A GROUP of 14 Coventry women have been chosen as ‘modern day Lady Godivas’ to play a part of one of the biggest moments in the city’s recent history.
The chosen ones – from a variety of backgrounds – were selected from more than 140 nominations and will take centre stage at Coventry Moves on June 5 – the City of Culture Trust’s online signature event.
The event will begin at 8.30am and is scheduled to run at intervals throughout the day for the people of Coventry, Warwickshire and across the UK to experience from home – online, on the radio or on social media.
Coventry Moves will help to tell the story of the city’s past, present and future and a key part of that story is the legend of Lady Godiva – a pioneer for activism and social justice whose story is known throughout the world.
Introducing the 14 modern day Lady Godivas
Felicity Aslop Felicity, a young woman who has autism, cares for her mother and is an active member of her community on a daily basis. She does everything from helping older people to buying food and drink for the homeless. Last year she grew her hair to her waist and had it cut off to make wigs for children with cancer.
Alethea Balbuena Alethea’s passion is helping others, especially groups that are forgotten, disadvantaged or underserved communities. She is the deputy CEO and Director of Operations of Coventry and Warwickshire Mind. She also volunteers with the night shelter, working with people living on the streets and has recently worked to fund services for young black men to help them with their mental and emotional health.
Kirsty Brewerton is a clinical sister with the NHS who has been re-deployed during the pandemic. She is one of the founding members of Sitting Rooms of Culture, a creative community group which began during Covid-19 and has become a creative hub to showcase grassroots talent.
Surinder Dhillon Surinder was one of the founders of Ekta-Unity, which provides services to improve the holistic wellbeing of the local Asian community. After forming it in 2012, she became chair and developed it to provide services four days-a-week. Ekta received the Queen’s Award for the voluntary services it provides and a national award for tackling health inequalities. She stepped down in 2019.
Christine Eade manages The Pod, Coventry City Council’s award-winning mental health social brokerage and cultural hub. The Pod’s approach asserts the importance of cultivating authentic connection with the city, its creatives, entrepreneurs, changemakers and quiet activists.
Isabelle Edgar-McCabe founded baby bank Baby Godiva in 2019 as an emergency support centre for struggling Coventry parents. It works with health and social care professionals to identify babies in need and help socially and/or economically disadvantaged families and mums.
Reena Jaisiah, whose day job involves working with young people, has been at the forefront of highlighting the issues of caste-based discrimination. She wrote a play to showcase real life British Asians’ experiences of caste prejudice. She has also worked with the Belgrade Theatre leading on an Asian youth theatre project tackling stereotypes of the Asian communities and has dealt with many sensitive issues including sexual exploitation of women and drug addiction.
Last Mafuba is the founder and CEO of Inini Initiative, a charity that offers a culturally sensitive mental health service to people of colour. She has more than 20 years of experience of working with marginalised groups. She has worked with asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, people with learning disabilities, those experiencing mental health problems, and women experiencing domestic abuse.
Caitlin McCarthy is a 16-year-old singer songwriter from Coventry, who is already creating a buzz on the local music scene and is due to release her debut EP in March 2020. She was the voice behind Coventry City Council’s ‘I Will Survive’ Covid-19 advertisement.
Jess McLish launched Coventry Rocks – www.coventryrocks.co.uk – whilst awaiting the arrival of her second child in 2019. The website helps families to find local baby and toddler groups and promotes events, attractions and activities. During the pandemic, she adapted the site into a support hub for families in the area.
Loraine Masiya Mponela is a community organiser and migrants rights campaigner. She is the chair for Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG). CARAG is for and run by people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants living in West Midlands.
Laura Nyahuye is a Zimbabwean born creative visionary who makes wearable body adornments. Her work challenges perceptions and addresses issues to do with women and migrant communities. She is also the founder of Maokwo, a social enterprise exploring ways in which creativity can bring communities together.
Pru Porretta MBE has devoted her time and considerable energy to charitable causes in Coventry for nearly 40 years. Pru reimagined the role of Godiva from a spectated figurehead on a horse to a strong female leader seeking social justice and working with other female heroines from different cultures to empower their communities. She champions and celebrates diversity across those communities collaboratively with the ‘Godiva Sisters’.
Christine ‘Sugary Staple’ has been writing, producing and performing in film, video and music since her teens and is the wife and manager of the original rude boy Neville Staple (ex The Specials and Fun Boy 3). She works tirelessly supporting Coventry City and works for various charitable trusts and schools helping children into music and drama.
Preparing for the day
Many of the 14 Godivas have been learning to ride a horse for the first time as part of their filmed contributions. Their exact role in the Coventry Moves story, which is being directed by Justine Themen, will be revealed on the day.
Justine said: “One of the big challenges of a year like this is how to tell a city’s traditional stories in a fresh way.
“Lady Godiva is a great example of that as it is a story that is known the world over but has been told many times.
“A couple of younger artists that we have collaborated with to shape the event came up with the idea of celebrating the diversity of extraordinary women who make meaningful change in our city today.
“Our Godivas – chosen from 140 plus nominations – will play a key role in Coventry Moves and prove that the heroes in 2021 are those people who work in our communities on a daily basis, something which has really been brought home over the past year.”
Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “We are delighted to be able to reveal our 14 inspirational modern day Godivas who will play a key role in Coventry Moves on June 5.
“Lady Godiva embodies so much of Coventry’s spirit and history and our 14 Godivas are wonderful examples of the amazing women that continue to help shape the city we live in.
“Coventry Moves will be the signature event that really kick start our year. It will reveal the stories of Coventry, our people and our city featuring a cast of well-known faces and many other great people from our city. Everyone is invited to enjoy the show from the comfort of your own home.”
The judging panel included Charlotte Moore, Fleur Sexton, Jane Hytch, Nyasha Pitt, Reem Doukmak, Sebbie Mudhai, and Trish Adudu.
Visit www.coventry2021.co.uk for more on how to experience Coventry Moves on June 5.
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