Today’s session was shorter. Assembly Members had therefore watched the Expert Witness videos before the session began and were ready with some really brilliant questions.

Our loose theme for the session was Action (how we can implement change): Imagining the steps along the path to achieving the change envisaged.

Expert Witnesses

Our artist this week was Ali Gadema, an actor, rapper, spoken word artist and facilitator. Ali spoke about his experience of getting into the arts via Contact Theatre in Manchester and how this helped him make huge changes in his life.

François Matarasso is a community artist, writer and researcher. In the first video, he talks about The Rome Charter, which he helped develop. It is a framework for thinking about how people can be fully involved in the cultural life of their community – and therefore properly enjoy Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which gives us all the right to enjoy the cultural life of our community. In the second video he talks about a European project which involved something like participatory budgeting, where groups of people were able to access funds and support to use cultural heritage to solve problems in their communities.

Martin Reeves, CEO Coventry City Council talks about how he sees arts and culture as being key to Coventry being an attractive place to live and work, and the city’s recovery from the pandemic.

Justine Themen, Co-Artistic Director 2021, Belgrade Theatre. Justine talks about the importance of arts for children and young people – and mentions Coventry’s pioneering role as the birthplace of Theatre in Education.

The Assembly Members had come armed with some questions, and the ‘goldfish bowl’ discussion between the Expert Witnesses was really interesting and covered a lot of ground. There was discussion of intergenerational practice, a frustration that still so much good practice flies under the radar and some frank discussions about the importance of trust and dialogue; what is said about an organisation by the way it spends its money and how that might be redistributed.

‘Goldfish bowl’ session.
The speakers respond to Assembly break out discussions.

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.

Art’s for the People – by Ali Gadema (a response to this session)

To recognise the assets of our city,
We must first agree to disagree.
To tell the stories of our history filled streets;
we must give each other room to breathe.

Try to understand each other, even when it’s tough,
When we feel those who don’t listen properly are slightly out of touch.
All this talking in the past hasn’t added up to much, 
Other than political double dutch and such and such,

So it’s time to pull the finger out!
To make it loud and clear.
A community embracing unity is one that confronts its fears.

From Foleshill to Willenhall, From Longford to Bell Green 
From Wood End to Hawkesbury and all the areas in between,
Let us come together and work on this real life sculpture,
To shape the legacy of the city of culture.

Ali Gadema

To find out more & get involved:

Follow the arrow links below to find out more about the Citizens’ Assembly, and to have your say about arts, culture, creativity and imagination.