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Coventry City of Culture’s modern Lady Godivas

Hear from Sebbie Mudhai, Social Media Executive at Warwick as well as Young Creative Associate at the City of Culture Trust, about the idea behind Coventry’s modern Lady Godivas, how they were selected and the judging process as well as their involvement in 'Coventry Moves' on 5 June.

In February 2020, I started working for the University of Warwick as a Social Media Executive whilst studying alongside my Digital Media degree, which I graduated from in June. During that Summer, I applied to be one of 5 Young Creatives, working with the director Justine Themen and the creative team on the signature event, Coventry Moves. I felt like being part of this programme was an opportunity to put Coventry on the map, and to give back to a city that has given me so much.

It was during the Young Creatives programme, where we took part in many Zoom workshops and eventually socially-distanced in-person meetings, the idea of modern Lady Godivas materialised. I wanted to celebrate the women of Coventry. Growing up here and being involved with local communities and organisations, I knew there were powerful women in Coventry with different stories to be told. I wanted women to be riding through the city, and though when presenting this I thought it would be far-fetched, especially in the midst of a pandemic, it just feels incredible that it’s actually happening.

Photo of Coventry's modern Lady Godivas

Over 1,000 years ago Godiva fought for change by riding through the streets of Coventry, and women of all backgrounds across the city continue her legacy today. At the end of the Young Creatives Programme, I then began as a Young Creative Associate, which is my current role with Coventry City of Culture. As a Directing and Producer Associate, I am one of 5 young people being mentored closely through the delivery process.

In February, there was a call-out to find the wonderful women of Coventry who are modern-day Lady Godivas. Who was championing for social justice? Who was making waves and building bridges? Who was really doing the work? Who are our every day heroes? We wanted to highlight the amazing things that women were doing in the city. There were over 100 nominations received from all around the city, which was incredible. The judging panel included some inspirational women from Coventry. Among the panel were Charlotte Moore, Fleur Sexton, Jane Hytch, Nyasha Pitt, Reem Doukmak, and Trish Adudu as well as myself. You can read more about them here.

From these nominations, 14 women needed to be picked to be part of a significant moment in Coventry Moves, which was rather difficult. The process of whittling the list of modern-day Godivas with the other women and creative team over a Zoom after having shortened the list individually, took a few hours. It was important to us that we included everybody, and so there was still an opportunity for the other modern-day Godivas to take part on the 5th June.

Each with unique stories of their own that were highlighted during the nomination and selection process, the 14 modern-day Lady Godivas are Pru Porretta, Felicity Alsop, Alethea Balbuena, Kirsty Brewerton, Christine Eade, Isabelle Edgar-McCabe, Reena Jaisiah, Christine Sugary Staple, Caitlin McCarthy, Surinder Dhillon, Jess McLish, Loraine Masiya Mponela, Laura Nyahuye and Warwick alumna Last Mafuba. They have all been attending horse riding lessons, some of them having never been on a horse before!

These women are perfect representations of the brave and fearless Lady Godiva and their exact role in Coventry Moves, directed by Justine Themen, will emerge on the day, when it will be broadcasted online and on social media.

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.