Welcome Hall: 1st Monthly Update, March 2021

Greetings, all –

This is our first update on Zebra Collective’s work on the Welcome Hall project. We’re going to send monthly update briefings to keep you posted on developments, and to give you the opportunity to keep talking to us and asking questions.

So, here’s we go:

About the project

Zebra Collective is interested in redeveloping Welcome Hall as a community centre for Devonport and Plymouth, fit for purpose in 2021 and into the future.

The centre will offer a café (which will actually be the key feature of the scheme, as explained below), spaces for local groups, office space for community and social care organisations, hire space for classes, meetings, training & events, music nights and other such entertainment in the hall, and community resources such as a digital health hub. Plus there’s the possibility of some accommodation.

The cafe will be the main entry route to the centre, and will be run as a very welcoming, accessible and attractive space. Our intention is that it attracts everyone, i.e. that no-one should be – or feel – excluded. As well as being a lovely physical space that people will want to come to and be in, we see the cafe as the initial contact point for people who may be struggling and seeking some help. Thus the cafe staff will be trained in trauma-informed, strengths-based and inclusive engagement (all core areas of Zebra’s work).

PCC agrees – conditionally – to back our feasibility enquiry

At the end of January 2021 PCC agreed, subject to certain conditions, to give us 6 months from April to conduct a feasibility study. This will involve assessing the state of the building, and the level of funding required for redevelopment, assessing if our plan for running the building will be financially viable, and talking to local people to see whether people would use Welcome Hall, and if so what for.

Our time through February and March has been spent on the pre-feasibility work – tasks to meet those conditions – and we’re making good progress:

  • Gathering a “design team” of buildings experts for the various surveys required
  • Seeking input re developing the business plan we’ll write during the 6-month feasibility period
  • Beginning to explore options for the new community owned organisation that will be founded to take on the building and its activities (if the feasibility study gives the green light) – we currently favour the option of a Charitable Community Benefit Society – but we are really in the early stages of this enquiry
  • Exploring funding options for all the above

So, by mid-April we hope to have completed the above and to be beginning the 6-month feasibility study period.

We’ll be in touch then. Meanwhile – any questions, comments, updates from you… very welcome.

Thanks for reading.


Marc Gardiner
Welcome Hall Project Team

Jan Horrocks

We at Zebra are sad to announce that Jan Horrocks has died after a long struggle with cancer.

Jan was Zebra’s Organisation Coordinator from 2007 until 2016, when she stayed with POP (which was created by Zebra in 2013) as it established as an independent organisation.

Jan was always positive and friendly, and usually funny. She was the most organised Zebra ever, and her grounded questioning was frequently useful to us in checking ourselves as we developed our thinking, for example our equalities training content.

I last saw Jan, and her husband Paul, a couple of times during the winter of ’19-’20, at Pier One cafe on Plymouth Hoe, right on the rocks over the sea. Jan and Paul always sought out scenic local spots for a daytime coffee. Those were such enjoyable conversations, reconnecting having not met for some time. We agreed to arrange another long coffee: then Covid came, and I didn’t see her again. 

Jan is the first Zebra to go. She will be much missed, and will remain in our hearts.

Marc Gardiner, 22nd February.

Joint Solution-focused Practitioner Group with Guy Shennan

The Solution-focused Practitioner Group sessions are for people who have had some training in solution-focused practice, and wish to meet with others to develop their skills.

The sessions are a continuing professional development opportunity which aims to bring together people committed to working in a solution-focused way to develop skills and build networks. Sessions comprise any one or more of:

  • Teaching
  • skills practice
  • case studies
  • group exercises and discussions
  • SF sessional video footage

– all good opportunities for practitioners to step back from the daily work and reflect, learn and refresh.

Attendance at these sessions costs:

· £40 +VAT if funded by your organisation

· £25 + VAT if sole trader /microbusiness

· £15 + VAT if self-financing

· Free to unemployed

Receipts / invoices can be issued

To book or for more information contact: info@zebra.coop

In 2020, Zebra moved most of our work online. While this was an enforced change due to Covid, we have discovered some benefits, and we anticipate that some of our work will remain online.

Our SF Practitioner Groups are one such example, because the online format has allowed more people to attend, with no time-consuming travel requirements, and our shift to a single pan-South-west group has broadened the network.

This opportunity to dissolve geographical borders has triggered our interest to offer a new group open to anyone anywhere.
We’re teaming up with Guy Shennan Associates (GSA), based in London, to create and develop this new joint group. For the past 2 years, Zebra and GSA have been building an ever-closer relationship of shared enquiry and joint projects. Now, we see this joint SF Practitioner Group to be a hopeful opportunity to gather SF practitioners from far and wide.

In terms of our South-West England SF Practitioner Group, we believe there is also still the wish for this group to continue: even online, we think there’s still value in a geographically connected group – e.g. shared experiences and perspectives in the locality, the potential for physical comings-together for joint projects post-Covid etc…

Black Lives Matter

There is hope…

“but it’s not a passive hope, it has to be an active hope”.

Gary Younge, Black Live Matters and a Question of Violence

Across the world, anti-racist anger and energy has been unleashed by the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 while in police custody in Minneapolis, USA. We grieve the death of George Floyd.  We grieve the death of yet another person of colour in police custody and we wholeheartedly condemn this as unacceptable.  We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

We know racism is not a new problem, rather it is centuries-old; nor is it unique to the USA, rather it shows up globally; nor is it confined to the personal level of consciously, proudly racist individuals, rather it is a structural problem of which we’re all a part. Nor is it confined to racism: all forms of discrimination and oppression are abuses of human rights, and all should be perpetually named and challenged. However, we believe it is right in this moment to focus primarily on the specifics of racism and its companion, white privilege.

Racism coexists with poverty and inequality. Covid-19 has shone a torch on what we have long known, that BAME people are disproportionately affected in our society on many levels, in their life opportunities  and in death – and this cannot be separated from co-existing poverty and exclusion.

We also acknowledge and bear witness to the historical, collective and individual trauma arising from the impact of racism which further intertwines and compounds the effects of deprivation and discrimination – and all underpinned by a capitalist system which innately fosters inequality.

Zebra Collective is and always has been committed to upholding and actively promoting the values of equality and inclusion – indeed, this is our work and function.  It is also a journey and process, rather than an end in itself.  We recognise that the journey requires hope and openness in order to examine our own values and to challenge others.

As a solution-focused organisation, we believe that the power to change requires us, individually and collectively to build a rich picture of this hoped-for world.  Recognising the steps that we and others have already made, we will identify examples of the strengths we can draw upon, including the people who share these values and the resources and opportunities that will facilitate change. 

Now is a time to consider how we have all contributed to the current challenges, and how we are all affected by them. So, as we consider what we can do as part of the effort to construct something better, let’s heed the words of indigenous Australian artist and activist Lilla Watson,

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

We were at the inspiring demonstration in Plymouth on Sunday (7th June, 2020), one of the city’s biggest in living memory. There were thousands of placards and banners, many of them original and brilliant. One stated, “This is a movement, not a moment”. We hope so, and Zebra commits to doing all within its power to contribute to the efforts to ensure that this does indeed become a standing movement. How do we sustain the righteous anger and constructive energy, much of it amongst young people, displayed in recent days here in Plymouth, in many other towns and cities across UK and across the world?

Our commitment is to be the change that we want to see and for everything we do, to ask the questions: how is this promoting equality? how is this challenging the dominant racist hegemony? and how will it make a positive difference? 

Therefore, our struggle is aligned with all struggles, if they are struggles towards liberation.

The Zebra Collective, 10th June 2020

Thoughts on a solution-focused response to Covid-19

What’s a solution-focused response to Covid-19? I’ve been asked this question a number of times recently and here are some thoughts.  Though please know that they are just thoughts, not intended as a neat answer, an oversimplification or trivialisation of this big challenge. And, as ever, you are the expert in your life, job, role etc… – you’ll know best how to be at your best in this crisis. So:

  • First, let’s acknowledge the problem, and the size of it: this touches most of us – loss of loved ones, loss of work, loss of purpose, loss of security, a personal sense of threat, and fear of the unknown.
  • And, thinking global social justice: its impact is likely to be greatest in poorer countries with less infrastructure, and in more unequal countries (such as the USA – and, in some different ways, the UK too), with huge differentials in health and access to healthcare systems.
  • Then, let’s recognise and value the role of the scientists who are investigating the problem and trialling solutions – a reminder that in some fields, paying attention to the problem is essential.
  • And then, during lockdown, let’s focus on our future: let’s build a rich picture of how we hope and intend our lives will be when we emerge into a post-Covid-19 world (or at least post-lockdown). Recall the solution-focused idea that, the richer the picture of that future, the more we can sense ourselves there already; and that can help to maintain the motive energy to take us in that direction.
  • We may think we can’t do it – these are unprecedented challenges. But any of us can identify occasions when we’ve surprised ourselves in how we’ve coped with unwanted, very difficult situations. What clues can we find in these instances, when we pay them really careful attention? Let’s engage with the qualities and abilities – the resources and resourcefulness – we have but which we may not notice.
  • How do we maintain a sense of purpose and meaning? The more individuals and families can recognise that the sacrifice of their freedom of movement & choice is a direct contribution to a collective effort to protect the well-being of all, the better we’ll be able to sustain those sacrifices.
  • And the more we can find meaningful activity within the confines of our homes, the better we’ll last. And, given that our primary need is connection and relationship, this is the time to help everyone in lockdown to explore and build their options for communicating virtually: phones are familiar to all, and even smartphones now have wide reach, but I wonder how many more people will, by the end of this, be connecting by Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Whatsapp etc.

For those who are continuing to work, your roles are essential, and you deserve the respect and recognition you’re getting for your efforts. I hope that one or two of the thoughts above may be helpful to you in your practice as you get alongside people some of whom will be quite distressed.

Finally, a reflection: it’s tough when our routine is disrupted – but how good was our routine? When we want to make changes in our lives, it tends still to be hard to break established habits.

So, now that many of our habits have been forcibly broken – for good reason – this can be an opportunity for us, individually and as a society, to reconsider our norms and see if there might be better ways to live. I’m thinking, just for example, of travel, consumption and work.

Marc Gardiner

Plymouth City Roller Derby

Zebra are delighted to be part-sponsoring the upcoming match of Plymouth City Roller Derby on Sunday 2nd February at the Marjons sport centre. Come along and enjoy the buzz and excitement.

Plymouth City Roller Derby (PCRD) started in Plymouth in 2010 by a small group of local women interested in joining the growing number of teams across the UK and worldwide.

Roller Derby is a sport started in the late 1920s but had a revival traced back to the Riot Girl movement in Austin, Texas in 2001. It creates a unique space, largely for women to learn and compete. It is a full body contact sport played on quad roller skates. It’s fast paced, embodies athleticism, body positivity, competition, camaraderie and skill. It also has a lot of style, with rock, punk and alternative music inspired dress and attitude throughout.

PCRD is an inclusive place for all gender identities, backgrounds and abilities. Players are supported by many volunteers, supporters and referees (affectionately called zebras ) and safety has a high priority. Every match must comply with the UKRDA standards and involve highly trained referees, paramedics with top equipment and non – skating officials who uphold the rules.

That said, there is a strong DIY punk culture, and a subcultural set of values where leagues are owned and operated by themselves. PCRD self organises, has an active democratic committee and strongly values participation, equality and inclusion of all. It is an incredibly empowering and encouraging sport. It’s more than a sport, for many needing a physical release, experiencing poor mental health or seeking an alternative place to build friendships and support, PCRD itself is a unique space.

PCRD is a CIC has often campaigned and fundraised for local charities as well as attending many plymouth events, often the less mainstream ones such as Plymouth Pride, reclaim the night and local domestic abuse and sexual violence fundraisers.

In the last few years, some of our most experienced players have naturally moved on. We are currently recruiting and we are entering the British Champs and starting back at the bottom to build our team again. To do this, we must host a game and travel to others across the UK. Our first game is coming up really soon on Sunday 2nd February at the  Marjons sport centre.


Zebra’s Day in Dublin and Radical Social Work

The Zebra learnt a lot from our day with the Irish Association of Social Workers Advocates and Allies Conference in Dublin. We were invited to speak on a topic on the theme of relationship-based social work, and chose to introduce Hilary Cottam’s work as presented in her recent book Radical Help, to provoke thought and see if it contains clues and possibilities for social workers in 2019.

Also speaking were: Michael, a Dublin man who’s benefitted from the work of some of the social workers present, about what he found most helpful; Vasilios Ioakimidis, Prof of Social Work at Essex Uni, on lessons from the history of social work; and Guy Shennan on “radical hope” and the Solution-Focused Collective.

The day was designed such that most of the time the delegates were talking in smaller groups, perhaps stimulated by the presentations, and taking their conversations wherever they went.

The closing plenary discussion was rigorous and balanced awareness of the constraints under which professional social work teams operate in 2019, with plenty of energy for thinking and operating beyond these constraints.

Guy and Zebra are wondering if there might be appetite for us to return offering solution-focused training.

Wellbeing in Nature – a social prescribing project

The WIN project has just completed its first six week programme in partnership with @fotonow and working with participants from @thezoneplymouth’s Insight team. 10 participants took part in a blend of #greenwoodcraft, bushcraft, #forestbathing, photography and sound recording activities in 40-acres of semi-ancient woodland in Cornwall and creative workshops at @fotonow’s Ocean Studios.

Longer slideshow:  CLICK HERE

One minute slideshow with sound: CLICK HERE


Two soundscapes-” Life is Good but the World is Angry” and “Hammock Time”: CLICK HERE

Wellbeing in Nature is a social prescribing project designed to facilitate the opportunity for groups of people to improve their health and wellbeing by coming together on a programme of nature-based activities.

The project is a collaboration between the Zebra Collective, Fotonow CIC and Greenwood Music CIC and funded by the Big Lottery’s Awards for All programme.

There are ten places per programme, with the Spring programme starting in June and the Autumn programme starting in September. Project starts on Thursday 13th June 2019

Wellbeing in Nature is informed by robust and extensive research about factors that can improve wellbeing and the cathartic experience of engaging with and within nature. The project is built around the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.

Wellbeing in Nature is looking for participants who want to improve their wellbeing through a progressive programme that will allow them to connect with each other and nature; be active in the outdoors; learn new skills, such as bushcraft. greenwood craft, photography; take notice and practice mindfulness and  give through conservation work and supporting each other.

Participants will help design the workshops and the programme will start with an engagement and planning workshop.

The outdoor nature workshops will take place in Caradon Woods, a 40-acre semi-ancient Woodland Trust site managed by Greenwood Music.  Running alongside this participants will take part in media and photography workshops with Fotonow CIC at their Ocean Studios facility.

Over the course of the programme, participants will take part in woodland wellbeing workshops whilst capturing their experience using the media skills developed with Fotonow. At the end of the programme, Fotonow will support participants to ‘tell their story’ through video, photography and/or sound.

This is a fantastic opportunity for people to boost their wellbeing and thanks to the Big Lottery funding it will be completely free to all, including transport to the woods and a lunch cooked on the open fire whilst there.

“This project provides people with an opportunity to build their wellbeing and resilience through taking part in experiential workshops in nature and exciting media workshops. They will shape their journey and inform how the project develops to better offer a social prescription to the natural health service.”

Aydin Boyacigiller, Wellbeing in Nature Project Manager, The Zebra Collective

For more information contact: Tel: 07919 172804 email: wellbeinginnature@gmail.com


Hilary Cottam’s Radical Help: possibilities and clues for social work

Marc is looking forward to the innovative Advocates and Allies Conference of the Irish Association of Social Workers which is bringing together Radical and Relationship-based Social Work Practices on 30th September in Dublin. He’s a speaker and will be talking about Hilary Cottam’s Radical Help: possibilities and  clues for social work?

In 2018, social activist Hilary Cottam published Radical Help, her account of several action research projects conducted around England over a decade seeking answers to the question of how the system can be helpful to people in the 21st century.

 Her findings are truly radical, and yet perhaps rather intuitive – even obvious: we humans need meaning and purpose, and a picture of how we’d like our life to be; we all, always, have strengths to draw upon in our efforts to get there – and building our capabilities further is essential too; we want human connection, so excellent relationships – with friends, neighbours, workers – is key; and we engage when we’re in control, setting our own agenda.

 Ms Cottam’s projects were tightly evaluated and demonstrated some very encouraging results. So what clues do these projects offer to statutory social work? The duties of the department and the social work role may currently constrain, but here’s an opportunity to see what possibilities we can tease out.