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actors preparing to go on stage
actors preparing to go on stage

Bridging Generations: Borders Youth Theatre Brings History to Life

Borders Youth Theatre created the opportunity in their community to break down barriers, develop skills, and build confidence through performance.

Borders Youth Theatre were awarded £3,500 by the Drone Hill Wind Farm Community Fund to support the costs of a Project Leader and a small production budget to produce an intergenerational community performance project with local primary pupils and older members of the community to break down barriers and develop skills and confidence.

About Borders Youth Theatre

Borders Youth Theatre was founded in 1993, originally establishing as an unincorporated association and registered charity.  It converted to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) in 2016, solidifying its commitment to providing professionally led theatre experiences for young people aged 8 to 25 across the region.

With a mission to nurture creativity and build confidence through the performing arts, BYT offers weekly 90-minute workshops during term time for both Juniors (ages 8 to P7) and Seniors (S1 to 25) in multiple locations, including Duns, Selkirk, Galashiels, Kelso, and online as well as offering outreach workshops within the fund area of Drone Hill. The organisation also runs longer performance projects during school holidays, ensuring year-round engagement for its 112 members.

Background to the project  

In an age of changing social dynamics, there is often a widening gap between generations. The younger generation's understanding of local history and the experiences of their elders can be limited, while older community members may feel disconnected from the youth. With this in mind, Borders Youth Theatre initiated an intergenerational project to bridge this gap, fostering understanding and connection between the youngest and oldest members of the community.  In 2017, Drone Hill awarded £2,900 in 2017 for a similar project in Coldingham Primary School and following the successful delivery it wanted to offer the same opportunity to the pupils of Reston and Ayton Primary Schools.

The project aimed to address several key elements:

  • Preserving local history and personal stories
  • Promoting intergenerational understanding and empathy
  • Developing communication and performance skills in young people
  • Providing a platform for older residents to share their experiences
  • Strengthening community bonds through shared creative experiences

The project  

In its most recent iteration, the project brought together pupils from the Scottish Borders Primary Schools of Ayton and Reston, with older residents from the surrounding communities. Over the course of the Winter 2024 term, Primary 4 and 5 students engaged in a series of workshops and interviews, collecting stories and memories from their older generational counterparts.

To capture the essence of the stories and create a theatre production around the history of the community the pupils and older residents worked together to create their performance, their steps included:  

  • Initial drama skills workshops for the young participants
  • Interview sessions where pupils met with older residents to gather stories about life 50+ years ago.
  • Collaborative creation of an original theatre piece based on the collected memories.
  • Rehearsals and refinement of the performance.
  • A final showcase presented to the older participants, peers, parents, and the wider community

Who Was Involved

The project brought together a diverse group of participants with 30 Primary school pupils from P4 and P5 pupils from Ayton and Reston Primary Schools.  20 older residents from the Ayton and Reston communities supported the project.  The school staff and parents from the community gave up their time to support the production and provide transport.  

What made this performance even more special was that an audience of around 80 community members attended the final performance.  Making this a truly community-celebrated event.  

In total, the project reached approximately 130-140 individuals from the Ayton and Reston areas.

Impact and Outcomes from the Project

The intergenerational project has offered numerous benefits to everyone who has been involved.  The young people have gained insight into local history and life experiences of older generations, developed interview, communication, and performance skills, increased confidence through public speaking and performance, and learned skills for working collaboratively and creatively.

The older generations had opportunities to share personal stories and experiences, increased social interaction and community engagement, and gained a better understanding of younger generations.

The community has had the opportunity to strengthen intergenerational bonds, preserve and celebrate local history, create a unique cultural event, and promote community spirit and engagement.

Feedback from participants:

A student shared, 

"I enjoyed learning about life in the past and I enjoyed talking to the old people. I spoke in front of 100 people!"

An older resident remarked, 

"Meeting young people and sharing with others is always a joy, whether young or old."

A staff member noted, 

"As a member of staff, I feel I have also received excellent CPD and thank you for increasing my drama confidence."

Thoughts for the future

The Borders Youth Theatre's intergenerational project stands as a shining example of how the arts can bring communities together, bridge generational divides, and celebrate shared history. By providing a platform for young people to engage with their elders, learn about their past, and express themselves creatively, the project has fostered a deeper sense of community connection and understanding.

The success of this initiative in Ayton and Reston Primary Schools builds upon Borders Youth Theatre’s track record of positive community impact. As one school staff member eloquently put it, "Drama is a superb medium to enhance the knowledge and understanding gained through various curricular areas. We would 100% welcome Borders Youth Theatre back to work with us in the future."

The overwhelmingly positive feedback, from participants of all ages, underscores the project's success in achieving its goals. From breaking down barriers between generations to providing unique learning experiences for both young and old, the intergenerational project has proven to be a valuable asset to the community.

As we look to the future, it's clear that initiatives like this one have the potential to create lasting positive change in communities. By continuing to invest in these intergenerational connections and creative expressions, we can build stronger, more resilient, and more understanding communities for generations to come.