1993: The European Year of Older People and Solidarity Between Generations
Following a feasibility study demonstrating interest in reminiscence work from many member states, Pam Schweitzer, Artistic Director of Age Exchange Theatre Trust in London, set up a year-long programme of reminiscence theatre tours, training workshops and an international conference, supported by the European Commission.
Professional touring reminiscence theatre was unknown in the countries we visited and it raised people's sights as to what was possible and the artistic standards which could be achieved by working with skilled performers. The stories we played came from the testimony of the working class British older people we had interviewed, and for most audiences this form of "verbatim" theatre was powerful and new, providing an invaluable insight into personal and social history. [Image: Routes show, touring across Europe]
During the European Year of Older People, The Good Companions, Age Exchange’s older people’s theatre group, came into being, with support and inspiration from our German partners, Ingrid Berzau and Dieter Scholz from Freies Werkstatt Theater in Cologne. Their first show, "I Remember When …" was given a tremendous reception in Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and across the UK. Their performances were spontaneous and humorous, very unpretentious and won the hearts of many audiences old and young in all these countries. [Image: Good Companions warmly welcomed in Cologne, Germany]
For the group themselves, the effect on their lives was radical. One of them, Joyce Milan, wrote:
"Our group of ten have all become firm friends. We thoroughly enjoy ourselves, especially visiting new cities and wonderful people. Our sincere thanks go to all the European organisations that invite us and show us much kindness and for the excellent dramatic instruction we have received....The Good Companions has become a way of life for our group. We are pleased to be so called, as that is what we have really become. Our ages? Sixty-six to eighty-three years. It's a great life in Show Business."
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