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Remembering the Past: Building the Future in the UK 2015-17
“Remembering the Past-Building the Future” was an eighteen-month international project within the framework of the “Europe for Citizens” programme which aimed to show how memory, despite its fragility, manages to preserve the past against the destructive work of time and brings along the hope for a better future.
This was a partnership project involving the European Reminiscence Network and the University of Greenwich.
A Reminiscence Theatre event was held on 9-10 October 2015 involving older people from the Greenwich Pensioners Forum, drama and history students from the university and school students from Dresden.
The older people worked with Pam Schweitzer to record their memories of the war years. They then developed these memories into a short play, "Wartime Memories", directed by Pam Schweitzer with Dr Heather Lilley, senior lecturer in the Drama department and Charlotte Price-Stevens, a student placement supporting the project.
The drama students developed their own production based on memories in the Reminiscence Theatre Archive and performed it alongside the older people’s show. The school students presented their work in progress on a new theatre piece.
Older people from London and the Dresden school students then participated in a drama workshop based on the older people’s wartime memories and the young people’s stories as learned from older family members in Dresden.
The inter-generational gain was considerable and very positive relations emerged from this creative engagement.
Other work and events:
Drama and history students at the University of Greenwich are currently applying to take part in the project. They will undertake a reminiscence research and performance placement led by June Balshaw and Pippa Guard from the History and Drama departments respectively, and Pam Schweitzer from European Reminiscence Network.
If our funding application for study visits is successful, students from both departments will attend the week in Poland in June, will then prepare creative work arising and will share this work in Dresden in November 2016.
The theme of the research on the ground in Greenwich and the eventual performances and exhibition will be the evacuation of London’s school children during World War II. It will explore the impact of this massive movement of children to the countryside on the families involved, especially on the children themselves.
The students will study the oral history interviews in the Reminiscence Theatre Archive (based at the University) on this theme and will also conduct their own interviews with local older people who were evacuated. They will prepare short pieces of theatre, which will be performed in the autumn of 2016 in the university. These pieces of reminiscence theatre will also be performed for local school children in two local primary schools, supported by input from the older people themselves.
We shall involve the older people from the Greenwich Pensioners Forum in our work on wartime evacuation with school children and we hope they will be willing to undertake further drama work around their memories. The stories they have already told about their wartime experience will be made into a small booklet for wider distribution.
It is planned that we hold a reminiscence conference in March 2017, to which we would invite partners from the Remembering the Past, Building the Future project and representatives of oral history and reminiscence theatre projects in the UK. At this event, we would share work by the students, the older people and the local school children.
Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today Training (RYCTT)
The European Reminiscence Network was funded under the EC Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme to continue and develop the work we had begun in 2010-12.
As a partnership, we developed a cross-Europe training and apprenticeship programme so that we could spread the work in our own countries and ensure that there would be competent group facilitators to lead it in the future.
Eight partners were funded for the RYCTT project, but all the original 11 partners managed to attend our project meetings and participate to some extent in our common programme. All have continued their commitment to creative reminiscence work and to reminiscence training.
The same 2-day training programme ran in all partner countries. Training course participants explored experientially the key concepts behind using creative reminiscence in dementia care.
The trainees were drawn from many different fields and disciplines, including dementia care, oral history, community development, education and the arts. 362 people across the partnership attended our courses.
At least half of those who trained on our 2-day courses went on to become apprentices. They were attached to a group of family carers and people with dementia, meeting for reminiscence sessions weekly over a 12-week period. Led by experienced group leaders in each country, these reminiscence groups followed a common set of themes, using a variety of creative approaches to help participants find and share life-stories. Over 250 people with dementia participated in the sessions, each supported by at least one family carer.
Apprentices had the chance to observe sessions, to contribute to them and eventually to lead them. They got to know the families and gained the confidence they needed to resource and run inclusive enjoyable reminiscence projects themselves. They reflected on their own learning in written essays before becoming accredited facilitators. 146 apprentices were granted accreditation as ERN group facilitators under this scheme.
2008-11 REMCARE a research project supported by National Institute for Health Research (Technology Assessment) exploring the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of reminiscence to family carers and people with dementia
This research project operated in 8 centres across England and Wales and was supported by research teams at 5 universities: Bangor, UCL, Hull, Manchester and Bradford. It takes the “Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today” (RYCT) programme as its starting point and looks at the effect of this on 24 groups of 10 families.
A control group of matching size was also involved in the research for this project. This was the biggest single study of reminiscence undertaken to date.
This research project builds on the European Reminiscence Network’s reminiscence project, “Remembering Yesterday, caring Today”, for people with dementia and their family carers, piloted in 1997 and developed across Europe ever since. Image above: Working with families.
2010-12 Remembering Together: Reminiscence Training for Carers of people with dementia
The Grundtvig-funded project has 11 partners from 10 EU countries. Partners come from UK (ERN and Northern Ireland Reminiscence Network) France, Germany, Netherlands, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, Poland, Finland and Ireland. The Learning Partnership is co-ordinated by Pam Schweitzer.
In each partner country, we undertook a series of arts-based reminiscence sessions with families living with dementia and introducing them to the value of sharing life stories and personal memories creatively in a group. Our special focus was on enabling carers to incorporate reminiscence into their home lives as well as enabling them to enjoy participating with their relatives in the reminiscence sessions. Image above/right:.
Partners in this international project met four times over the course of the next two years to prepare and train, to share experience of running the project in their countries and to document the work.
These meetings were in Northern Ireland, Finland, Spain and Germany. The final meeting in Germany will include an exhibition of all the creative arts work produced during the project.
Image above/left: Partners in the RTRT (Remembering Together, Reminiscence Training) project in Kotka, Finland for their second project meeting April 2011.
Comments from people with dementia in the Netherlands:
And from their carers:
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