Reform the Norm storytellers get first radio play

Four Coventry residents have recorded their stories for a project that will help people process the pandemic’s fallout and contribute their personal experiences to a major plan to ‘Reform the Norm.’

Their piece aired last week on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire as part of the channel’s ‘Coventry Creates’ series which shines a light on creativity in the city.

Reform the Norm is made possible by the Emerging Futures Fund from the National Lottery Community Fund. The successful bid for £43,653 was made by a partnership between Grapevine, Coventry City of Culture Trust and three other Coventry charities – Central England Law Centre, Positive Youth Foundation and Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre.

Harry, a 23-year-old aspiring actor, came to the UK as a refugee from Iraq in 2019. Speaking about his experiences after settling in Coventry, he says: “It’s different from the place I’ve been because there isn’t just one way that people act or feel. The personalities of the people – there are many flavours, and that’s what makes Coventry unique.”

The Story of Us workshops, captured and illustrated by Melissa Smith
The Story of Us workshops, captured and illustrated by Melissa Smith

Leigha, Beckie and Joe have all worked closely with Grapevine over the years. Beckie brings her extensive first-hand experience of the health and care system as a young child and adult with a learning disability to The Story of Us.

She remembers being told often that she couldn’t do things because they would be too hard for her. She works at a nursery with young children now and is hoping to move closer to her supportive foster family soon.

Joe suffered many setbacks growing up – a troubled time at school, struggles with his mental health, an accident at work and attempts at taking his own life. Now he uses his love of music to DJ online and support and encourage other people who are ‘different’ to take the lead too.

“It feels like fate that I was supposed to survive so that I could help others,” he says.

Beckie's story for Reform the Norm
Beckie’s story for Reform the Norm

These four people are part of a larger ‘Reform the Norm Collective’ – people whose voices are underrepresented or unheard – learning how to shape their experiences into stories and their stories into power to change the future. One that works better for everybody.

Training through online workshops led by sounddelivery, has been drawing out these stories while developing their storytelling skills. There are many more stories, and creative platforms to help tell them, waiting in the wings.

Look out for an opportunity to join the collective for a ‘Culture Conversation’ on 19 February, looking at why social change and why now with city leaders. This regular event is run by Coventry City of Culture Trust.

About the Emerging Futures Fund

The Emerging Futures Fund is a key part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s commitment to enabling civil society to be fit for the future – supporting organisations and the voluntary sector to create opportunities to help local communities thrive.

Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600 million has been made available to support communities throughout the UK during the Coronavirus crisis. The National Lottery is playing a critical role in supporting people, projects and communities during these challenging times.