A Crash Course in Cloudspotting comes to our streets

Coventry citizens with visible and invisible disabilities, and those without, joined artist Raquel Meseguer Zafe on a journey around the city – experiencing lying down in public spaces and starting conversations about making Coventry a more restful place.

An invitation to pause. To rest. To listen. To explore the subversive act of lying down when you have a disability or chronic illness. To see life from a different perspective when you don’t.

An aerial shot of people lying on the floor of the Herbert Art Gallery
Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Credit: John Whitmore

Here are our favourite photographs from the day of Raquel, members of our Coventry Youth Activists and Connecting for Good Cov, supporters, friends and people we met on our way through Broadgate, Coventry Cathedral and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum that Saturday afternoon.

People lay on the floor of Coventry Cathedral taking photos of the ceiling
Coventry Cathedral. Credit: John Whitmore

A Crash Course in Cloudspotting is part of Grapevine and Coventry City of Culture 2021’s Reform the Norm programme. It is all also part of their Green Futures programme. The city centre action landed in October to coincide with the theme ‘Utopia’.

This is artist Raquel Meseguer Zafe’s story in her own words and the best way to describe what Cloudspotting is all about. You can also watch a video about her immersive installation that ran at the Herbert by clicking here.

Follow Raquel on Twitter at @uncharteredUK or visit her website uncharteredcollective.com.

Get in touch with Sophie at sgreener@grapevinecovandwarks.org if you feel passionate about rest and resting spaces.

Walk + Talk + Rest

Hi, welcome. Before I tell you a story, I’d like you to think for a moment about what makes you feel welcome. What makes you feel like you belong? 

Is it a kind smile? A cup of tea? The offer to pull up a chair?

For my friends at CYA it’s when people are not quick to judge people who present or behave differently. 

For me, it’s the invitation to lie down and rest when I need to. 

A woman in a red jumper stands before the crowd in Broadgate to share her story
Raquel shares her story. Photo credit: John Whitmore

I have lived with Chronic Pain for over a decade. And that means I need to lie down (a lot). If I don’t lie down when I need to, my world can get very small. Other disabled people will know this. And many of us were living in our own personal lockdowns, way before the pandemic hit. 

My way out of my pre-lockdown lockdown was to begin to lie down in public. I lay down on trains so I could visit family. I lay down in galleries and theatres so I could have art in my life again. Simple things, ordinary things, we should all get to do. 

Black words written on pink paper and laid on the floor read "The world is simply not designed for me" A.Berry
Credit: John Whitmore

And then in 2016, I triggered a security alert by lying down on the sixth floor of the Southbank Centre. In the end, the security team made the first aid room couch available to me for 40 minutes. Which was a solution of sorts. But I’d gone to an art gallery and I wanted to be surrounded by art. I didn’t want to be on my own in a windowless room that smelt of TCP. So it wasn’t really the welcome I’d hoped for.

Since then I’ve collected nearly 300 stories about people’s attempts to rest in public, people like me who have an invisible disability or disability and need to navigate the world differently. 

A young man in a yellow jumper lays down on the fllor amongst other disabled activists
Credit: John Whitmore

People told me about lying down on toilet floors, in stationary cupboards, in all sorts of places. People told me about living their lives very strictly, about “working for 3.5 hours per day and spending the rest of their time in bed or on the sofa.” 

Now, you might think that you don’t know anyone who does this but chances are you do. 19 per cent of working aged adults in the UK are disabled, that’s one in five of us. So whether they are ‘out’ about it or not, you probably know someone who’s disability means they need to rest throughout the day. 

A ground perspective of people laying down in the main hall of Coventry's Herbert Art Gallery
Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Credit: John Whitmore

Now, I don’t want one more single person to trigger a security alert by lying down at their local arts centre, or to have to lie down in the stationery cupboard at work, or not be able to attend an event because sitting is too painful. 

The lawyer Kim Samuel argues that in the 21st century we need the human right to belong. Those simple, ordinary things, we should all get to do, are the human right to belong. 

A woman in a beige coat takes photos of people laying on the floor
Credit: John Whitmore

For me, that means places and communities thinking about how to extend a warm welcome to people like me. It includes a kind smile, a cup of tea, an invitation to rest, a straw for my friend Prash, step free access. It includes horizontal events, BSL, audio description and creative access. It includes a change in culture and attitude, as well as a change in urban design. 

So today, Coventry Youth Activists, Grapevine and I are issuing a challenge to Coventry to become the first Restful city in the UK.

We will need strong allies, because it takes many small actions to move the mountain or in this case to remove the barriers around people’s perception of other people lying down in public. 

One woman (Raquel) lays down in Broadgate, Coventry as people walk around her
Broadgate. Credit: John Whitmore

This is how you can help: 

  • You can pledge to make your office or workplace, cinema or gallery, rest friendly. 
  • If you have a Resting story to tell, you can add it to our digital archive.
  • You can come to our show A Crash Course in Cloudspotting to hear some of the Resting stories we’ve collected and experience for yourself the poetics of rest. 

CYA taught me that Coventry was the first city to proclaim it’s a city for peace and reconciliation. So it is a city of firsts. 

Help us make Coventry the first city in the UK to develop a Resting Spaces Network, so no one is more than 15 min from somewhere they are welcome to rest. Help us prove it works here, so we know it can work in every city in the UK. But that Coventry had the courage to go for it first. 

Thank you.