Libby ‘Accelerates’ into teaching career

2 July 2019.

A young woman from Coventry is heading for a bright future in teaching, thanks to a free employment support service designed to help people who are at a disadvantage when looking for paid work.

The need for the Accelerate project is clear when you see the stats. Just six per cent of adults with a learning disability or autism* are in paid employment, compared to 74 per cent of the general population aged 16-64.

Libby and her family turned to Alex Rigler from Grapevine for help following a few false starts entering the world of work after school. Grapevine forms part of the Accelerate partnership of local organisations providing coordinated employment support.

Alex explains: “Many employers have the best of intentions during the recruitment process but once a candidate with a learning disability or autism is successful in securing a role, support and reasonable adjustments to help them do their job are sometimes simply not in place or made flexible enough to adapt to any changes.”

Libby originally aspired to be an actress, studying drama at college in Stratford-upon-Avon. However, she soon realised that rehearsing and performing in front of an audience were two very different things. Working behind the scenes became more appealing.

After trying her hand at scriptwriting and some voluntary work at local Coventry station Radio Plus though, Libby and Alex tested the waters with retail. None were quite the right fit for Libby.

But everything changed after spotting an advertisement for lunchtime supervisors at Stivichall Primary School, close to Coventry’s War Memorial Park. Libby was keen to apply.

25th anniversary logo

The school welcomed them both in for a pre-interview visit before Libby faced a panel of three (with Alex there for support) and after a few initial nerves, sailed through.

Jayne Davies, school business manager, said: “We actually struck gold that day – finding two strong candidates who could co-manage the other lunchtime supervisors and bring their different strengths to the table.

“We looked beyond any possible challenges and necessary adjustments to see Libby’s potential as a leader and she has gone on to make such a difference to our school team.”

With lunchtimes running smoothly – including a suggestion book to help staff get involved in making positive changes – teachers have moved from rostered playground duties back into the classroom.

And Libby hasn’t stopped there, reigniting her interest in drama by running an after-school club for the children and also helping them gain their maths times tables badges week by week.

Libby said: “I understand from my own experiences how sitting tests can be hard for some and so I make earning the badges as fun as possible – with quick fire quizzes and laps around the room!”

Alex (left) and Libby

She’s also rapidly working her way through her part-time studies to become a teaching assistant. A course that Coventry City Council’s apprenticeship team extended from one to two years but is now not looking like it will take Libby that long.

Alex concludes: “Libby’s journey is a fantastic example of not being deterred by knockbacks and staying focused on the prize. Her anxieties were just getting the better of her during the recruitment process.

“The school continues to wrap their support around her when it’s needed – including providing a mentor from their leadership team – but they stand back when it’s her turn to take charge.

“Libby is a credit to herself and to the Accelerate project and I am proud to have played a part in what will hopefully be a promising teaching career.”

*who are known to their local authority in England.

About Accelerate

Accelerate is a partnership of local organisations that specialise in supporting people in Coventry and Warwickshire who would like to work but for various reasons find it hard to get a job and enjoy all the benefits that employment brings.

The partnership includes training providers, charities, housing associations, disability support, women’s only services, well-being and mental health organisations, enterprise start-up, childcare providers, local authorities, community radio and employer networks.

Accelerate is a Building Better Opportunities Project funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Find out more here.

Back down to London town!

Walk and Talk taking place in Coventry

19 June 2019.

Grapevine returns to London today (19 June) to bring news of our pioneering work in Coventry and Warwickshire to the movers, shakers and decision-makers from local and national government, health, housing and social care.

CEO Clare Wightman has been invited to be one of the speakers at the Civil Society Futures* forum, organised by public policy events provider Inside Government.

Clare Wightman
Clare

She will tell the audience how we are using our out-of-the-box thinking and expertise to take a place-based approach to meeting local needs.

What this means for us at the moment is a National Lottery Community Fund project in Stoke Aldermoor (Coventry) to help a group of community-minded residents improve their place.

Their plan focuses on young people, families and connecting cultures. It will bring together civil society, citizens, local authority and businesses to address local priorities through collective action.

Today’s event coincides with ‘Policy Day’ of Small Charity Week – an annual awareness week to celebrate and promote small charities across the UK.

In describing our approach, Clare will give examples of earlier work igniting change with people and communities. Included is the story of Rishard – a young man on the edge of crisis whose needs were misdiagnosed as care, support and treatment.

His real need was for a life shaped by his hopes and dreams, one that could stretch and grow.

With Grapevine, he found his way back with help from a network of good people to become an actor (his dream) and no longer a client with needs to be serviced.

She says: “It’s not magic. It happened because relationships keep on giving – regrouping around new problems or new opportunities in a way that services just can’t.”

Relationships are able to go way beyond the remit of services and will be key to our place-based approach in Stoke Aldermoor and many other current and future projects.

We wish Clare all the best for her latest speaking engagement. Follow her on Twitter at @GrapevineCEO. The event hashtag today is #IGCivilSociety.

25th anniversary logo

*Background

The government’s Civil Society Strategy was published in August 2018 and outlines a plan to enhance collaboration between the voluntary and public sectors.

It recognises the pivotal role that voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations have to play in tackling the challenges we face in today’s society.

Today’s event gives practitioners a forum to debate and disseminate current thinking and information about the strategy from organisations like us who are taking up the opportunity and running with it. We are attending in the lead up to our 25th anniversary celebrations this October (1994 – 2019).

More information

Visit: www.insidegovernment.co.uk/civil-society-strategy

More on Place Based Social Action in Stoke Aldermoor.

Find out more on Small Charity Week here.

CYA Sofa Safari in Coventry city centre? Tell us more!

Getting ready for show time

28 May 2019.

The sun was smiling down on Coventry Youth Activists’ (CYA) performance for youth loneliness last Saturday (25 May).

CYA and their sofa were at Broadgate in the city centre to raise awareness of the troubling statistic that one in three young disabled people spend less than an hour outside of home on a Saturday.

Open Theatre Company provided the artistic direction to the ‘sofa safari’ performance dreamed up by CYA, and the safari element was made possible by Imagineer UK giving movement to the sofa through wheels.

All told, it was an attention grabbing event that disrupted the bustling shopping area’s usual Saturday happenings and propelled a group of determined young people straight into the spotlight.

CYA’s Lily explains: “We fight for disabled people’s rights… they can be kind of bored and alone and we want to change that. So people can get out more and be accepted and just make everyone feel they fit in.

“So we thought if we did this, it would get it out more so people would find out about it.”

And they have. A very big well done and thank you to all of you.

Here’s our pick of the best pics – click to enlarge each photo. Find out more about CYA and how you might like to join in here.

Rehearsals at EGO Performance Company.

Performance preparations.

Show time!

Photographs by John Whitmore Photography | Follow @thedarkshed on Instagram.

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.

#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.