On Friday 7 September our new Elders Company joined Graduates of our previous company to embark on a year-long programme of taking part with us at the Royal Exchange Theatre.
This year’s company is a broad range of 27 people from across all areas of Greater Manchester aged between 60 and 84. They have a mix of experience including some people who have never taken part in drama before. The year will be about developing new skills, having fun, making friends and learning more about the art of theatre.
New Company member, Phil said:
I feel privileged to be invited to join the Elders Company. If the launch is anything to go by it is going to be an amazing experience, both challenging and empowering. The privilege is in participating in such quality workshops. Thank you Royal Exchange.
Previous Elders Company members will now take part in a Graduate programme which will see them supported by staff at the theatre to make their own work including short performances for Elders Exchange Day.
Andy Barry, Elders Company director said:
Since its inception in 2014, the Elders Company has grown into a busy programme involving many older people across Greater Manchester. We’re proud to be playing an active part in Manchester’s mission to be a great place to grow older and pleased that our work here is getting both national and international recognition.
The Elders Company has been featured on BBC Radio 4 Front Row when Elders Gordon and Christine talked about their involvement in the company and being part of MOMENTS THAT CHANGED OUR WORLD. Then earlier this year, Elders Company director Andy Barry visited Japan with the British Council to share the work of the Company and learn more about how arts can support people to age well. This year’s Elders Company Launch was also featured in the Guardian online including interviews with both new and graduate members.
As part of the Launch afternoon, the Company created a poem and statement of intent for the coming year. You can read the poem at the end of this article.
Monday 10 September saw us launch our new public programme for older people called Elders Monthly. Throughout the day, six sessions took place including PLAY – two practical drama workshops, WRITE- two sessions led by writer Sarah Butler, BACKSTAGE – an opportunity for participants to learn more about stage management and take a look inside the technical box in the main theatre space, and OUT LOUD a play reading and discussion session.
We were also delighted to be launching our new Dementia Café with our partners Alzheimer’s Society, Admiral Nurses, Manchester Carers Forum and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. The theme for the session was Gardens. We talked about songs and music linked to gardens, completed special dementia friendly puzzles, as well as have a brew and a biscuit.
Some of our Graduate Elders helped lead the day with creative activity in the hall including games, conversations about the best and worst plays people had seen and chatted about the power of music in our lives.
Our next Elders Monthly is on Monday 22 October. There’s lots of ways to get involved and age creatively, so come and join us.
The Elders Company and Graduate members got to know each other as well as create a poem together at the Launch on Friday 7 September.
This year, the Elders will be a new journey with fewer tools
It will be expressing myself through play
It will be a means to calm your mind - it’s hard because I have a butterfly brain.
This year, the Elders will be an adventure, sometimes scary, sometimes exciting
It will be scaling new heights.
This year, the Elders will be anything that makes you laugh, often difficult, but sometimes necessary.
The Elders will be the sound of feelings
Full of nostalgia
The Elders will be fun (at the moment), a great place to eat macaroni cheese, an enjoyable place at times
The joy of my life, uplifting, saddening, inspiring but also emotional.
This year, the Elders will be a great healer.
It will be vertigo in motion, taking myself into another life.
It will be boldly facing getting older.
The Elders will be knowledge, carefree, a time to pursue things, an escape from reality.
It will be something to read when the adverts are on TV.
It will be a strange learning process, surprising.
The Elders will be a conflict within yourself, climbing higher than is comfortable.
It will be surprising. Always there in the mind.
This year, the Elders will be focussing on one another. Trying to recall names and places etc. A time of peace.
It will be listening and not talking, caring about your answer, getting high, being mindful.
It will be a coherent tune to listen to.
It will be the moment you forget troubles and live life to the full.
This year, the Elders will be climbing higher and higher, looking to the skies.