project and instead put the emphasis on unlocking ordinary people’s capabilities to help themselves and those around them.

Next year Grapevine will spark a movement that tackles isolation among people like Graham in Coventry. Isolation makes people vulnerable to abuse, cruelty and loneliness. Communities where people are connected to each other end isolation. Our ambition is to end it for good.

The Commission publishes its manifesto on Friday. ‘We can’t afford not to act’.

Clare Wightman

The Big Paddle

The Big Paddle
Local community as equal partners in pool, play and support

Mel has been working with Coventry Sports Foundation to help encourage more people into the pool.  ‘The Big Paddle’ helps adults who are nervous about swimming to get confident in water. No swimming costumes were needed and help was on hand if needed. Tea and cake were provided afterwards as a treat for those who mastered their fears.

If you would like to try one of their FREE adult swimming lessons contact Natalie – for more details


The Power of Narrative: From No Chance to Hell Yeah!

Hell Yeah!

Mel Smith and Kyla Craig were invited to deliver a lecture to Occupational Therapy Students at Coventry University yesterday.

They shared stories, challenged, invited students to think about why they are passionate about OT. They got students to sit alongside them on the podium to bridge the gap between speaker and audience.

There was finger snapping (alternative clapping) and cries of ‘hell yeah’ so we think it went well!



Storytelling & Swimming

Storytelling and Swimming
Mel recently met with Ravi & Kate from The Sports Foundation to gather stories around swimming

The meet up was extremely productive. They now have some powerful stories they can share to call people into action to think about how we grow communities of swimmers around the city. If you would like to find out more get in touch with us at


Collaboration with Coventry Sports Foundation

We are helping staff from Coventry Sports Foundation to get more people swimming.

On Saturday, as part of a team building activity, we swam in the lake together. For some, it was their first open water experience. They loved it!

Interested in open water swimming? Looking for swim buddies?

#SwimandTonic movement is an opportunity for folk to connect whether taking a dip in the pool, lake or in the wild.