The People’s Story
Age Exchange was awarded a major grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in support of an innovative intergenerational project for Enfield Island and Edmonton called “The People’s Story”
‘The People’s Story’ was created through partnership between Age Exchange and London & Quadrant Housing Trust.
The project offered residents from Enfield Island and Edmonton the opportunity to embrace their culture and share their experiences with others. It was all about bringing the old and young from different communities and cultures together, to share in group work, arts activity, and to record their personal and community histories, which lead to a wide range of creative outputs.
The project covered two areas in Enfield and Edmonton, both steeped in cultural heritage. Enfield Island Village is renowned for the famous Arms factory, which was previously situated on the site. Many retired arms factory workers were able to participate in the project along with local youth, older residents in care and new arrivals to the area from diverse communities. The area suffered for some time from a high level of unemployment (specifically youth unemployment) and deprivation. However, since 1999 it has experienced a major period of regeneration.
‘The People’s Story’ offered people a variety of different ways to get involved, so it captured everyone’s imagination. There were reminiscence workshops, personal interviews, an exhibition, a large-scale intergenerational reminiscence theatre production, and a documentary of the whole project, which premiered at The British Film Institute, Southbank.
Working with the community
The first stage was all about encouraging the whole community to take part, so that they could enjoy the activities on offer, and begin the process of sharing memories, experience, and cultural stories and song. We delivered four projects in Enfield and four in Edmonton, with local community groups, care settings and youth groups. The groups had the opportunity to share individual memories of childhood, community, cultural, and family heritage. Participation was inspired by handling of artifacts, music and movement, archive and current documentary film, and shared reminiscence within the group. Each group session was recorded with 30 participants going on to give filmed interviews in which memories of the locality, of journeys from other countries, of childhood, work, and play, were recorded for use in the exhibition, theatre production and documentary of the project.
The touring exhibition
The exhibition included transcribed material and memories from the earlier projects and interviews, as well as photographs, filmed interviews, archive film and sound, and artefacts. It recorded ‘The People’s Story’, in a vivid, colourful and powerful manner. Through presenting people’s memories through a high quality product we have found that individuals and communities not only feel valued but inspired to take part in more activities and to encourage others more isolated than themselves to take part.
The exhibition toured the locality and the wider City of London to raise the profile of the community, the project, and marketing the work of L & Q in serving the people who it supports.
The intergenerational theatre production at The Millfield Theatre
The most challenging, exciting and rewarding stage – The production – was the culmination of the process and the projects. People that took part have experienced isolation or exclusion in their lives, which made their taking part all the more remarkable. Participants from the first stage were invited to take part. We then worked with a youth group and older people’s group separately at first, to teach them new skills in performance and explored how to make a memory a scene or song. After a short period of preparing the generations separately, a period of 30 devised and scripted rehearsals took place for everyone which led to a high profile series of rehearsals and performances at the Millfield Theatre and Oasis Academy, in Enfield.
The documentary film
The film is a documentary of the process from start to finish. It is fly on the wall style, observing the way people grow in confidence, become a team, share remarkable life warming as well as courageous experiences, and then through exhibition and then performance, dance and song, go onto share their cultures and memories with the general public. The film was completed after the theatre production and had a premiere high profile showing at The British Film Institute, Southbank – an occasion attended by participants, partners, funders, professionals and politicians.
What was quite unique was the commitment from local organisations to ensure that this project was an outstanding success. For many years L&Q has worked very closely with local residents and organisations. Their enthusiasm to be involved in ‘ The Peoples Story’ was heart warming and essential in helping to bring all the diverse communities together to participate in ‘The People’s Story’.
Partner organisations included:
- Enfield Island Youth & Community Trust
- KATRE (Kurdish and Turkish Residents of Enfield)
- Oasis Trust
- Edmonton high School and Oasis Academy
- Edmonton College (who provide ESOL classes)
- Northside Youth – who work with young people with disabilities
- Local Methodist church
- Oasis Church groups
- North London Neighborhood Committee/Community Board
‘The People’s Story’ was also fortunate to receive funding from The Ujima Foundation. The charity would like to thank both funders for having supported such a necessary and important project.