Citizen’s Assembly on Arts and Culture

Our friends at Talking Birds have convened Coventry’s first Citizen’s Assembly to look at arts and culture in the city.

Fifty residents were selected from across the city to explore the question: “How will arts, culture and creativity shape a better future for Coventry?”

The Assembly participants worked together over a period of six weeks during October and November. They listened to the varied opinions of expert witnesses, and they also listened to their peers – people they had not met before taking part in the Assembly. They debated together – discussing the issues, talking about change. They imagined a better future for our city and drew up, and voted on, a series of recommendations.

The recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly “sketch a better future for Coventry: one which is green in every sense and offers a democratic, regenerative, generous, equitable and collaborative life for all its citizens; where there is a real democracy of access to the arts as creator, participant and audience; a city that is a pleasant place to live – verdant, green, welcoming and future-facing; and where the arts are fully integrated into all communities.”

The Assembly came up with nine recommendations, as follows:

  1. Encounters with Arts and Culture: A city-wide scheme that provides an inclusive, accessible, rounded and easy to navigate menu of opportunities for every Coventry resident to encounter arts and culture close to home.
  2. Cov Art Pass A scheme that gives all young Coventry residents aged 15-25 a pass for free travel, and entry, to arts and cultural events in the city.
  3. Make Something Happen Fund: A small funding pot available to Coventry residents to enable them to put on creative and cultural events in their neighbourhood. These might just be up to £200 and the application process should be very simple and transparent.
  4. Neighbourhood Creative Hubs: Network of inclusive Neighbourhood Creative Hubs designed to connect, integrate and educate communities.
  5. The People’s Telegraph: There is a need for a new, efficient, co-ordinated, decentralised, people powered channel for sharing information about events and opportunities that people can get involved in (as audiences, participants, artists) and getting information right out into communities/ neighbourhoods.
  6. City Centre Garden: Establish an accessible, central Botanical Garden as a destination for locals and visitors alike, a place for people to get close to nature and a new green heart for the city centre. This might repurpose or adapt an existing space or form part of a new development, but should be free to access and within easy reach of transport links.
  7. The Ring Road as a Work of Art: Use art to beautify the ring road, improve connectivity between the centre and outlying areas and create a more inviting environment.
  8. Green Ways: Create a network of pocket parks and green spaces – connected by walking and cycling trails throughout the city, incorporate art and sculpture, build new parks and incorporate existing ones.
  9. Lighter & Brighter: adding bright, beautifully designed and environmentally considerate lighting to dark places across the city, to make us feel safer and improve the night-time economy.

The recommendations have been presented to Coventry’s Cultural Compact and several were put into the Cultural Strategy, currently in consultation.

Talking Birds is now working with Assembly members, to create pilot projects that test out the recommendations in neighbourhoods across Coventry, and start the work of making the Citizens’ vision a reality.

Pop-up trials for the environmentally friendly lighting will take place over May and June and Talking Birds held a mock-up arts hub on May 6 as part of Coventry Opens.

The project is supported by Arts Council England, Coventry City Council, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Coventry City of Culture 2021.

Talking Birds co-artistic director Janet Vaughan said: “The Citizen’s Assembly sought to reimagine and redefine what art for the people could – and should – be – putting cultural policy making into the hands of ordinary people.

“The recommendations sketch a better future for Coventry – one that is green in every sense and offers a democratic, regenerative, generous, equitable and collaborative life for all its citizens.

“Our citizens see a bold vision of Coventry being a pleasant place to live – verdant, green, welcoming and future-facing and where the arts are fully integrated into all communities.”

For more information visit the Talking Birds website.

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