Human Library Returns to Plymouth Respect Festival

The worldwide phenomenon returns to Plymouth with another chance to borrow an open Book and explore diverse experiences. The free event is part of Plymouth Respect Festival and will take place at Theatre Royal Plymouth 12pm – 4pm on Saturday 9th July 2022.

The Human Library publishes people as open Books on topics from race and religion to disability and mental health, and many other aspects of being human. Readers are invited to choose a Book by their title and explore their lived experiences by asking the questions they may have never had the opportunity, or never dared, to ask.

This will be the biggest in-person Human Library event that has taken place in Plymouth, following the success of the online Human Library for Respect Festival 2021 and pop-up event at Buddha Hut in April.

“An experience like this is so simple yet so essential in understanding what it means to be human.” – Reader Review

“The books were brilliant. They provided really insightful and helpful discussions about some interesting topics. They made me feel at ease discussing some very intense subjects.” – Reader Review

Plymouth Human Library is being organised by Carmel Lawless, Plymouth resident and Book, with Katy Jon Went, Human Library UK Coordinator, who has organised more than 100 Human Library events and has been Published under the titles of Ex-missionary, Transgender, Bipolar, and Suicide survivor.

Katy Jon Went: “We are looking forward to a Human Library at Respect Festival again – this time in person and not online. Delivering a pop up Human Library Book Café recently in Plymouth showed us the appetite for safe courageous conversations with people who may appear as different, and as an inclusive way of building community and respecting diversity”

The event is free and open to all. Drop-in any time between 12pm – 4pm.

For more information search ‘Human Library at Plymouth Respect Festival’ on Facebook or email

Open Space to Closed Collective

A quick thought after we have started to invite the group to contribute ideas (being collated here)

As we discover how the process is working, if we were to describe this process it might be something like Open Space to Closed Collective. 

We are allowing people to come together around their passions and interests. We are inviting in difference by keeping the door as wide open as possible. So whilst it’s not guaranteed it is much more likely to see new collaborations, new relationships and new ideas. 

Also by running a process like this means we are keeping the outlook as open as possible – and gives us a golden opportunity to influence the work before it begins, introducing data, research and learning in a way that helps whatever happens see the wider context in which they are working. So learning becomes baked in from the start. 

We are coming up towards the end of the Open Space stage. In the next, Closed Collective stage, we will support the group to think about subjects such as where their focus will be, how they will communicate, how they will make decisions. At the end of this the £40,000 funding will be ready for the group to get going. 

The Shape of You: How the ‘shape’ of our Collectives are helping to form learning at POP

By Simon Travers

In my role as POP’s learning champion, I can see from POP Collectives that collaboration impacts the grassroots voluntary sector. Collaborative action between organisations makes work for social and environmental impact a richer, more satisfying and effective experience. What is better than teaming up with people you like on projects you believe in?

One of the aspects of POP Collectives that I have noticed is the diversity of structures different collaborations employ. ‘Collaboration’ and ‘collective’ are flexible words that can sustain vastly different experiences of activity. POP has found that when organisations work towards their values, rather than funder targets or KPI’s, they have the freedom to decide what structure suits them. As we learn more about this, POP can provide targeted support and networking opportunities for organisations involved in starting Collectives.

POP has recently updated its Collectives Fund application form to try and make the process easier for applicants and for members to advise and rate projects. Without POP membership involvement, the Collectives process does not work. Collectives need your experience. One change is that a question has been added to the Collectives application form to consider what ‘shape’ the applicants believe their collective may take. This information will help POP and the membership understand how Collectives function more clearly.

Four Different ‘Shapes’

POP Collectives vary in attitudes towards leadership; communication style; task management and group dynamics. We’ve identified four distinct structures, or ‘shapes’, that seem to repeat across collaborations.


Like birds of a feather who flock together, the individuals participating in those Collectives that resemble Murmurations work intuitively, constantly moving together on all areas of the project. These Collectives tend not to have a clearly defined leader and place a deep value on relational working. At their best, they are beautifully fluid and supple, but they are not always the most pragmatic.

Hub and Spoke

Pragmatism is central to the Hub and Spoke approach. As in the wheel of a bike, a hub has a clear leader at the centre connecting everything with the others around them, each of whom typically has a clearly defined supportive role. These collectives often benefit from strong project management and can accommodate different ‘personalities’, so long as each group member connects to the leader. This approach needs to ensure that project leaders do not take on too much and risk burn out.

Relay Team

A Relay Team sees one team member running with the project who then passes on to another team member when their task is complete. Relay teams often occur when a project demands a specific skill base. In order to succeed, Relay Team Collectives tend to need to ensure excellent communication. This is particularly important as the Relay Teams POP has supported serve vulnerable sections of the wider community, such as refugees and asylum seekers or the digitally excluded.


Platforms do not look like the other Collective ‘shapes’. They centre around one organisation who exist to collaboratively build the voice of individuals or other organisations. An example would be P’Town Radio, recently funded by POP Collectives, who broadcast with DBI to promote entrepreneurship and have strong contacts to Plymouth’s poetry community. Often, Platform Collectives are rooted in the arts, providing opportunities for performance and creativity. However, something like a youth outreach service could be viewed as a platform for teenagers to socialise and grow in confidence. Platform Collectives have an ability to attract diverse collaborative partnerships, although it can be a challenge to foster deeper relationships within this structure.

Why is thinking about ‘shapes’ important?

1) Thinking about ‘shapes’ might help to break down some unhelpful stereotypes that might prevent individuals from collaborating. Through greater understanding, we can start to recognise the healthy differences that exist amongst the Collectives and make them unique. POP is learning that there is no ‘perfect’ Collective structure but that those that work best are the ones that grow out of the shared values of the team, strengthening and sustaining the project.

2) Thinking about ‘shapes’ can help to spread learning more appropriately. One of the hopes for the Collectives Fund is that we can build a culture of peer learning so that those working in, for example, a ‘Hub and Spoke’ approach with a key person at the centre, might be able to share their experience, challenges and successes with others employing the same model.

It’s an ongoing conversation that we wish all our members to be a part of whether they are involved in a Collective or not. It is POP’s belief that sharing an understanding of the different ‘shapes’ of collaboration, and the merits of each, can contribute towards our ability to work together as a sector.

All the Collectives currently needing advice or rating are listed here, perhaps you could bookmark this page and routinely support the Collectives:

Storyteller Pilot Festival

WonderZoo created a 5 day arts festival with 11 events, a mix of 5 workshops, 5 evening events and an exhibition, all at small venues around Stonehouse, Plymouth.

Overall it was a huge success. Lives were bettered and beautiful memories were made.

The amount of commitment, vision, energy, passion, love, hope and benevolence required to manifest this epic project, was just off the charts.

Slain McGough Davey has had the vision of a grass-roots arts festival in Stonehouse for many years, and I’m very proud and glad to have been involved in the process of making it all happen, last year and this year.

In 2021 we were funded by POP to collaborate with 3 other creative groups to create our first pilot festival of eight online events over 4 days during Covid19 restrictions. That was called Lost Time.

This year, we collaborated with 17 organisations to create 11 in-person events in 5 venues over 5 days. Also funded by POP, this was a step-up from last year, and served as a good learning opportunity, in order to hopefully create an even bigger festival next year.

The 5 evening events showcased some amazing local talent and culture.

At Enchanted Plays, everyone seemed to enjoy the poignant and magical theatre performances, with lovely vegan food, and a relaxed, chilled vibe at Cawfee. Wild Air Stories (led by Gin Farrow-Jones and Jon Nash) was about life told from the perspective of non-human life forms, raising awareness about environmental issues. Faeries Bazaar was a play written by Izzy Robertson, musically accompanied by her son, Jed. It was a journey into a charming imaginary world.

The WonderZoo Show at Union Corner was a great event of diversity and fun. Our headliners, Black Swan n Robin (@blackswannrobin on Instagram), performed an intimate and interactive piece, talking about the real issues faced by black people in this country. The combination of a black man from London and white woman from Devon created an interesting dynamic, as they shared their poetry and told their story of how they came to be creative collaborators. There were 10 other great acts on that night, ranging from comedy, music, theatre and spoken word.

A Press of Suspects Presents at the Lord High Admiral pub was really funny and professionally put together. Organised by Will Skillington, he also gave an amazing performance as Willtordian Ballorian Edwardian, and was on top form with much thought and creativity in his set – lots of props and great audience involvement. Other comedians included Jullie Mullen, Ems Coombes and Frankie Doré. The evening was comperèd by comedian Christian Russel-Pollock.

African Night, organised by Diversity Business Incubator at Jabulani in The Plot, was a welcoming event of great food, culture and African proverbs and wisdom teachings from different parts of Africa: Botswana, Rwanda, Nigeria and Kenya. It was lovely to hear these four people share part of their culture. They said they were really happy to be involved, as no one had asked them to do such a thing before.

The food and drink was generously provided for free to all guests, as the organisers wanted to provide a feeling of hospitality and welcome, how they would treat guests who came to their home. It was a really wonderful feeling of being amongst so many lovely people. There was an open fire burning outside to give the sense of this tradition in Africa.

IMPERFECT CINEMA history walk, film and meal was also very popular and much enjoyed. Using tablets, Dan and Allister guided their audience from Derry’s Clock down Union Street to Cawfee, showing images of what this area looked like in the past, and talking about the 11 old cinemas of Union Street from back in its heyday. This was followed by a Laurel and Hardy documentary about their lives, and a meal.

Slain was particularly moved by this film as it reminded him of us, the creativity we combine together to make magic happen. We both feel the same way as Laurel & Hardy, our best things happen when we’re working together, two souls united.

The 5 workshops were run by Peter Roe, Tam Martin Fowles (Hope in the Heart), Ryan Cheetham (Fotonow (CIC)), Trace Jared-Davis (Omnium Radio) and Art and Energy. They all had good outcomes with people making friends, learning new things and having fun.

The exhibition at Raay – Royal Adelaide Art and Yoga on Adelaide Street showed a short film by Alusché Latuka, and photos of the different organisations involved. The images and film highlighted the amazing community work in Plymouth that our partner organisations create. Matt Thomas has been a steady rock over the years supporting Slain.

Next year we hope to secure further funding to produce a 7 day Storyteller Festival in Stonehouse, building on this year’s success and working with more groups and individuals to create something even more spectacular.

We hope to see you there! Thank you to everyone who helped to make it all happen, including the whole WonderZoo Crew.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list to keep up to date with our events and activities, please email Check out our website:

Press release by Chi Bennett at WonderZoo

Mini systems – themes emerging

  1. Notes on conversations about collaboration:
  • People recognise it’s important, but what actually is it?
  • Some feel there isn’t enough, that often projects may not even be aware of each other
  • How does collaboration actually happen? Is there a guide for it?
  • Complex issues need collaboration
  • There’s lots already going on that people just aren’t aware of
  • We need to ensure we collaborate with the existing community – find what they need and what they are doing, not just our ideas
  • We say “collaboration”, but it can be easy to already have your idea in mind, and end up just trying to recruit for it
  • We want to collaborate around values – but what does that mean?
  • What really is a “values based conversation”?
  • Social prescribing – it’s collaborative
  • Collaboration requires inclusivity. Even some exercises at the groups weren’t fully inclusive
  • Collaboration is a verb – a thing you do
  1. As we think about action, what should the approach be and what do we need?
  • To understand then act – to have purpose
  • There is a national framework, how can we work with that?
  • What data do we need?
  • What existing projects work within the national focus?
  • How can we do a small thing and deliver on it, and then build?
  • We also need to affect systems, but how, if they are so large?
  • We need to listen to the issues within these areas, not rush in with our answers
  • Let’s not rush in too fast!
  • Stories
  1. The values and attributes mentioned:
  • Caring
  • Listening 
  • Proactive
  • Trust
  • Learning
  • Creativity
  1. Areas of interest expressed
  • Art Therapy as a way to reach middle aged men (high at risk group) – but maybe not call it “therapy”
  • Trusted adults in the community
  • Befriending services in the community – requires collaboration
  • Financial literacy and help – when you only have X amount left for the month
  • A toolkit for wellbeing?
  • Information: celebrate what already is going on, festivals, digital marketing
  • Video campaign – ‘oh’ moments
  • Virtues project & skills builder

Progress update 14/6/22

We had 38 initial sign ups, 5 do not wish to participate anymore, 8 have been in contact but have not yet been able to attend a session and 7 have yet to engage. 

We have run the following sessions:

  • Three online sessions – 7 collaborators, 9 collaborators, 2 collaborators
  • Two face to face sessions – 4 collaborators, 7 collaborators

21 collaborators have connected and engaged over these sessions.

The time commitment so far for collaborators has been:

  • Minimum time commitment – 1 hr
  • Maximum time commitment – 7 hrs
  • Ave time commitment – 2.6

Session design

The online sessions used a mapping exercise and work in pairs to simply meet one another. The face to face workshops continued to help collaborators get to know one another and also explored their hopes for process. For the second workshop we adapted to group need and ran an exercise to help identify areas of interest. The notes taken during the face to face workshops are here. 

Throughout we have been very explicit about only focussing on people getting to know one another and hold off getting to specifics too quickly.


POP Commission Opportunity

We’re excited to announce that POP is looking for a partner to work on a commission with us. We have four aims for this partnership:

  1. Help capture and evaluate the impact of collaboration in Plymouth. 
  2. Communicate this successfully and succinctly. 
  3. Bring people together around the findings and to celebrate the work of POP.
  4. Contribute or lead a discussion to support the reimagining of how Plymouth could operate in the future. 

We are seeking a partner organisation to work with POP to achieve this. It is important that the partner can demonstrate the same commitment to collaboration as POP does and shares, in your own way, the aims above. We want to work with you in collaboration to achieve a shared goal. 

Click here for more information.

Please respond to with an expression of interest. – by 24th June. We do NOT need any submissions at this stage. 

  1. We hope to conclude partner selection by the end of July. 
  2. Evidence gathering and engagement over August & September
  3. POP celebration – POPs AGM is on the 4th October at which we want to present some outputs from the work and use this as the celebration of our work – even if they are not the finish pieces
  4. October & November – production of final outputs and city wide discussion of outputs. 

POP Collectives Process Keeps Evolving!

Since the Collectives Fund was launched in Plymouth in Autumn 2020, POP have worked with over 20 diverse projects to provide meaningful social and environmental impact for Plymouth. The impact of POP Collectives is as visible as the stunning murals on the Scrapstore in Union Street or the Chaddlewood Subways. Other projects have a gentle power, like quiet gatherings of people learning to manage their wellbeing or food parcels delivered on an environmentally friendly cargo bike. POP Collectives is also leading the way the Plymouth voluntary sector works by fostering collaboration and partnership. With over 60 organisations involved at some level in a Collective, we are seeing innovative connections and the power of people working towards their shared values.

As a Learning Champion, one of my favourite aspects of POP Collectives is seeing a city-wide conversation evolve around how to collaborate for social and environmental impact. I get to hear an abundance of powerful voices in the city’s grassroots with great ideas and the energy to change things for the good. It is a privilege to learn from these voices and share their wisdom and passion across the city and beyond.

There is great strength in a diversity of voices being heard. That is why since the start of the Collectives Fund, the application process was designed to involve the whole POP membership. Any POP member can provide peer advice and support or rate individual projects. However, from monitoring Collective applications, it appears POP members’ engagement with collectives is sometimes sporadic. Alterations to the application process have been made with the hope that it will become easier for POP members to contribute to POP Collectives.

As part of the application process, each Collective gets a page on the POP website. Previously, you had to click away from this page to support or rate a Collective, but now all interaction happens on the Collective’s page. POP has reworded the questions on the application form to ask for a more concise description of each project which is hoped will make it easier for members to quickly grasp each application’s strengths.

POP have begun to ask some new questions of Collective applicants. From multiple learning conversations, it appears that when Collectives do not have to contort themselves to fit evaluation criteria or statistical targets then they choose to collaborate in a variety of different ‘shapes.’ Different collectives have different attitudes to leadership, task management, and communication based on their individual needs. Understanding these ‘shapes’ matter, because different shaped Collectives face different challenges, exhibit different strengths, and need different support. Identifying Collective ‘shapes’ will allow POP to connect like-minded projects and provide relevant support more efficiently.

The other change made is to the rating process. Members are now asked to rate each project out of five stars. If you think a project is good and should be supported, you could give it four or five stars. If you are not sure, or you see clear problems with the project, you could give it three stars or fewer. If you rate three stars or fewer though, please add comments so that POP can understand why. A Collective will receive funding when it accumulates a total of 95 stars in a maximum of 25 votes. This new way of counting votes is as rigorous as the previous method, but higher-scoring projects will have the advantage of being funded faster.

POP hope that these changes will make it easier for members to engage with the POP Collectives process and that more members will choose to be involved. The POP Collectives Fund does not function without the POP Membership. You all have something to contribute, whether it be experience, practical knowledge, informed opinion or encouragement. Please keep joining in the conversation.

All the Collectives currently needing advice or rating are listed here, perhaps you could bookmark this page and routinely support the Collectives:

Storyteller Pilot Festival

image (97)

WonderZoo has exciting series of creative and cultural events coming up in the first week of June!

Thanks to £5,000 funding from POP Collectives, they have collaborated with 17 organisations to produce 11 events in small venues around Union Street over 5 days.

There are limited spaces for each event, so book early to avoid disappointment. Click on the links below to see the event page with online booking link. We’d love to see you there!


1. Enchanted Plays

WEDNESDAY, 1 JUNE 2022 FROM 18:00-21:00

£12 per ticket, including curry meal

Cawfee, 96 Union Street Event Page:

Book Here:


2. Celebrate Your Story – Workshop

THURSDAY, 2 JUNE 2022 FROM 14:15-17:00

Free Entry

Union Corner, 96 Union Street Event Page:

Book Here:


3. WonderZoo Show

THURSDAY, 2 JUNE 2022 FROM 19:30-22:00

Free Entry

Union Corner, 96 Union Street Event Page:

Book Here:


4. Writing Workshop with Peter Roe

FRIDAY, 3 JUNE 2022 FROM 12:00-14:00

Free Entry

The Plot, 80-84 Union Street Event Page:

Book Here:


5. Comedy Night with A Press of Suspects

FRIDAY, 3 JUNE 2022 FROM 19:30-22:00

Free Entry

Lord High Admiral, 33 Stonehouse Street Event Page:

Book here:


6. Photography Workshop with Ryan Cheetham

SATURDAY, 4 JUNE 2022 FROM 12:00-14:00

Free Entry

Union Corner, 96 Union Street Event Page:

Book here:


7. In The Shadow of a Giant – climate emergency shadow puppet workshop

SATURDAY, 4 JUNE 2022 FROM 14:30-18:30

Free Entry

Family Friendly

Union Corner, 96 Union Street Event Page:

Book Here:


8. African Night – Performance, food, music

SATURDAY, 4 JUNE 2022 FROM 19:30-22:30

Free Entry

Family Friendly

Jabulani, The Plot, 80-84 Union Street Event Page:

Just turn up


9. Omnium Radio Workshop

SUNDAY, 5 JUNE 2022 FROM 12:00-15:00

Free Entry

The Plot, 80-84 Union Street Event Page:

Book Here:


10. IMPERFECT CINEMA History Walk and Film with meal

SUNDAY, 5 JUNE 2022 FROM 18:00-22:00

£12 per ticket including meal

Cawfee, Union Street Event Page:

Book here:


11. Storyteller Exhibition


Free Entry

Family Friendly

Royal Adelaide Art and Yoga (RAAY), Adelaide Street

Event Page:

Just turn up, 11am-3pm each day

Happy birthday to the bank that keeps on giving

Ten years ago a wonderful new bank opened to serve the people of Plymouth. Called Timebank, instead of dealing in ‘currency’, it dealt in ‘time’ and it recognised that practically everyone had time to give and something to trade. Now, a decade after it began in Whitleigh, there are now eight branches open across the city, running for two hours, including at Barne Barton, North Prospect and Honicknowle running more than forty Timebank sessions a week.

From knitting to dog-walking; book-keeping to gardening; hairdressing to tech, everyone has a skill or a willingness to deposit into their account. With their credit each individual is then ‘repaid’ with other people’s time and their skills. It’s a circular economy where no money ever changes hands.

It’s also, as Zoe Nile, from Timebank says, it’s the most fun anyone can have going to the bank:

“We bring people together, promoting kindness, compassion and unity. Our members regularly blow me away with their enthusiasm and generosity, sharing their skill and abilities in order to help their fellow members and create a sense of wellbeing for all. I am proud to be a member of Timebank myself, and thoroughly stand behind our motto – ‘Give an hour, make a day’ “


There are more than 400 individuals banking with Timebank and sharing their skills, hobbies and interests. Far from focussing on the financial aspects, Timebank scores on socialising. A lot of the trading takes place around regular sessions fortified with tea and cake. On the trading floor, while skills and services are banked so conversations flow and relationships flourish. It’s a win:win situation for everyone but, the greatest return, flows to the community.


· the only bank where currency is time.

· all skills and actions are equal

· everyone has something of value to give

· an hour = an hour.