Coventry 2021 – The City of Homelessness?

A memorial project to Rob Windsor: An injury to one is an injury to all.

I am really pleased to announce the start of a new community participation monument art project. The object of this project for me is very clear. It is to politicise the events around Coventry – City of Culture 2021 while making a memorial sculpture to the ideas, methods and personality of my dear friend and socialist activist Rob Windsor.

As with other Community participation monuments  I have been involved with the idea will be to get the community to design and build a sculpture. In this case I want those affected by homelessness to be the key creators. Rob Windsor championed this cause and  it seems truly fitting to make it central.

At the beginning of January 2020 around the 8th anniversary of Robs untimely death at age of 47 the process of networking all those who loved and respected Rob started to come together. If you want to be involved please get in contact.
#THISISCOVENTRY

Coventry – City of culture or homelessness?

Since hearing about Coventry selection to be the 2021 city of culture I realised this was the moment to put together my ideas I have had for some time in planning to create a memorial for Rob Windsor. The fundamentals of Rob’s approach was always to be political, to draw out reality from what was happening in a situation and then act on it. So that’s how I want to try and create a memorial in his honour.

Recently, after many years away, I spent time wandering around Coventry thinking on this project. I noticed much had changed in the city  but unfortunately somethings were tragically the same, like serious homelessness, the problem literally stood out on every street corner.

My fear for Coventry City of Culture 2021 is that there would be an attempt to pay lip service to the problem but in reality push homelessness and other social questions under the carpet. Many cultural industry development programmes mean well by trying to encourage cultural investment for the city. The problem is they often only have gentrification as their solution, and social problems are moved to unseen places. I look forward to being proved wrong this time but I don’t think its an option to wait and find out. It’s been over 20 years since I left the Coventry and Warwickshire area. Since then despite much hard work from local charities the issue continues, or it seems according to local press reports, gets worse…

“The number of homeless households in temporary accommodation has increased by 186 per cent in Coventry since 2015/16….” according to Coventry Telegraph newspaper.

And then in 2018

“A family became homeless every 10 hours in Coventry last year” Coventry Telegraph newspaper.

So key to this intervention into the Coventry City of Culture 2021 will be to say why homelessness is still such issue and what we need to do to really end homelessness. The way to do that in my opinion is not to ask a politician, policy maker or even an artist but to mobilise people affected to stand up for themselves, to inspire people as Rob Windsor would have done, to clearly point out the social reasons and the necessary conclusions. In the process of designing and building the sculpture we organise, we learn what Rob stood for and create pubic art collectively to our own working class hero.

Rob Windsor an inspiration

Rob worked and politically struggled constantly against homelessness, its causes and the fight for a socialist solution. He was maybe best known for leading the fight against the Poll tax, where his razor wit and attention to detail proved invaluable to bringing down Thatcher. He was also known as a fighting socialist councillor for two terms between 2000-2010. His struggle for the homeless was honoured by Coventry Cyrenians, the homelessness charity, which named a charity and coffee shop after him. In future articles I will expand on my memories of Rob, his ideas and his important personal touch. I hope others will join me.

Windsors & Refreshed Charity and Coffee Shop 

I am also inspired to do this project in the memory of Kevin Hickey. I met Kevin at similar time to Rob. Kevin was homeless when I met him. He was struggling with his own demons. Kevin joined politically and socially with me and Rob. In those days we became very close. Over the years I lost contact with Kevin only to find he had succumbed to his troubles and committed suicide. I carry this sadness but unfortunately young suicide is more common than many people realise. It’s yet another reason to inspire today’s youth with ideas and creativity.

What Coventry culture and art means to me.

For me to return to Coventry to celebrate its culture heritage in 2021 is important, and if possible I can give something back. Coventry is where I started my artistic career as a young unemployed drummer in a band in 1989, we were based in Hillfields where Rob also lived. We were nurtured by the then Depot Studios which was situated behind the Belgrade theatre. This resource was invaluable to us giving us as unemployed young men access to learn about videos, poster art, organising events, and even a failed attempt at a cultural magazine. This for me was a first step of a long career in the creative industry.

How the project will be done

This article is just an opener and a conceptional idea, not the finished plan. The meeting on the 14th January will be the next step, hopefully from there the ideas will grow and we can develop a committee to direct the project. What is needed is your participation, your ideas and your energy. How big this project gets will depend on you and others who believe in it. These projects take time to grow and are as much about the process as the finished product. The previous community participation projects have focused on young people and the wider community being involved in educational workshops and activities. Held in community centres, schools, festivals and on the street. I think it’s an ideal time to mark Rob Windsor’s contribution to the city of Coventry; if you agree with me get involved.

P.S. If you can’t come on 14th January or you’re not in Coventry but want to help, then just send me a message or email. My number is 07835788919. At some point we will have to fundraise, and anyone who can’t wait to donate can pay at Rob007mac@gmail.com

For more info on Rob MacDonald, see my Facebook page  or website www.outa-space-com.

Further links

Homelessness charities in Coventry

Tributes to Rob

plaque
The feature photo of this article is Rob outside council house burning poll tax bills. This is a work inspired by that picture. The work was dropped and broken and remade as best it could be. It originally had “an injury to one is a injury to all”. Breaking this work made me sick to the stomach and I left it undone for 6 years. Only recently I had the courage to make the most of it as I knew I would be attempting to create something better in Rob’s memory