Citizens of Coventry

Shot at Dawn

Visitors are advised that the Shot at Dawn Memorial will close to the public on Monday 6 May. The memorial will undergo restoration and will be closed for approximately six weeks whilst these works take place. Free Shot at Dawn Talks will continue to take place daily at 12.30pm and 1.30pm in the Millennium Chapel, please ask at the Welcome Desk for more information. Visit our Shot at Dawn Restoration Appeal to find out more and donate.

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People without housing confronted unique challenges during the pandemic.

 

Many members of the homeless community were faced with increased hardship, with limited access to support services such as food banks, medical care, drop-in centres, and outreach programmes. 

 

In normal times, homelessness is connected with higher mental health risk, and Covid-19 added further strain. The isolation, fear, and uncertainty of the pandemic added to the struggle, leading to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

 

Despite these hardships, homeless communities showed their resilience and supported each other through unprecedented times. Even during the pandemic, organisations like Citizen stepped up to provide accommodation and tailored support services to the Nation’s homeless populations.

 

For Citizens of Coventry, artist Sebbie Mudhai and videographer Tom Chimiak explored the experiences of those living in Citizen's supported housing, creating a poem and a film inspired by the stories of the residents and the staff who work so hard to support them.

Citizen homelessness charity's housing in Coventry

Citizen

Coventry-based housing association Citizen describe their purpose as ‘to provide homes that are a foundation for life.’ The organisation owns and manages 30,000 homes for diverse communities across the West Midlands, from urban tower blocks to housing in rural villages and towns.

The Citizens of Coventry exhibition on display in the Arboretum's Drum projection gallery

Citizen is working to solve some of the most pressing issues around housing and homelessness, aiming to ensure that their customers have a stake in society, rights, responsibilities and the respect that they deserve. 

 

They also provide accommodation for people affected by domestic abuse, older people and people with disabilities, providing them with the support they need to live healthy, happy and independent lives.

 

Like the Arboretum, Citizen believe in collaborating with their communities, directly involving them in the work that they do. The community engagement for this exhibition took place with groups at both Frank Walsh House and Gateway, two of Citizen’s buildings in Coventry.

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Shared experiences

During engagement sessions the artists opened up conversations with staff and residents of Citizen’s accommodation, exploring their individual and collective memories of the pandemic.

 

Together they talked about the impact of lockdowns on their community: the experience of being separated from loved ones; the responsibility of being key workers; the challenges of those struggling with addiction, cut off from their support groups and networks; and the importance of local outdoor spaces, from parks and gardens to Coventry pavements, in helping them get through it all. 

 

Sebbie Mudhai’s poem Citizens of Coventry takes inspiration from the experiences of Citizen's communities, translating them into words that relate to us all. Below, the poem accompanies a film by Tom Chimiak, featuring scenes from Coventry’s landscape and the voices of those who generously shared their stories.

Citizens of Coventry

A tranquil hush had seized the air
parks once full of life, now so serene
rules and restrictions were put in place,
to keep us safe in this uncertain space

and our eyes were glued on the news,
constant announcements on our screens

the pavements were empty, the city was still
once busy, we now had time to kill
this town was becoming like a ghost town
but we took comfort in the greens and the browns

though things were now different
our lives flipped on its head
we looked outside our windows
and the calmness eased the dread
taking in the beauty of the world around
we walked and walked, without a sound
seemingly unexpected meetings on the street
for who knew the next time our paths would meet
I worked from morning to night
my wife stayed home, alone, confined
I couldn’t understand how she felt
and that feeling was returned
for throughout those testing times
what each one had, the other yearned

I spent hours in the garden
something I didn’t do before
soil in my hands and the sun on my face
a warm embrace amidst the war
at least that’s what it felt like
so much chaos in my home
in the garden I felt a sense of peace
and through the parks, I roamed

I came back from school, and found out we’d moved
it felt like I was leaving everything behind
everything was so different
my world had changed in the blink of an eye

aching hearts and burdened souls
surrounded us face to face
as we gathered in sanctuaries of shared addiction
in the realm where struggles lie

emotional strings that intertwined
seeking solace from our addiction
but then we were tossed into the eye of the storm
severing ties that were so strong
some of us managed to keep in touch
and some struggled to hold on

as the money depleted, so did my mood
as I searched for a stable home
friends lost family, family lost jobs
in my struggle, I wasn’t alone
even though we lost motivation
there were some things we could do
we climbed and jumped, rode bikes and slid
in the garden, we raced too

we walked through Caludon Castle every day
when we were finally allowed
the kids joined willow trees to make a swing
and kicked their legs towards the clouds
we made dens in the park stayed out until dark
spent quality family time
in these moments we were blessed with
we had hope, we knew we’d be fine

though the world was in disarray,
we found peace in those walks, day by day
as the world slowly opened up
and the roads began to make noise
we were reminded that through the chaos,
in the outdoors we could find joy.

Artists

Artists Sebbie Mudhai and Tom Chimiak carry out engagement with homeless communities at Citizen's accommodation

Sebbie Mudhai

Sebbie Mudhai is a spoken word artist from Warwickshire whose poetry has been featured by the BBC for World Poetry Day.

 

Having also performed for UK Black Pride, and as part of Wondrous Stories for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Sebbie’s work explores the world around them and focuses on mental health and wellness, sexuality and Blackness.

 

Tom Chimiak

Tom Chimiak is an award-winning videographer who specialises in short form content which has been shown on online platforms, in art galleries and film festivals. He has been producing content for over ten years, and shares his expertise with others as a Senior Lecturer in Filmmaking at Leeds Arts University.

 

Tom’s creative personal film projects have been screened in over one hundred cities across the world, with his work having featured in an Emmy Award winning TV series and having been shown in galleries such as Tate Modern and the London Institute of Contemporary Arts.

We would like to thank the residents and staff of Citizen’s Gateway and Frank Walsh House accommodation for their invaluable support throughout this project.