I Still Mind O' That
Duns Primary School Autumn Term 2018/19 Final Report
The Intergenerational Projects which Borders Youth Theatre began a number of years continue to develop. The Projects bring together younger and older members of communities to meet and talk, share experiences and compare their lives. The projects also help to break down uncertainties and suspicions which often exist between the generations, especially among older residents who have little contact with young people.
We all live nowadays in a rapidly changing world. The past 50 years or so, have seen enormous changes to the way we live our lives. Things which were unthinkable even a few years ago are now commonplace. It is not surprising that young people are often unaware of how different all aspects of life were. Even where young people have regular contact with older relatives and neighbours, the past if rarely talked about.
The Duns 2018 Project
We have worked with Duns Primary School twice in the past. The whole philosophy of the school fits well with our aims. Given the wonderful refurbishment and move to a new site which has recently taken place, we were especially keen to become involved.
Although there are common themes within the projects, each is different. It would be very easy to settle into a simple reconstruction. It is important that projects are tailored to the specific needs of the school and the community. Despite a short preparation forced by commitments on other projects, we were able to have quite detailed discussions with the Headteacher and staff and the project was adapted to address a range of Expectations and Outcomes in Literacy and Expressive Arts.
There were two other key considerations.
Firstly, we needed to identify the appropriate group of pupils. The decision was to involve all Primary 5 pupils, some from the full P5 class and the remainder from a P4/5 mixed class. This proved very successful. The group worked very well together and, importantly, all of the Primary 5 pupils were able to work as one group.
The second consideration which had to be made was in the delivery of the project. Duns is a large school and we had a total of around 40 young people. In the past, we have tried to run two-part projects simultaneously to allow best access to the older group. In this case, we changed the method quite radically. The school is a busy place with any activities running simultaneously which meant that we actually moved activities around. Although the small group question and answer sessions between young and old are still key, we also organised more ‘whole group’ activities and a recap session at the end of each day. In this way, much more information was shared and, crucially, the whole group got to know one another.
Following discussions through August 2018, we met with pupils and staff in early September for two early sessions of drama and preparation. On week three, we were joined by some of the older group. One of the key parts of these projects is to identify and involve sufficient older members of the community, not only to ensure a wide range of experiences, but also to ensure that everyone has a chance, young and old, to be involved. It often takes a little time for word to get around and this was the case here. However, the numbers grew quickly and by the end, we had involved a dozen members from the community, most coming regularly. Two of the older group are residents at Boston Court and took part in the first Duns project a number of years ago. One of the BYT staff collected and dropped them off each week. The whole group totally understood what was expected and were a joy to work with. As usual, although the joint sessions were scheduled to last an hour, most lasted up to 90 minutes.
As described, above, we were keen to address a range of writing and recording skills with the young people. This is not an easy task for them but with simplified materials, the P5s did an excellent job. A record of the interviews was made by the young people and the collated responses were used by them as a secondary source from which they selected material to be used in drama work. Some of the work was re-inforced by small ‘homework’ tasks, including using the dedicated website.
There was generally a different focus each week, looking at life 50 or 60 years ago – school life, home, entertainment etc which allowed questions and other materials to be prepared.
The final sessions were with the young people only. With the help of the two leaders from Borders Youth Theatre, the young people tried to re-create some of these memories about which they had heard. They developed short sketches showing aspects of life in school and at home as it might have been in 1958, 60 years ago. These were then brought together and the result was an original piece of theatre which was performed at the School Hall to the older group, the rest of the school, and a group of between 40 parents/carers. The performance was a mix of ensemble work and sketches showing the contract between life ‘then and now’. It was great fun and was well received by all.
Thanks to the willingness of everyone at the school to make things work, organisation, though tricky, worked well. BYT staff had a couple of availability issues which slightly limited the input to the final drama session. When we are creating the drama, we try to be as flexible with the young people as possible and allow them as much freedom to develop and perform as we can. The comment was made that, since we are the ‘experts’, there is a good argument for being more ‘directive’ in ‘teaching’ the drama process. This is reasonable and something we will consider in the future.
A couple of projects ago, the suggestion was made that we set up a dedicated website for the Intergenerational Projects which would allow parents, friends and relatives to access information and contribute. The website runs well and we have had some good input. However, despite that fact that we assume young people (and many older) spend their lives glued to the internet, the website is underused. We feel there is certainly something which can developed and we will be reviewing this.
As always, although the performance is an important part of the project which everyone can see, it is not the only aim. More important are the links which have been made between older and younger generations, the sharing of information and experiences and the breaking down of some of the barriers and misconceptions which sometimes exist. The young people have learned to gather then select and share information and to work with others to develop ways to portray this information. They have learned drama skills and to work as a whole group to prepare something they can perform to a wider audience. It is hoped the young people have also learned something of what their life might have been like 50 or more years ago and appreciate that older people have led interesting lives and are still interesting people.
As stated earlier, the older folk enjoyed meeting the young people and sharing their memories and experiences. It is important that their experiences are validated and they understand that they still have an important contribution to make. They also realise that although life now is very different to that of 50 or 60 years ago, young people are much the same.
As with all BYT projects, we collected written and verbal feedback from everyone concerned and will use this to help influence our future work. Some of the comments can be found at the end of this report.
As noted above, the whole philosophy of Duns Primary School fits with the project. The head teacher is particularly interested in harnessing all the resources available from within the community, expecially some of the older rsidents who have a huge range of skills and exoperiences and so much to offer. During a couple of the group session, she and her Depute had discussions with some of the older group to try to identify those who might be willing to contribute in some way within the school activities. There was definite enthusiasm. From experience, we know how difficult it is to see this through to practice. However, the head teacher is both determined and focused and I’m sure that what she wishes will develop in some form. That would be a perfect legacy for our project and we wish them well in that. We will, of course, we happy to support in any way we can.
This project was possible because of part funding received from Blackhill Community Fund, operating through Foundation Scotland.
More information about BYT’s Intergenerational Projects can be found at www.byt.davidjbisset.co.uk or from David J Bisset or Oli Bisset at firstname.lastname@example.org For information about other BYT activities, visit www.bordersyouth theatre.co.uk