Name: Noran Flynn, Charity Development Director

Name of group: Nechells POD

Location: Nechells, Birmingham UK

Aim: To bring the community together by acting as a resource for the residents of Nechells, providing services and activities to improve life chances, develop skills and offer support and guidance.

About the members: We serve one of the most disadvantaged wards in Birmingham with high levels of child poverty. Our members range from pre birth to 88 years old (our eldest participant) and reflect the diversity of our local residents.

Artist: Claire Witcomb


Please tell us about your group.

Nechells POD is a community hub and is recognised as the heart of our community. Members describe us as a lifeline and tell us that the support we offer makes a big difference in their lives.

The services we offer range from Adult Learning, Coffee and Chat, Counselling, Credit Union, Debt and Finance Advice, to family and intergenerational activities, and children’s residential holidays.

We are also a place where the community come to have fun. We have programmes of Tai Chi, Yoga, Arm Chair Keep Fit, Couch to 5 K, Place of Welcome, plus specific projects like the Big Get Together, Bloomsbury Fun Day, World Culture Day…and of course The Big Sleuth!

What are your reasons for taking part in The Big Sleuth?

As a community we wanted to celebrate what is good about living in Nechells whilst also promoting the excellent work of Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

We had previously been involved with The Big Hoot in 2015. We had two owls our big owl, Oliver, was decorated in mosaic by artists Sophie Handy and Claire Witcomb, who worked with the local community. The small owl, Olivia, was decorated with images of the community. We were also involved with The Big Read BookBench event and our community felt a sense of pride in being involved in both of these citywide projects.

We are also thrilled to be part of a project that is supporting Birmingham Children’s Hospital, particularly because a member has a son who is being treated at the hospital.

How did you fund the project?

We raised funds through the local Children’s Centre, Near Neighbours and our Reaching Communities Big Lottery Funding.

Please describe how your members have taken part in The Big Sleuth.

Members took part in a successful Community Design Day, which included storytelling of bear tales and a Teddy Bears picnic. The designs created by members celebrated the positives of being part of the Nechells community and revolved around the theme of neighbourliness and our diverse community coming together in peace, love and harmony.

Our artist for this year’s project is Claire, who also helped to decorate our large owl for The Big Hoot. She works at the local Children’s Centre, so is known to the community. Following the Community Design Day she transferred the ideas our members generated for the bears onto the blank sculptures.

Our large bear PODdington is a very warm and welcoming bear, covered with flowery patterns to reflect peace, love and harmony. PODdington has a ceremonial chain necklace that is made up of people holding hands in friendship and reflects images drawn by the community: sunshine, hearts and stars. On her arm she has a band that states “Happy to Help” because the community wanted to communicate how they felt happy to help one another.

The cub Rainbow Rory was made possible due to sponsor Gowling WLG, a law firm in Birmingham. He depicts our community’s diversity and the threads that knit our community together – neighbourliness, kindness, and respect.

Why was it important for your group to take part in an event such as this?

We wanted to contribute to a citywide project that encourages creativity and highlights the importance of families getting involved in exercise and activities together. It’s also a great opportunity for us to promote all that is good about being a Nechells resident and a good neighbour.

Thanks, Noran. Don’t tell anybody but PODdington is one of our favourites!

Bears created by Nechells POD and the Nechells community together with artist Claire Witcomb can be found in the city centre during the art trail. PODington is located on Temple Row and Rainbow Rory is in Millennium Point.

After the art trail the sculptures will have a forever home within the Nechells community.