This was another ‘Learning Session’ where the Assembly heard from a number of speakers.

Our theme this week was Include Everyone. If we can include and involve everyone, we get more eyes, more brains and more perspective on a problem or issue – and better solutions that work for more people.

We heard from Liza Vallance from Studio 3 Arts in Barking and Dagenham, Michèle Taylor from Ramps on the Moon, Laura Nyahuye from Maokwo, Hannah Graham from Coventry City of Culture Trust and the first of our 3 commissioned Assembly artists, Julia O’Connell.

Session Outline:

As with last week, the session began with a 5 minute presentation from each of the speakers (pre-recorded, see below) and then the Assembly members had some time to discuss in small groups what they had heard, and to formulate some questions for the speakers. The Assembly came back together and the questions were put to the speakers, who discussed them together in a ‘goldfish bowl’ setting (where the speakers are in the ‘bowl’, and the Assembly members are looking and listening in, but do not join in the conversation – see video below).

The Assembly members went back into small groups and shared their thoughts, making notes of the things that they want to remember from the discussions – and at this point the speakers were allowed to observe (but not comment on) these small group discussions.

The Assembly came back together for a final time to allow the speakers to comment on what they had heard – and bring in any other ideas or thoughts this had thrown up. The final part of the evening saw the Assembly members have a few more minutes to make a note of things/ideas/comments/thoughts that had really resonated, and that they want to keep for the deliberation sessions, when they will draw up their recommendations.

Whilst the Assembly is in progress, we’re not allowed to write about the detail of the discussions taking place, or about our Assembly participants (it’s a little like conducting a trial by jury in that way) – but rest assured that there are incredibly interesting and thoughtful discussions taking place!

The Speakers’ Presentations:

Expert Witness: Julia O’Connell, Artist

Julia O’Connell is a textile artist based in Coventry. She uses slow stitching in her work to promote time for pause and reflection, and often runs participatory drop-in stitching workshops. Each Assembly participant has been sent a small stitching pack in the post this week as their ‘homework’ – Julia will assemble the Assembly’s patches on 27th November.

Hannah Graham is an Associate Producer and Programme Manager for Coventry City of Culture. She is part of the Caring City Team and embedded at Grapevine in Spon End. Her work is centred around mental health and wellbeing, and using arts and culture to make real tangible change.

Michèle Taylor works as Director for Change for Ramps On The Moon. This is the Arts Council Funded consortium aiming to change the theatre sector by bringing more Deaf and disabled people into the sector and making them more visible.

Liza Vallance is Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Studio 3 Arts in Barking & Dagenham. Liza speaks about her work to involve a wide diversity of people from working class, under-represented or disadvantaged backgrounds in every layer of cultural life – as production managers, curators, performers – and not purely as participants in community projects.

Laura Nyahuye is an artist and founder and CEO of Maokwo, a Coventry organisation that supports migrants, refugees & asylum seekers, artists & communities on the margins. Maokwo aims to address the issues that minoritised artists and communities face.

Goldfish bowl session:

Panel discussion with Julia O’Connell, Hannah Graham and Laura Nyahuye in response to questions raised by Assembly members. Chaired by Andy Paice of Mutual Gain.

The full Art for the People Citizens’ Assembly Expert Witness video playlist (captioned) can be found here, and the BSL interpreted video playlist can be found here.

Haiku verses from Writer-in-Residence, Liz Mytton

In, out, up and down
My needle goes where it will
Tracing the stillness

Each tiny stitch moves
Through squares of complex fibres
Running without fear

There is no pattern
No archetype to trip you
So go, make your mark

Anxiety bars
Whole cohorts from public space
But they still crave art

So, let’s dismantle
Break down the tired old ways
That no longer serve

And go to places
On the outskirts, where we live
Amongst our yearning

An Assembly of Patches

We sent out a pack including a linen patch, needle and bamboo thread to every Assembly member. Julia asked them to each make some kind of stitching mark on their patch – and many of the Assembly members stitched along during this session!

Julia collected these patches in at the end of the Assembly and has assembled them into one beautiful patchwork piece.

To find out more & get involved

The Art for the People Citizens’ Assembly participants are 50 Coventry citizens – a random stratified sample of the city’s population selected through a process called sortition – and so can be said to be “Coventry in miniature”. Follow the arrow links below to find out more about the Citizens’ Assembly, and to have your say about arts, culture, creativity and imagination.