The European Reminiscence Network was established in 1993 with support from the European Commission, the UK Department of Health and Help The Aged to promote best practice in reminiscence work and to share experience across national frontiers.
Co-ordinated by Pam Schweitzer since its inception, the Network is a partnership organisation with representatives from 16 European countries and many associates in USA, Canada, Latin America, Australia and the Far East.
The partners work together to develop conferences, seminars, festivals and action-research projects. In recent years they have focused on particular areas of reminiscence such as inter-cultural and inter-generational work, reminiscence in dementia care and the role of theatre and visual arts in reminiscence work. [Image above: Inter-generational meeting].
Through the Network, Pam and her international partners have generated a highly practical and interactive approach to reminiscence and oral history with a cross-cultural perspective, celebrating difference and sharing common experience to promote international understanding. [Image: Uhan Shii Theatre Company invited to London from Taiwan]
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 is 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: European Reminscence Network partners in Belfast.
Partners in this international project met four times over the course of two years to prepare and train, to share experience of running the project in their countries and to document the work.
These meetings are in Northern Ireland, Finland, Spain and Germany. The final meeting in Germany included 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:
“It was fun, especially spending time in a different way with my daughter. Normally she just brings the groceries. "
"It was very special for me to do this together with my son."
And from their carers:
“I have more insight into communicating with dementia.”
“I have more understanding and patience with the situation.”
“I have less frustration, more understanding. After each meeting I called my family and told them what I learned, so they can use the information I got also.”
The “Remembering Together” project with Asian elders in London 2011Photo gallery - click for larger images
2009-10 Transitions in Later Life: a week-long Learner Workshop
This Grundtvig-funded workshop explored the experience of later life changes in the work/life balance through reminiscence and dramatic improvisation. 20 delegates from 12 EU countries came to London for a week-long residential course, led by Pam Schweitzer, supported by Ingrid Berzau and Dieter Scholz from Germany, Errollyn Bruce and Sarah Clevely from the UK.
The workshop used creative reminiscence and life review exercises to reflect on our life journeys to date, and used theatre-based exercises to envision the futures participants hoped for. Image:The Transitions workshop.
Working in small groups and as a whole group we tested these creative approaches and considered their effectiveness in enabling us to manage change at a personal, psychological and social level.
The learning explored in this workshop is still being developed and will result in an online manual conveying the essentials of the course so that it can be tried in other countries and different contexts.
Transitions photo gallery - click for larger images
Responses by participants from different EU countries:
"It’s wonderful. We’ve started by getting the feel of our past and later we are going to try and think about the future and I think we will be having some new ideas about it. The activities are so creative, I really like them – and they work really well. I will be taking some ideas from them to use in my own work."
"When I applied for this course, I thought it was more like a game, some leisure time, visiting London, meeting others from all over Europe. When I got here I found it was a chance for me to reflect on my own life. When I meet people with similar difficulties in their lives to my own, I find that mine feel less difficult. I also liked the really good organization and preparation that has been done, and the very strict structure. It keeps the group together, doing what’s been planned – which is very important."
"I really enjoyed being involved in playing a part in other people’s stories as well as having people involved in my own – being director, and using people in your story. It had something playful, but at the same time was quite a serious matter – a very good combination. Very powerful, very emotional – you really feel the stories. I like the change of methods – we changed partners 2 or 3 times by talking about different experiences. We got know other people in the group very quickly."
For more information and news of past projects such as 'Making Memories Matter' and 'Sites and Signs of Remembrance', visit the website of the European Reminiscence Network:www.europeanreminiscencenetwork.org
Sites and Signs of Remembrance
Video: This video shows highlights from the project from the European Reminiscence Network 'Sites and Signs of Remembrance'.
Making Memories Matter
Making Memories Matter, ran from 2004 and involved artists from seven countries working with individual older people to create ‘Life Portraits’ or ‘Memory Boxes’ around their life experience. This project is supported by the European Commission, the Bosch Foundation, the Bridge House Trust and many smaller foundations in the participating countries.
Over one hundred boxes have been created, recycling ammunition cases (supplied by the army in each country) and giving them a peaceful and creative use. Each box has an accompanying text explaining the contents, putting the display in the wider context of the older participant’s life and giving the artist’s perspective.
The resulting exhibition, which has been shown in galleries and museums in all seven partner countries, is remarkable as an exploration of Europe’s cultural heritage and it has been visited by thousands of people of all ages. It continues to tour across Europe and was featured in the Documenta international art exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 2007.
Video: This video is entitled ' When Paul Met Hilda' and shows the making of a memory box.
Click here for a brief history of the European Reminiscence Network’s projects to date
[PDF file 101k - requires Adobe Acrobat Reader - download free copy]
Pam also acts as consultant and visiting expert to several other European and international projects including Age-Culture.Net, East-West Older Women’s Network, based in Berlin and the Intergenerational Learning Forum. [Image: Pam lecturing at Dementia conference in Barcelona]