Community Conversations

Listen to our podcast exploring the lives of members of Nottingham's diverse creative community.

Community Conversations - A City Arts Podcast

City Arts’ Community Conversations podcast looks at the work and lives of Nottingham’s diverse creative community. Series 1 explored the lives of black and mixed-heritage black creatives. Series 2 explores the lives and work of Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creatives in Nottingham.

Rachel Willcocks interviews Norma Gregory. Photo by Richard Chung, 2020

Available on

Community Conversations is available on most major podcast platforms. Use the links below or try searching for “community conversations city arts’. If you can’t find it on the app you use, let us know and we’ll see if we can get it added.

Series 2

Series 2 of Community Conversations looks at the lives and work of Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists from Nottingham.

The series explores the barriers that disabled creatives face, as well as looking at how disability informs their artwork. It is presented by Laura Guthrie and Jay Sandhu. It is part of City Arts RESIDENCE project.

Tony Fisher, a photographer & writer for over 50 years, and emerging poet & musician Omari Marsalis speak to your hosts Laura Guthrie and Jay Sandhu. The chat covers how learning never stops, the barriers disabled people faced in the early 1980s, and how things have changed for younger disabled artists today. We ask about the difference working with other disabled artists makes to your work. We discuss embedding intersectional experiences in creative storytelling. We ponder what the future might hold for disabled artists. Oh, and what on earth is an ‘Access Rider’?

Tony Fisher

Tony Fisher is a photographic artist. He is interested in transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Tony’s work often explores loneliness and isolation, things he has personally experienced. He has worked in the field of Disability Arts for over 40 years, collaborating with organisations and individuals across the country.

Tony Fisher’s website
Tony Fisher’s YouPic

Omari Marsalis

Omari Marsalis is an artist from St Anns, Nottingham. He has performed at several venues and events around the city, including Hockley Hustle. With his poetic style he delves into relatable topics. His use of words and instrumentation encourages listeners to keep an open mind.

Omari’s Instagram
Omari on Spotify

Information about Access Riders

Access Rider Template
Creating Your Own Access Rider
Do I Need An Access Rider?

Download Transcript for Episode 4: Tony Fisher & Omari Marsalis

Zoe Milner is a visual artist and Izzy Hollis is a theatre designer & puppeteer. They both received bursaries as part of City Arts’ RESIDENCE project. Joining your hosts Laura Guthrie and Jay Sandhu, they chat about the impact the bursary has had on them and their work. Topics covered include:

  • Turning a passion for protest into art
  • Changing perceptions, and educating people, about Deaf identity and the misunderstandings around Tourettes
  • Office work vs the sense of belonging you feel in a creative space
  • How they might create work that is less connected to their lived experiences of disability

It is clear the impact the bursary has had on these artists’ confidence as creatives. It is just the start of two intriguing artistic careers…

Zoe Milner

Zoe is a visual artist. At the time of recording, she was studying Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Through her practice she seeks to address the struggles that she and most other profoundly deaf people have with writing and reading English. She does this whilst celebrating the power, beauty and freedom of sign language. As part of the City Arts’ RESIDENCE project Zoe created an installation of work combining typography with imagery.

Zoe Milner’s exhibition

Izzy Hollis

Izzy Hollis is a theatre and puppet maker. She is a BA graduate of Theatre Design from Nottingham Trent University. Her last piece, Why Fish?, explored her experience of living with Tourettes. It was presented as part of a Puppet Cabaret held at City Arts. The work was supported through City Arts’ RESIDENCE project.

Izzy’s Twitter
Izzy’s Instagram

Information about British Sign Language

BSL Act Information
BSL Training
BSL fingerspelling

Download Transcript for Episode 3: Zoe Milner & Izzy Hollis

Cheeky comedian Benny Shakes joins Laura Guthrie and Jay Sandhu for a fun and funny episode of ‘Community Conversations’. Topics covered include road kill (!?), awareness raising and creating a community of disabled artists. Our guest explains how he works with children to change their attitudes to disability and build a more inclusive culture. We talk about how we can counteract the “brave and inspirational” stereotype of disabled people. Benny discusses the vulnerability disabled people can feel when they use humour to spread a message.

Benny Shakes is a comedian who performs nationally with both his stand up (Second in the 2022 Best Midlands Comedy Show) and his comic Disability Awareness gameshow for children and adults. Benny finds humour in his own experiences of disability. He often collaborates with other disabled artists and performers, regularly broadcasting shows on YouTube.

Benny’s website
Benny’s Facebook

Download Transcript for Episode 2: Benny Shakes

Your hosts, Laura Guthrie and Jay Sandhu, speak to Neal Pike and Max Marchewicz. Neal is a poet, playwright and performer. Max is a BSL interpreter, access provider, musician & performer.

They discuss how they became artists and how their work has developed alongside life changes. Frustrations with poor access provision come up, and we ask, “why are accessible toilets still the place to store mops?”

Our guests talk about how to raise your access needs if you are a neurodivergent person with intersecting experience of physical disability. Plus, they let us know which artists’ work they seek out and admire.

Neal Pike

Neal is a poet, performer, theatre maker. He started writing in 2013 as part of Nottingham based group the Mouthy Poets. He has performed across the UK and internationally. Neal has published a collection of poetry, ‘Identity Bike Ride’, and has written the plays. His first play, ‘Five Years’, is an autobiographical piece describing his time as a student in the local SEN school system.

Neal’s website

Max Marchewicz

Max is a performer, BSL interpreter, access consultant, audio describer and trainer. Max started their creative life as a dancer before studying physical theatre. They are also a folk singer. As a queer, disabled and autistic person, they are passionate about community work around intersecting identities. Max has performed and toured with Graeae Theatre as a performance interpreter for their recent chamber opera ‘The Paradis Files’.

Download Transcript for Episode 1: Max Marchewicz & Neal Pike

Meet your Hosts

Laura Guthrie

Laura Guthrie

Laura Guthrie is a disabled artist with 30 years’ experience in theatre. She is the Artist Development Manager for Graeae Theatre Company, Co-Director of Meander Theatre, and worked as an Agent For Change with Ramps on the Moon. For 20 years she has been an Associate Artist with Bamboozle Theatre. Trained in Theatre Design, Laura has devised, directed and designed theatre alongside Deaf, disabled and neurodiverse creatives throughout her career.

Jay Sandhu

Jay Sandhu

Jay Sandhu is an internationally-sold author, comedian, poet and rapper. Punchy, informative and witty, his poetry and comedy focus on race and culture. He is a presenter on BBC Radio Nottingham. Jay is a creative director for Nottingham Poetry Festival and runs Nott Another events.

Visit Jay Sandhu's website

Series 1

A 5-part series hosted by arts and culture journalist Rachel Willcocks.

Rachel dove into conversation with black and mixed-race black members of Nottingham’s creative community. Discussions explore the guests’ creative processes, the 2020 anti-racism protests and mental health. We also look at entrepreneurship, and our guests’ experiences of navigating the pandemic.

Series 1 was part of Curator in Residence Saziso Phiri’s CATALYST programme.

For International Women’s Day, Rachel is joined by Nottingham-based black-British Soul duo MELONYX.

MELONYX is a collaboration between Georgia Copeland and Nadia Latoya. The duo have performed at Peggy’s Sky Light, New Art Exchange, Camden’s Electric Ballroom and Gilles Peterson’s ‘We Out Here’ Festival. They released their first single, ‘Worth the Wait’, in May 2020.

In this podcast episode, the singers discuss sisterhood and the power of women supporting each other. They talk about how they came together as a group, their influences, wellbeing and self-care, and how they’ve continued to stay creative during the pandemic.

Sorry, no transcript available

In this episode of Community Conversations, Rachel speaks to Nathaniel Wilson, founder of Mimm and Nottingham Street Food Club.

Mimm opened on Broad Street in 2011, located in the Nottingham City Centre area of Hockley. It combines the worlds of fashion, music and art by providing unique and independent sustainable clothing, audio visual events, creative space and a radio station.

Nathaniel discusses Mimm’s humble beginnings, the importance of inclusivity in the work that he delivers, the impact that his mixed-race heritage has had on his creative output and his passion for bringing Black-British culture to the forefront over American influences.

Sorry, no transcript available

Norma Gregory is a historian, broadcaster, heritage consultant and arts curator. For over twenty-seven years, Norma has researched and produced quality, heritage-related media products, educational resources and exhibitions in relation to African / African Caribbean experiences in the UK, helping to develop, expand and enrich available heritage as well as helping to address misrepresentations of history.

In this episode, Norma speaks to Rachel about her love for books and how they changed her life, her experience within the education sector and the importance of black history being taught in British schools, bringing the hidden histories of the Caribbean community to life through art, and the impact of the 2020 anti-racism protests.

Find out more about Norma’s work:

Sorry, no transcript available

For this episode, we hear from Michaela ‘The Plentiful Poet’ Spencer, poet and spoken word artist and founder of Truth Mental Health. Michaela speaks about her journey as an artist, and how art can be used a a tool for healing. She also discusses the events that led to her starting Truth Mental Health, and the impact of George Floyd’s murder on the black community from a mental health perspective. Due to the UK National Lockdown, Rachel and Michaela were unable to meet in person to record the conversation, so this episode was recorded in the form of voice notes using their mobile phones.

Content/Trigger Warning: This episode of Community Conversations includes discussions of mental illness, suicide, murder, sexual abuse, racially motivated violence, domestic violence, death and dying, which some listeners may find triggering.

It is also important to note that the views, opinions and experiences expressed in this episode are those of the guest speaker, and do to necessarily represent the views of City Arts and those involved n the making of this podcast.

If you or someone you know have been affected by any of the topics discussed in this episode and would like further support, you can visit the following links (UK-based services):

Mental illness and bereavement

African and Caribbean Mental Health Services (ACMHS) –
Mind –
Samaritans –

Domestic abuse

National Domestic Abuse Helpline –
Equation (Nottingham-based) –

Sorry, no transcript available

Jeremy Prince is a music enthusiast who’s been DJing for 32 years. He is one of the main organisers for Nottingham Caribbean Carnival.

In this episode, Jeremy shares his experiences as a passionate creative. He speaks passionately about his influences and inspirations, from childhood to adulthood, and how music can be a form of escapism. He also discusses how he was able to take the 2020 Nottingham Caribbean Carnival online in response to the pandemic, and the coming together of the Caribbean community in times of adversity.

Sorry, no transcript available

Meet your Hosts

Rachel Willcocks

Rachel Willcocks

Rachel is a passionate freelance arts and culture writer. She is fascinated with thought-provoking and meaningful stories, that capture under-represented narratives.

Rachel was joint arts editor at LeftLion. She has been contributing writer for Black Ballad. Alongside writing, Rachel has a wealth of volunteer experience within the cultural sector. She currently works as a Marketing Manager at the British Council.