Margaret Emerton, a longstanding member of our 50+ group, recently told us about her experience with our Try It! – Play the Part workshops.
Margaret Emerton is an advocate for older people in Coventry and Warwickshire. She has been writing blogs about her journey with the Belgrade for several years, and now writes about our Try It! – Play the Part workshops.
We received funding from Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 to continue the Try It! – Play the Part workshops, which have been meeting once a week and are suitable for those aged 50+. They are led by Belgrade Theatre workshop practitioners, with two student Occupational Therapists supporting the workshops.
Participants are taught drama techniques that they then share with family and friends in a final session. The workshops were shaped around the health priorities of those taking part and no prior experience was required to join the course.
Read all about Margaret’s experience below.
Remember the pangs of hunger as you left Coventry swimming baths to be greeted by the enticing aroma from Fishy Moores, just along the road. Or, the Sky Blue frenzy as the FA Cup was paraded proudly through the city on the open top bus by the Team in 1987.
These are just two of the memories shared by the participants of the new Try It! – Play the Part programme.
For some participants it was an opportunity to try something new, for others it was a brave new step away from feeling lonely, anxious and depressed. Some of the participants were from the Belgrade Arts Gymnasium and had been working together for years, and for others it was their first time in the building.
Those of us who have been working in the Belgrade Theatre were asked to make the newly arrived participants feel welcome and to act as peer-leaders within the sessions.
From the two memories above, drama has worked its magic under the guidance of Kim Hackleman and Lisa Franklin. They have guided us, given us tools and skills with which to create drama.
The memories provoke conversations, with everybody having something to add. The memories captured in words created a picture, but we also tried to capture the sights, sounds, smells and feelings and to bring them back to life.
To combine those memories we had to plan the flow of movement and how they would interlink. As each scene developed, we found new ways of working: sometimes using improvisation, other times a short script created by one of the members of the group, and even at times exploring moments of stillness.
In 10 short weeks, we were working as a team and looking forward to sharing with friends and family.
On the day of the live performance we found several challenges. One of which was that a few of our participants, as often is the case in these times of global pandemic, were unable to attend and so in just over an hour we worked together to pull the performance together and fill the gaps. We had become a team that could overcome obstacles. During the Q&A afterwards, it seems the audience believed we had been rehearsing it exactly as they saw it on that day.
And now that the sharing is over, what now? We opened the door to new experiences, have seen smiles on the faces of the sad, friendship for the lonely, will this door remain open to work more magic? Yes, we were pleased that our group was chosen as one of the Try It groups to continue to receive support from Coventry UK City of Culture 2021. And now we are working toward another sharing!
For those of us who have been part of the Belgrade Arts Gymnasium, we can tell you how drama has changed our lives, enhanced our abilities, given us confidence. Given us friendship and support. Without drama, our lives would be so much poorer. It has been wonderful to welcome new participants to the group and we are looking forward to sharing what we create this term.