Our Modern Day Lady Godivas

Back in February, we launched a search to find modern-day Lady Godivas. We asked the people of Coventry to nominate women who were doing incredible work in the city and championed the spirit of activism and social justice that Lady Godiva, and Coventry, is famous for. 

Well, now we have found our 14 Lady Godivas, who will play a major role in the signature event for Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, Coventry Moves. 

The 14 Godivas have unique stories of their own which were drawn out during the nomination and selection process, making them the perfect representations of the famous figure.

They are Felicity Alsop, Alethea Balbuena, Kirsty Brewerton, Surinder Dhillon, Christine Eade, Isabelle Edgar-McCabe, Reena Jaisiah, Last Mafuba, Caitlin McCarthy, Jess McLish, Loraine Mponela, Laura Nyahuye, Pru Porretta and Christine Sugary Staple.

Many of them have been learning to ride a horse for the first time as part of filmed contributions on the day. Their exact role in the Coventry Moves story, which is being directed by Justine Themen, will emerge on the day as people watch it unfold from their homes online, on the radio and on their social media feed.

Our Lady Godivas

Felicity Alsop

Felicity is a young woman who has autism and who cares for her mother. She is an active member of her community helping on a daily basis, be it helping senior citizens to cross the road or buying food and drink for the homeless. She grew her hair to her waist and last year she had it cut off and sent to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. She is passionate about helping animals and has rescued rehomed 15 hamsters during her childhood.

Alethea Balbuena

Alethea’s passion is helping others, especially groups that are forgotten, disadvantaged or from underserved communities. She is the deputy CEO and Director of Operations of Coventry and Warwickshire Mind. She has worked for the organisation since 1999.

She volunteers with the night shelter, working with people who live on the streets, particularly during the winter months.  She is also involved, as a dancer, in an annual charity fundraiser, Coventry Does Strictly. She has recently worked to fund services for young Black men and their mental and emotional health, and worked to fund a grass root services engaging disadvantaged young people, focussing on their mental health and emotional wellbeing through sport and basketball.

Kirsty Brewerton

Mum to 4 year old Jude, Kirsty Brewerton is a Clinical Sister with the NHS who has been re-deployed throughout the pandemic. After overcoming her own mental health issues, she now advocates for improved mental health support for NHS staff. Kirsty is a leader for the NHS Workers Say No Campaign, involved in organising protests and events both nationally and locally for fair pay and better PPE. She is also one of the founding members of Sitting Rooms of Culture, a creative community group that began in response to the pandemic. Their online space has become a creative hub for the city, and a place to share 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. Ekta was formed in 2012 and as Chair, Surinder developed it from conception to provide services 4 days a week. During her time as leader, Ekta received the Queens Award for the Voluntary Services it provides, and another national award for tackling health inequalities and promoting health promotion. She stepped down as chair in April 2019 and resigned as a trustee last year due to health reasons. She recently joined the team of trustees for Broad Street Hall and supports its community initiatives.

Christine Eade

Christine Eade manages The Pod, Coventry City Council’s award winning mental health social brokerage and cultural hub. The Pod builds individual, organisational and societal capacity for creativity, innovation, compassion and activism.  Their approach asserts the importance of cultivating authentic connection with the city, its creatives, entrepreneurs, changemakers and quiet activists.

Isabelle Edgar-McCabe

Isabelle founded the baby bank, Baby Godiva, in 2019 as an emergency support centre for struggling parents in Coventry. Working mainly with health and social care professionals in Coventry and Warwickshire to identify babies in need, Baby Godiva seeks to help socially and/or economically disadvantaged families and mothers unable to provide basic equipment, consumables, food and clothing for their babies from birth to around twelve months by supplying them with appropriate donated or purchased items free of charge.

Reena Jaisiah

Outside of her day job working with young people, Reena has been at the forefront of highlighting the issues of caste based discrimination; writing a play to showcase real life British Asian’s 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. She has dealt with many sensitive issues including sexual exploitation of women and drug addiction. Her work has been recognised by several professional bodies and she was selected as one of the 100 most inspiring women in the Midlands. Reena has also worked with children with autism and special needs, young offenders, the new communities in Coventry and the homeless. In 2016 she was a recipient of Coventry City Council’s Good Citizen Award and has been recognised as alumni of the year for Birmingham City University. She has become a voice for adults with learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

Last Mafuba

Last is the founder & CEO of Inini Initiative, a charity that offers a culturally sensitive mental health service to people of colour. She has 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. She holds a BSc in Psychology and an LLM in International Development Law and Human Rights both from Warwick University. She is an Acumen Fellow, and is now researching for a PhD, focusing on mental health and mental health services in Black communities.

Caitlin McCarthy

Caitlin is a 16-year old singer songwriter from Coventry, who is already creating a buzz on the local music scene. Caitlin 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

Whilst expecting her second child in 2019, Jess launched Coventry Rocks, a website for families to find local baby and toddler groups, events, attractions and activities. During the pandemic, she adapted the site into a support hub for families in the area. She launched a Family Favourites series, where local parents shared ideas for keeping kids entertained. Coming out of lockdown, Jess launched a collection of local outdoor spaces which was hugely beneficial to local families looking for new and different places to explore.

Coventry Rocks

Loraine Mponela

Loraine 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. For her work with CARAG, Loraine has been recognised as ‘Everyday Hero’ by Coventry City of Culture 2021. Loraine sits on the Board for Women for Refugee Women and on Management Committee for Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) among others.

She also sits on the Status Now Network for the #StatusNow4All Campaign which is calling on the governments of UK and Ireland to give/regularise status for ALL: people still in the legal process, people who are undocumented and everyone failed by the UK asylum and Immigration system as a public health measure. Loraine has a lovely son and naturally loves fish.

Laura Nyahuye

Laura 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

Prue 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 and to celebrate diversity across those communities collaboratively.  These are the Godiva Sisters. Pru leads the Sisters as catalysts for social cohesion in many festivals, events, workshops and talks such as the annual Godiva Day in September, a tradition Pru revived. She is the founder and CEO of the Godiva Trust, which engages positively with schools, communities and grassroots organisations, celebrating the rich cultural heritage and diversity of the city. Pru connects people and ideas with positive thought and creativity in many ways. She is an ambassador to some of Coventry’s twin cities providing school workshops in Russia, Germany and Serbia to name a few. She is a knowledgable Heart of England tourist guide and offers her support and commitment to tourism in Coventry. She provides educational workshops, story telling of the heritage of Godiva and is involved in several multicultural women’s programmes.  The Trust has grown with her leadership to offer reconciliation programmes and events to promote the importance of peace. She is always seeking opportunities to enact positive social development through artistic and cultural means, often creating new avenues of collaboration and empowered change.

Christine Sugary Staple

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, Dr Neville Staple (The Specials & Fun Boy 3). She fronts their own band with Neville, and works tirelessly supporting Coventry City, supporting many charitable trusts and projects, including mentoring and projects that help school children and students into music and drama. Sugary holds events and writes songs to highlight street and domestic safety issues, especially for abused women and vulnerable adults, and to address the plight of knife-crime among young people. She campaigns relentlessly for accessibility and equality in the music and arts industry, as well as provides sanitation, education and support to disadvantaged girls in African and Caribbean slums, via her patronage work and her linked Coventry City fund-raising initiatives. She promotes her charities and her home City across the World during her music tours, videos and TV appearances, and is currently producing a series of music videos and big TV productions, all to be filmed in Coventry, as well as supporting Coventry's Women's Haven Centre, the Lord Mayor's Peace Seminars and Coventry's Sound System history, with a new I&I Sound System School for the City's young people.