Inclusive cities – a new era of action for inclusion

30 May 2018.

This Friday (1 June) our Grapevine CEO Clare Wightman takes to the stage again to talk about Grapevine’s ongoing work across Coventry and Warwickshire – this time at the Inclusion International World Congress in Birmingham.

Clare Wightman

This 17th World Congress takes place over three days (30 May – 1 June), bringing together people and organisations from all over the world to influence how inclusion can become a reality for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

The event, held at the International Convention Centre, will be a forum for self-advocates, families and professionals to learn from and inspire one another to achieve this mutual aim.

Clare’s topic on the event’s final day ‘Inclusive cities’, examines how people, families and organisations can form civic partnerships – working with political and professional leaders to make our cities better for everyone.

Here is an excerpt of the paper Clare will present for the first time at this event, co-written with Lucie Stephens and David Towell.

The ‘Cities for all’ research paper* includes an interesting and accurate reflection of part of Grapevine’s current work with learning disabled people. It was originally founded in 1994 as a project to offer a drop-in centre for people with intellectual disabilities.

If you would like to know more, read on!

Cities for all: Disabled people as partners in making our towns and cities better for everyone

“Put at its simplest, Grapevine is a team, at the heart of local communities, working to change things so that those at most risk of exclusion can help make their community a better, fairer and more welcoming place for everyone.”

“…Today we work with many others facing disadvantage: young people, migrants, families in crisis and many groups of disabled people and their families.

“…If people can get the resources they need and can make the best use of public services, then they can shape their own lives. At different stages of finding their own paths to community, people may need different kinds of support, all of which we try to make available. We characterise the main kinds of support as:

  • Partnership – Some people need someone along with them on the journey, at least for a while, to keep them strong and hopeful.
  • Preparation – Some people need help to prepare for personal change and transition, to get inspiration, support to plan or practical assistance.
  • Self-direction – Some people just need to access information and networks to find the right resources for themselves and their families.

“…Over [this] 20 years at Grapevine, citizen advocacy has become community advocacy. This is not just because the community is itself critical to every person’s ability to lead a valued life. It is also because the community needs these different voices and experiences in order to become fully itself.

“The goal is not just that the individual becomes part of the community; the goal is that the community becomes more truly what it should be, a place that welcomes, supports, and is in turn nourished by, all of its members.”

*Click here to read the full paper in the Centre for Welfare Reform’s library.

For more information about the Inclusion International World Congress click here.


The Future of People Powered Health

2 May 2018.


What does it mean to you? Where does it come from? How can it be created and used to bring about positive change in health, care and wellbeing?

All that and more will be explored at the ‘Future of People Powered Health’ event today (2 May) in central London.

Clare (right) and Melissa from Feel Good Community on their way to London

Hundreds of citizens, professionals, campaigners, commissioners and policy makers are gathering at The Brewery to share their experiences, listen to innovation in practice and be inspired to take action.

Our Grapevine CEO Clare Wightman will lead a session at the event on ‘Good Help – the art of not knowing what is best’. Essentially this would turn ‘bad help’ on its head – away from fixing people’s problems for them and towards acknowledging they have their own power. With this power comes the unique motivations that enable change to be achieved and sustained.

Clare’s co-presenters are Rich Wilson from Osca and Esther Flanagan from Nesta, authors of Good and Bad Help – a project that sets out to create a good practice guide for good help by bringing together case studies of where this is working most effectively from all over the UK. Click to read about this in more depth.

Clare will tell Rishard’s story to today’s audience to demonstrate how good help altered the course of his life. At the time he and his mum met Grapevine, 15-year-old Rishard seemed headed towards not finishing his education because of his “violent” behaviour. This behaviour was really borne out of frustration with wanting an ordinary teenage life, making friends and traveling to school independently.

When we asked what he wanted, Rishard – a young man with Down’s syndrome – told us simply “I want to be on Eastenders”. Through a determined plan and the right connections, he is now an established actor with performances on Channel 4 and at Birmingham Hippodrome amongst his credits.

He’s pursuing his dream and all because we asked what it was, we listened carefully and we were able to make a difference.

Follow the conversation on Twitter using #peoplepoweredhealth.

Sign up to our newsletter for more updates on our involvement in health and care system change at a national level.

50 feel good ideas emerge from Factory meet up!

24 April 2018.

Last week’s Ideas Factory Cov was a great success!

Over 50 ideas were generated

30 people from our Feel Good Community came along to Fargo Village in Coventry last Tuesday evening (17 April) to help generate new ideas and projects to keep the group busy, creative and positive.

And from a total of 50 creative concepts put forward at the event hosted inside local bakery and café bar Backhaus & Co, three main ideas emerged as the most popular and doable. They were:

  • Themed monthly meet ups
  • Another Feel Good Festival / Createathon
  • A new campaign to get Feel Good voices heard more widely

There were also several kind offers of possible venues for the events.

The next step is to develop these ideas over the coming weeks. Look out for updates on our website and on Facebook @FeelGoodCommunity.


The Feel Good Community promotes health and wellbeing through creativity and social action. Anyone can join in but particularly those with a long-term health condition who want to be part of a like-minded community and to feel good.

Visit their new website at

Join the #FeelGoodAmbassadors Facebook group here.

Rain doesn’t stop play for Feel Good in the Park

Some of the crew getting crafty

17 April 2018.

The recent Easter washout wasn’t enough to prevent a 33-strong group (plus our Feel Good Ambassadors and one particularly enthusiastic dog) from attending April’s Feel Good in the Park.

As a quick ‘crafty’ alternative to a long walk round the Memorial Park in the rain, the group gathered inside to create pom pom animals, helping hands cards, Feel Good banners and scratch doodles – ably supported by crowdsourced cake, sweet treats and hot drinks.

Good turnout in spite of the rain!

And a walk was still on the cards… meaning those who participated in the 4 April event combined having a go at some indoor creative pursuits with some much-needed time in the fresh air in the park.

Follow the Feel Good Community on Facebook for details of future events and if you have any ideas or want to get involved in planning or hosting a Feel Good activity get in touch with Melissa or Naomi by email.

The Feel Good Community is a people-powered movement in Coventry helping those with a long-term health condition take healthy, creative steps towards feeling good.


International Women’s Day

International Women's Day Creative Workshop Photo
For the second event celebrating IWD in Nuneaton, Mel from Escape Arts led an art session with folk  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.

International Women’s Day

International Women's Day 2018
International Women’s Day takes place every year on March 8th.

Take a look at events planned. Keep up to date with what is happening on the International Women’s Day – Nuneaton and Bedworth Face Book Page. 

Every one got the chance to share their thoughts on what would make an amazing local Day through Ideas Factories organised by our own Dawn Nicholls. More importantly people pledged their support to help make it happen!

Let’s end isolation and loneliness

Jo Cox Quote
Clare was asked to talk on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio this morning following the appointment of the new Minister for Loneliness Tracy Crouch.

The invitation came after Clare took part in roundtable to help shape the thinking behind the recommendations of  Jo Cox’s commission on loneliness. The commission was inspired by Jo’s vision that by working together we could make a real difference to the lives of those affected by loneliness.

Clare says: ‘It’s great the government have accepted all of the Commission’s recommendations.  Above all though, this isn’t about what governments can do, its about what ordinary people can do for each other.

We’ve always thought that the thing people need in life when they’ve got problems isn’t so much services – services have their place – but good people around them. That’s why we want to spark a movement among ordinary folk to tackle isolation.’

If you live in Coventry and want to do something to combat the problem then please get in touch, we’d love to meet you. You can  email Mel to find out more.

We’ll also be supporting The Great Get Together – in celebration of Jo Cox –  22-24 June 2018.

To listen to Clare tune into the Justine Greene show at 1hr:20mins:53sec:

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

Changing Places

Changing Places
Update from Grapevine Empowerment Service

On the 28th November, people in Polesworth met with staff from Grapevine and staff from Warwickshire County Council to talk about the Changing Places Campaign.

“The Changing Places Consortium launched its campaign in 2006 on behalf of the over 1/4 of a million people who cannot use standard accessible toilets. This includes people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, as well as older people.

To use the toilet in safety and comfort, many people need to be able to access a Changing Places, which have more space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist.”

The people in Polesworth spoke up about the difference it would make to their daily lives to be able to go out without worrying about getting caught short!

We know there is a great need for accessible toilets in Warwickshire towns, and the good news is that Warwickshire County Council has some money to put some in.

Changing Places

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