“We asked our youth board what they’d like to do, and they said they’d really like to do a project with the older generation from Barton Hill, and to find out more about the area. So, the project actually came from the young people,” says Giulia Bianchini who coordinates the youth theatre at Travelling Light Theatre Company.
Last year Travelling Light successfully applied for £4,500 through the Youth Social Action Fund (now #iwill) to create ‘Hillstories’ for the Barton Hill Festival. Hillstories was a pilot social action project coordinated by Travelling Light in partnership with Wyldwood Arts. The project brought together different generations living in Barton Hill and a group of young people aged 11-19 worked with older residents (aged 50+), to capture stories and to collaborate on a co-devised performance.
The challenge for the group was to find somewhere the different age groups could naturally meet. Surprisingly, the answer was the local bingo club.
“We used to have a local bingo hall, the Mecca, and a lot of the older people used to go there,” says Sarah Dailly, network coordinator at Barton Hill Settlement. “It wasn’t just about bingo, it was somewhere for people to go.” When it closed one of the residents decided to set up a bingo night at Barton Hill Settlement.
On Tuesday evenings the young people aged 11-19 years old came along to the bingo, and to some people’s surprise, they loved it. They had tonnes of questions for the older people there, and script writer Adam Peck was in the room to start working on the first draft of the play script.
The older people were reminded what it was like to be young
The groups then worked together over several sessions to develop ‘Hillstories’. The process, and the play itself, have proved a fascinating delve into the area’s history told through personal memories.
When the older people saw their words performed on stage by the young people, it was quite an emotional experience for some members. Seeing themselves represented on stage as young people reminded them what it was like to be young, and one older lady, recently diagnosed with dementia, found it particularly moving to hear – and be reminded of – her youthful escapades.
Guilia Bianchini said: “The #iwill grant (formerly the Youth Social Action Fund) kick started the first two phases of Hillstories, the social action framework highlighted the importance of empowering young people to believe in their potential to unite communities. As a result the value around Hillstories grew, and Travelling Light decided to have the play as the only full live performance representing the organisation at Barton Hill Festival in October. Hillstories elevated Travelling Light’s Youth Theatre and their potential as young advocates of social action. The young members of the Youth Theatre are keen to continue making authentic and meaningful plays for their audiences.”