DIALOGUE programme - Cultural Activism

The pod - Cathedral
The BE ensemble play live at Coventry Cathedral, photograph by Marcin Sz

Why is The Pod supporting and informing arts and cultural industry?

The Pod is committed to rights-based solution focused practice in secondary mental health and recognises and asserts the importance of us having an authentic connection with the city, its cultural leaders, its creatives, its entrepreneurs, its change makers and its activists.

The Pod as both a statutory mental health resource and cultural/social activism hub has a multi-faceted remit; a common strand is that all facets either implicitly or explicitly aim to build individual/organisational and/or societal capacity for creativity, innovation and resilience

How has The Pod informed the cultural sector? - a quick history

In 2010 The Pod's Collective//Pod formed with majority membership artists with experience of severe and enduring mental ill health (as associates of the Pod) and the membership was evolving. It believed that creativity challenges and infiltrates what we do and how we feel, both subconsciously and consciously. Through this relationship and collaboration with other professional artists and the creative industries on a local and international platform symbiotic and transformative relationships evolved. This was achieved through the continued development of a professional, eclectic and thought-provoking and evolving arts programme that inspires images of possibility.

Achievements since 2010 have included:

  • My Happy Space Festival
  • Pod becoming custodian of Bob and Roberta Smith Shed and curating/programming over 30 exhibitions
  • 30 studio residencies to new graduates at The Pod
  • Launch of Album with Superheroes Dream
  • Scratch the Surface Festival
  • World’s Film Zine ‘30sec3mins30films’ exposing radical mental health themes in partnership with Baileyface Productions
  • Zine Festivals
  • Commissioning artists for Foundation masterclasses
  • Scratch the Surface – DIALOGUE festival
  • The world premiere of ‘Incidental’

Working with artists and arts institutions to include:

  • Sam Lee
  • Freschard and Stanley Brinks
  • Wellcome Collection
  • Rifle Maker (Soho)
  • Tin Angel Records
  • Stuart Semple
  • Room Art
  • Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Warwick Arts Centre
  • Bethlam Museum of the Mind
  • Wolfgang Buttress
  • Coventry Cathedral
  • John Hegley
  • Adamson Collection
  • Tin Music and Arts
  • Coventry University
  • Bob and Roberta Smith
  • Coventry Art Space
  • Mental Spaghetti
  • Broken Grey Wires
  • Doug Tielli
  • Martin Green
  • Coventry Bienalle
  • Bird in the Belly

The Pod is cited as being a culturally impacting arts and mental health organisation in Coventry’s Cultural Strategy and was actively involved in engaging communities of interest and artists in the development of the City of Culture bid.

The move to the new premises, 31 Far Gosford Street, in the heart of the city’s cultural quarter in 2018 and the success of partnerships/relationships forged (and lessons learnt) through the Scratch the Surface – DIALOGUE festival agitated new conversations and ideas about our work and cultural impact. With consensus it was decided that our art and cultural work is steered through/sits under the Pod's DIALOGUE programme: an evolving partnership/conversation with key cultural organisations, communities of interest, practitioners and activists to maximise the impact of the Pod Café as a unique venue, Supper Clubs, the Zine library/Studio, the Food Union CV5 allotment and the Bob and Roberta Smith shed.

Since opening in March 2018 as part of DIALOGUE we have:

  • Programmed more than 30 at the CV5 allotment and two artist residencies
  • 40 supper clubs themed to bring together ‘Artists and Activists, Environmentalists and Food Growers, Ramblers and Walkers and onwards.
  • Four artist residencies – Anthony Stevens, Lizz Brady (Broken Grey Wires) Lauren Jane Sheerman and Alix Villanueva and Coventry Bienalle Residency
  • Day time gigs and performances with Tin Angel Records
  • Commissioned ‘DIALOGUE’ films made by professional artists from Coventry that have been impacted by COVID-19
  • Supported publication of Cosy Zine and Here Comes Everyone:Green Zine (2020)
  • Delivery partners for CHANGE festival
  • Delivery partners and hosts of Siren Cross
  • Hosted Artist residency programme with Coventry Bienalle

The supper clubs have been hugely successful and many of the people joining us for supper have afterwards become active members of our citywide social/cultural activism programs Food Union and Time Union, Coventry. As an integral part of the Supper Clubs we have had the opportunity to host some amazing live music through our DIALOGUE partnership with Room Art and Tin Angel Records. The whole ethos of The Pod supper clubs is to grow our community - we believe food is a universal language and are proud to offer a plant based shared table menu using ingredients predominantly sourced from our growing site and/or Coventry Market.  Supper Clubs are all about strengthening our unique relationship with the city, its cultural, environmental and social activists


THE POD has been awarded funds for underGROWTH by Coventry City of Culture Trust through the Heart of England Community Foundation. ‘The Road to 2021 Fund’. underGROWTH is a series of eco-art inter[actions] that create a unique platform for people to consider, confront and articulate issues relating to the environment: the air we breathe, the city we move through, the trees that line our streets, the weeds that breakthrough the paving slabs, the River Sherbourne as it runs through and beneath the city, the food we eat, and ultimately our human responses.

underGROWTH aims to awaken/radicalise how people interact with the city by cultivating common purpose, exploring wildness and unearthing and re-planting the city's radical roots. underGROWTH will enable local people to engage with eco-artists, environmental activists, food growers, scientists and academics from across the UK. Participative in nature, the inter[actions] will creatively agitate environmental, political, and culturally motivated conversations and actions.

The Garden Zine

The Garden is a creative collaboration between artist Alix Villanueva and Coventry-based composer Tim Seeley [co-commissioned by The Pod and Coventry City of Culture] who have co-created a visual score resonating to the sounds of nature and the movement of bird wings soaring around the CV5 Sherbourne Allotment and responsive to over 40 public submissions being woven into The Garden Zine.

The Garden Zine, curated by Alix Villanueva, is a document that collates people’s multifaceted relationships to gardens and gardening. The idea for The Garden Zine emerged out of a residency at THE POD in Coventry for the Coventry Biennial 2019. During this time, Alix Villanueva had the special pleasure of inaugurating the CCCA Shed as a Zine Library (now a Zine Reading Room), bringing THE POD's zine collection to the Shed, as well as her own reading material for her residency. She came to the conclusion that she wanted to put together The Garden Zine for the Zine Reading Room. Gardens have been at the centre of her work for the past few years. They appeal to her as places saturated with cultural and social histories, as well as the meeting point for human and 'nature' to co-create. They are neither wild, nor domestic, perhaps both.

The idea within the music for Tim Seeley’s Avian Garden is to create the feeling of the wings’ movement, the energy behind flight for a bird. When entering Tim Seeley’s sonic world, the listener is left to compose their own soundscape, merging the velocity of birds’ wings, the chaos but beauty of masses of birds, their conversations and calls, with ethereal electronic sounds.

“I wanted to convey the feeling I get when the geese fly over me. The energy and effort their body exerts. Each wing forcing the air while the body makes gentle sounds like an accordion. I have ignored many aspects of time and tempo, inspired by Erik Satie’s ideas of eliminating the bar lines. There is no strict tempo, no pulse, no defined time signature. Just expression of movement.”

Tim Seeley

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