Years ago, in fact 1984, I admired and worked with a London based theatre company called Age Exchange. Led by founder and director Pam Schweitzer, a group of multi skilled performers would research days gone by, by talking to elderly members of the community living in the Borough of Lewisham. Stories were recorded by visiting, day care / residential homes and transcribed into text and eventually short plays. The plays were then rehearsed, dressed ,lit, songs added and performed back to the venues where the originators of the stories gathered. The audience were amazed to see themselves being played out by actors. Such a brilliant concept and Age Exchange is still functioning today as a leading practice in Reminiscence Theatre.In 2010 whilst working as a freelance director at The Courtyard Theatre in Hereford, I took the idea but replaced the professional performers with members of Year 8 at Fairfield School in Peterchurch Herefordshire.The project became an even wider intergenerational exchange and the play Story Train was written based on workshops with locals living in The Golden Valley. It was performed by the teenagers back to the originators of the stories by touring village halls along the route of The Golden Valley Railway. The result was amazing, the audience once again watching themselves being played when they were young and for the teenagers there developed a pride and understanding of their rich cultural heritage and a theatrical experience of what life was like as a youth in the first half of the twentieth century.I now run Hay Theatre Company based at The Globe in Hay on Wye and under this umbrella are both the Junior and Senior Youth Theatre plus Hay Theatre Club for Adults. Connecting up all three of these groups, Reflections is a reminiscence theatre project based on the stories from the older members of the community living around the border areas of Hay. We have just completed Phase 1 of our one year project, funded by Elmely Small Grants, Arts Council Wales, National Heritage Lottery and The Cooperative Bank Community Grant Initiative. Now the stories are gathered, the teenagers have met the newly formed Friday afternoon reminiscence group ( see photos) , the next stage is for me to write the play . Phase 2 begins every Saturday afternoon at The Globe when the first set of rehearsals take place after Easter until July. There will be a break for August when some tweaking of the script will take place plus the gathering of props, costume, lights and sound, then Phase 3 is the final set of 7 rehearsals in September leading to a week’s worth of shows played back to the locals of Hay during October Half Term, village halls, day care centres, luncheon clubs and a grand finale at The Globe in Hay on November 1st in the afternoon.It’s going brilliantly so far with a diversity of content ranging from the liberation of Belsen concentration camp at the end of WW2 to the more light hearted accounts of the naughty things one used to do at school. It’s not too late to join in, just e mail us at email@example.com or ring 07733 055430 and speak to me personally, whether you have a story to tell or you would like to perform.
Janine Sharp ( Artistic Director)