War-time Coventry healthy housing project inspires again in 2018

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Business news / Alumni news

Thursday 14 June 2018

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A 1940s project to set up a healthy housing estate for Coventry families has inspired a new generation of city residents to think about what they eat.

The Coventry Family Health Club was the dream of city GP Dr Kenneth Barlow who wanted to discover if people could plan and build their own self-sufficient community.

Although two farms were bought in Binley Woods and more than 200 families signed up for the scheme, the proposals were rejected by Coventry City Council in 1947.

Now the ideas behind the Coventry Family Health Club – and another healthy community scheme in Peckham, London, which did go ahead – have inspired a project to encourage the people of Coventry to think more about healthy eating and how food can help build communities.

An image of the plans for Coventry Family Health Club.

The proposed design of Coventry Family Health Club.

Researchers from Coventry and Warwick universities have joined together to run a series of public events to share the stories of the Coventry Family Health Club and The Peckham Experiment with people in the city.

The events have included film screenings and discussions about the two projects and how the ideas behind them can be applied in today’s society and help people live healthier lifestyles.

Photographs taken and comments recorded during the events have been used to create a tablecloth for use in the Moat House Leisure and Neighbourhood Centre in Winston Avenue, Coventry.

Dr Kenneth Barlow (image used with permission of the Barlow Family)

Dr Kenneth Barlow

The researchers have worked alongside the Moat House Community Trust, which runs the centre.

The culmination of their project will be a public celebration event on Wednesday 20 June at the centre, featuring food, entertainment and discussions about the issues addressed.

It takes place from 12 until 2pm at Moat House Leisure and Neighbourhood Centre. Anyone wishing to attend can register by emailing s.a.greenway@warwick.ac.uk

The project – titled Can’t We Do It Ourselves? - is part of a series of collaborations this summer between the city’s two universities to bring their research directly to local people.

Dr Marina Chang, a research associate at Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, said:

We’re using the community spirit evident during the Family Health Club as a catalyst to encourage people to think about what they eat, how they can take control of their own health and how they can empower their own communities to make a difference.

Sophie Greenway, a PhD student in the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick, said:

The Family Health Club has been relegated to a footnote in the city’s history, even though members felt the benefits of its ethos right from the start. This project seeks to change that by making people more aware of the ideas behind it and how they can apply those to their own lives.


For further press information please contact Alison Martin, press officer, Coventry University, on 02477659752 or email alison.martin@coventry.ac.uk.