By Jackie Reynolds and Mim Bernard
Just over two years ago, we made the long trip to Edmonton, Canada, along with our colleague Jill Rezzano from the New Vic Theatre, to attend the annual Creative Age Festival. The festival involves staff and students at the University of Alberta – including our project partners on the Ages and Stages project. Ages and Stages is an on-going partnership between Keele and the New Vic, investigating theory and practice to do with older people’s participation in theatre. Our mission in going to Edmonton in 2013 was to explore what was involved in running a Creative Age Festival and to then come back and see whether it might be possible to do a similar thing in North Staffordshire.
We had a memorable few days, taking part in festival activities and talking to the organisers about their experiences. We were excited about the idea of initiating our own Creative Age Festival, but needed to know whether others felt the same! So, on our return we set about organising a meeting of representatives from arts organisations and older people’s groups in and around Stoke-on-Trent, to scope out the idea – all of whom felt that there was great potential for such an event. After a relatively short and very intense period of planning and organisation, we launched the first ever Live Age Festival in October 2014 – timed to coincide with UK Older People’s Day. Festival goers enjoyed a packed programme of workshops, performances, talks, film screenings….and even a satellite link up between the Ages and Stages Theatre Company and the GeriActors and Friends Theatre Company in Edmonton.
After much positive feedback about the inaugural Live Age Festival, we decided to do it all again this year – and to make it even bigger and better! After an incredibly busy few months of planning and organising, Live Age Festival 2015 is almost upon us. We launch the festival at an opening event at Stoke-on-Trent Film Theatre from 7pm onwards on Wednesday 30th September. There are then three full days of festival activities. There are too many things going on to include everything here*, but these are some of the highlights:
- Special performance by The Laners, following a UK tour
- Performance poet, Leah Thorn including her ‘Older Women Rock’ project
- Royal Exchange, Manchester ‘Company of Elders’ workshop activities
- Performances by local artists: Peace Through Folk Choir, Clay Chorus, Loudmouth Women, FRONTLINEdance, Art Link and New Vic Ages & Stages
- Music from Mel’s Angels, The Boat Band, Frank Leigh and Penkhull Brass Band
- Free workshops including a special talk and creative writing workshop on Arthur Berry and LS Lowry
- Screening of 45 Years: one of the best British films of the year
We also very much hope that many of our colleagues and students will come along to this year’s ‘Live Age Symposium’ (Friday 2nd October, Mitchell Arts Centre 2-3.30). This event focuses on ‘Making an Impact’ and explores the differing ways in which creativity can make an impact on older people’s lives; other generations; and through researchers and practitioners working together. Speakers include festival patron and retired MP Joan Walley, who will be joined by Lorna Warren (Sheffield University) and Nicky Taylor (West Yorkshire Playhouse). After the symposium, there will be cream teas and jazz. What better way to end a working week?
*The full programme (and booking links) can be found at www.liveagefestival.co.uk Thanks to funding from the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Research Office; Keele’s ‘Ageing Initiative’; Stoke-on-Trent City Council; Leek Arts Forum, and Staffordshire Housing Association, almost all of the festival events are totally free of charge (check website for details). The festival also relies on numerous organisations and individuals offering their time, expertise, creativity, resources and financial backing to the initiative – so a huge thank you to everyone involved!