European Reminiscence Network (Pam Schweitzer)
Work at University of Greenwich:
In October 2015, the European Reminiscence Network hosted a showcase at the University of Greenwich, which brought together older people from the Greenwich Pensioners Forum, drama and history students from the University of Greenwich and young people from Dresden. The older people (aged 82-98) performed a specially created piece of theatre based on their own wartime experience, the Greenwich students performed devised shows based on wartime reminiscence taken from the Reminiscence Theatre Archive, and the Dresden students performed their take on stories about the war told them by elderly relatives. The one-day event was reported in the current work section of the OH Journal (Spring 2016)
Over 100 people attended, including Greenwich students of theatre and history, local pensioners, University staff, school students from Dresden (Germany) and project leaders from two Dresden organizations. (There is a fuller report on this in my last year’s Regional Network report.)
Following on from this event, I have continued working with Greenwich students, taking the work in a new direction as part of a new international intergenerational partnership entitled ‘Understanding the Past: Building the Future’. This is a partnership project supported by the European Union under the Europe for Citizens scheme. Led by Jugend und Kultur, an intergenerational project in Dresden, this EU partnership works to promote inter-generational understanding through oral history, reminiscence and the arts. Partners are in Thessaloniki (University Art Department) Macedonia (Skopije University Art Department) Wroclaw, Poland (Culture Center of Olesnica and the Chamber of Memories) Budapest, Hungary (European project in the community) and European Reminiscence Network in partnership with University of Greenwich.
We have had 3 meetings already this year in Dresden, Thessaloniki and Wroclaw, with further meetings planned for Dresden, Budapest and London. In each venue we have seen the work on the ground produced by art, music, theatre and history students of the local universities and colleges in response to oral testimonies (live and recorded) of living through war, occupation, totalitarianism and oppression.
On 9th December 2016, there will be an event at the University of Greenwich for sharing the work of this international inter-generational project. It will feature presentations from Germany, Hungary and Thessaloniki. The university of Greenwich drama and history students will show the work they have produced on the project, hopefully with local schoolchildren. (Further details on the OHS website)
As part of the inter-generational programme ‘Understanding the Past: Building the Future’, I have been introducing University of Greenwich drama students to ‘Theatre-in-Education’ as an inter-generational approach to Reminiscence Theatre work. One student, Charlotte Price-Stevens, on a work placement with me created a theatre show with four fellow-students and we took this into schools to play for and with pupils aged 8-11. The students read wartime evacuation stories in the Reminiscence Theatre Archive at the University and then created a piece of participatory theatre based on these stories.
A crucial part of their show was the participation of real life evacuees (in their 80s) who had participated in our reminiscence theatre event last year. Four of these pensioners shared their stories with the children, who then worked with them in small groups and then performed scenes based on these stories for one another. There was plenty of follow-up work in the classroom and teachers and students were well satisfied.
Presenting the new European inter-generational oral history Project: “Remembering the Past: Building the Future”
Presentations from international partners in Germany, Hungary, the UK and Greece, followed by performances by the University of Greenwich students of drama, and local school children. Another free event but people must register if wishing to attend. All enquiries initially to Pam Schweitzer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
London (Sarah Gudgin)
Throughout the year in my role as Oral History Society Regional Networker for London, I have fielded calls, emails and enquiries concerning oral history, mainly giving pre-application advice to groups or individuals contacting me via the Oral History Society Webpages. However, it seems that this year has been quieter in terms of organisations seeking advice for new projects being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. There have been other types of enquiries which have been more time consuming, such as PHD students wishing to interview me about work my past oral history work at Museum of London, reminding me why I prefer to be the one holding the microphone! I have also continued to share my oral history expertise within the museum and heritage sector carrying out interviews, evaluations and training.
I have enjoyed collaborating with Siobhan Warrington of Oral Testimony Works on an oral history project with young people via The Winch, a youth and community organisation in north London. The Memories of Swiss Cottage oral history project saw us train youth work staff and volunteers and devise oral history training materials suitable for year 6 pupils who were based in two local schools. This resulted in 19 new recordings, which the young people will use as the basis of continuing creative work, as well as an exhibition.
For the Snapshots Project, a photographic commission and research project, I carried out interviews with people with dementia and their carers, to explore how memory based art and reminiscence work can support people with dementia. This was a collaboration with Westminster Arts, which resulted in the Snapshots Exhibition as part of Dementia Awareness week.