In March 2020 the Royal Exchange Elders Graduates began to meet over zoom. This 40-minute coffee morning (‘we didn’t have a business zoom account so were limited to 40mins’) initially started as a way of keeping in touch, especially in that first lockdown when people were feeling quite isolated. ‘It was important for us all, a glimpse into the outside world when we couldn’t go out anymore. It was particularly important to people who were on their own’
After a while the Graduates wanted to do something more than just chat and the sessions became creative. People would spontaneously write poems, they would set creative challenges for each other, agree some themes, or choose to write to certain frameworks - like creating a haiku.
What the Elders didn’t know was that group member Bill was collecting and storing all their work.
When they found that out they ‘…decided to do an anthology. It wasn’t planned but it seemed a natural thing to do. There was so much content, so much brilliant stuff’. The Elders Graduates pulled together to create an incredibly special poetry book ELDERS UNMUTED, an insight into their experiences, challenges, celebrations and thoughts during this exceptional time. Elders Graduate Sandy and her husband Steve brought it all together and created a beautiful format for the book ‘it was very much a group project – a complete team effort’.
It was unanimously decided that any money raised from the sales of the work should be donated to the Theatre’s Arts Pot scheme. Arts Pot is an incredible fund which enables people to access projects with The Royal Exchange Theatre, removes financial barriers and pays for course fees, travel costs, tickets and access workers for our participants.
Elders member Jacquie said…
'There have been ‘Elders who have tapped into Arts Pot [for] support with travel or additional help in sessions if they need it – I love to think that Young Company members will get support too, it doesn’t matter what their circumstances are with Arts Pot they will still get to take part.'
So far sales of the poetry anthology have raised a fantastic £1,153.18. People have been very generous and the Graduates wanted to stress that there are still some copies available!
Sandy added ‘[we all] wanted to give something back, we’ve all loved being involved with Elders and the Royal Exchange. It has meant so much to people who are retired and not sure what to do with their time and who are looking for new stimulus, it’s been so valuable, you really start to become part of the Exchange family. For that reason there is a responsibility for us to do our bit.’
The 40minute zooms are still happening and every day the incredible, generous and brilliantly creative Elders Graduates meet, supporting each other and now passing the baton on via their support for Arts Pot.
‘We keep going – this is still happening – we’ll even be there on Christmas day just in case anyone needs it. The zoom portal is always open’
Quotes were taken from a Zoom conversation with Elders Graduates: Sandy, Jacquie, Graham, Bill and Dave
To donate to the Arts Pot, please visit the Arts Pot page on our website.