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Borders Youth Theatre: “I Still Mind O’ That”

16 December 2018

Borders Youth Theatre (BYT) has been providing drama workshops and theatre productions for young people aged 8 to 25 since 1989, open to all without audition or selection. Through these activities, BYT aims to provide practical experience of working in theatre and to promote confidence and social skills. The group was awarded a grant of £2,100 from Greencoat Drone Hill Community Fund in May 2016 towards the costs of an intergenerational history project at Reston. This enabled BYT to employ two sessional drama workers to deliver two drama workshops per week over a school term and the costs of catering, venue hire and production of a performance.

The project was one of a series of intergenerational projects delivered by BYT at locations across the Scottish Borders, including those in Kirkhope and Yarrow Primary Schools which were funded through Greencoat’s Langhope Rig Community Fund. The aim of these projects was to bring together young and older members of communities to meet and talk, share experiences and compare their lives. Also to help break down uncertainties and suspicions which often exist between the generations, especially among older residents who have little contact with young people.

Running through the autumn 2016 term, the Reston project involved 21 pupils from Primaries 5, 6 and 7 at Reston Primary School linking them to older residents locally. The pupils met older residents six times and asked them to share their memories of life as a child – at school and home, through entertainment, games, and during wartime. For example, questions around the games they played in the school playground.

Alongside this, the pupils learned drama skills and were helped to develop story lines an original piece of theatre. The young people worked together to select the memories which most caught their imagination. With the help of the BYT workers, they re-created some of these memories by making 'storyboards' and developed short sketches showing aspects of life in school and at home as it might have been 60 years ago. The final production was performed at Reston Village Hall to an audience of around 50 including the older group, the rest of the school, parents and the wider community.

The project linked with another being run by Scottish Borders Council’s Heritage Hub, ‘Saving and Sharing – Stories of the Scottish Borders in World War One’. This recorded social and family heritage during the war period across the Borders, preserving documents, diaries and photographs for future generations, and captured memories of those whose relatives lived through the war via interviews. The BYT project contributed to oral recordings of memories under this project.

BYT asked for the young and the elderly people involved to feedback on various elements of the project. All 21 pupils taking part agreed or agreed a lot that working with the older residents helped them understand more about life in the past, as well as enjoying preparing scenes about the life in the past. Only one participant did not enjoy taking part in the performance.

“I enjoyed making up parts of the performance and using people as the main source of information.”

“I got a lot of good comments from people around the school.”

“It was awesome being able to interview the old people and being given the responsibility. I enjoyed the performance, it was nice to see my dad in the crowd.”

All pupil participants said they now know more about what it was like to be young in the past as a result of their involvement. The vast majority feel more able to speak to older people and would like to be involved in further similar projects. However, a number fed back that the project was a bit too rushed; they’d have preferred more time to carry out the activities. This is a shows that more sessional staff time (and school lesson time) would be preferable when the project is to be run again at other schools.

The pupils learned to gather then select and share information, to work with others to develop ways to portray this information and, finally, to work as a whole group to prepare something they can perform to a wider audience. They have also learned something of what life might have been like 50 or more years ago and that older people have led interesting lives and are still interesting people.

The Class Teacher noted a number of individual pupils who grew in confidence and others who were much more engaged than in normal school activities:

“It was great to observe the children's confidence developing when they were interviewing the older group”

The older folk enjoyed making new connections with young people and a number commented that they appreciated the opportunity to share their experiences. They felt that their own experiences are interesting and valuable and that, although life now is very different to that of 50 years ago, young people are in many ways the same. This has brought a sense of being listened to and respected. It is very positive that all of the older group would be willing to take part again in the future.

“It was a delight to have them all come and talk with us and meet them when I am out and get a lovely wave and smile from them.”

“It is good that they have the chance to talk to older people outside their family circle.”

“It opens their minds to changes in generations and culture.”

There were also wider benefits for the whole community as different age groups were brought together to increase understanding and respect between these. The school aims to develop further activities to build on these links.

A further grant, of £2,400.00 was awarded form the Drone Hill Community Fund in May 2017 for delivery of a similar project at Coldingham Primary School.

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