Celebrating Ten Years of POP!

Plymouth’s favourite octopus is celebrating its tenth birthday and reaching out to invite communities of all shapes and sizes to join in the fun!

For ten years the charity Plymouth Octopus – or POP – has been committed to supporting citizen and community action across the city: from tiny grassroots projects to networks in geographic neighbourhoods, POP has encouraged them all. POP is inviting everyone to come along to celebrate with a week of festivities celebrating “The Community of Us”. There will be people showcasing their projects; workshops to take part in; networking events and, at the end of a week, a party! As the chief executive of POP, Matt Bell says, there are many reasons to celebrate:

“In the last few years, we’ve seen much greater recognition of the importance of the work – and power – of communities. And now, what’s really exciting, is the genuine change we’re seeing in the way citizens, businesses and public services are willing to work together, and learn from each other, to find a better way forward for all of us.”

In ten years, POP has evolved into a vibrant organisation with more than 300 members. Some, such as St Luke’s Hospice, Livewell southwest and Plymouth City Council are well-known, but the majority are grassroots projects, flying ‘under-the-radar’, yet making a profound difference to their participants, such as the community singing project, Soul Singers. It was set up four years ago by MJ, a former primary school teacher, who believed that through singing she could help improve people’s health and wellbeing;

“I know the impact it can have on people’s lives,” says MJ. “I know that there are times when someone struggles to get here but they’re glad they did. I see the change in them, and I see them walk out of here like a different person.”

It is projects like these that POP supports enabling the people behind the projects; people, like MJ, who might otherwise have no-where to go for information and advice

on how to set up and run such a project. It is a unique service that in the lastn ten years has provided business support and funding advice to nearly 700 different groups and organisations. It’s a service says Imogen Potter, POP’s capacity building manager, that has helped to generate real social change in Plymouth:

“We’ve seen a real shift in the number of people with lived experience now coming forward to set up their own organisations and run their own projects. This has given individuals a greater choice and, in many cases, a more profound experience.”

Three years ago, POP took the radical step of becoming a funder: providing money for local people to run local projects. Since then, it has invested more than £600,000 in more than four hundred projects of all shapes and sizes across the city with – significantly – the majority operating at a ‘grassroots’ level. Projects, such as, the Tree Project in Keyham which uses yoga and mindfulness to support children and young people’s health and wellbeing; the Mindful Art Club which, through art, help’s people to manage stress and anxiety and Red Velvet Cinema which provides entertainment and companionship to older people. As Sarah Foulis, a regular at the Plymstock Soul Singers group says, projects like these can make such a big difference to people:

“It’s lush,” she says. “It makes you really happy and no matter what sort of day you’re having, it makes you feel that you’re in control.”

From the 6th – 10th November there will be opportunities to experience the talents and hear the stories of other local grassroots groups & community organisations at venues around Stonehouse. This year’s keynote speaker is Indy Johar, described as ‘one of the most influential people in London’ and founder of the organisation Dark Matter Labs which is focused on radically redesigning our cities, regions and towns for a more-democratic, better- distributed transition (one of the projects DML is currently working on is “Trees as Infrastructure: Re-wilding Urban Forests”). We hope you can join us to celebrate The Community of Us and all that we’ve accomplished together in the past decade. For more information and to book your place visit https://support.plymouthoctopus.org/agm-2023


For more information email carolineblackler@phonecoop.coop or call 07920 741718.

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