We can’t quite believe that 2021 is drawing to a close. Another strange year has passed, as we all grapple with a COVID-19 shaped world. This has meant keeping the project online, seeing us connect and work with people across Scotland and beyond! As a new year approaches, we reflect on the ups, downs and everything-in-between of the project so far…  

Forum theatre performances  

The biggest part of the year has been seeing our forum theatre workshops fully realised with Active Inquiry and members of the public. Who knew Zoom theatre would be a trend this year? Despite COVID-19 conditions, our fantastic performers conceptualised, wrote and performed two plays. 

One of the best parts of the performances was seeing ‘forum theatre’ techniques in the real world. Brazilian drama theorist Augusto Boal started Theatre of the Oppressed, which uses participatory performance as a democratic forum. Val wrote a bit more about our approach earlier in the year. 

In Waiting for Dot, an older activist is torn between speaking at a meeting or retiring from protest under pressure from her family, and in Return to Wonderland, Alice tries to gain access into her surreal, beloved childhood world only to be met with ageism. 

In our performances, it was fun to see the audience argue Dot’s case to her family, or have another Alice try and educate a very steely Red Queen on why she was wrong. Melanie even shared her experiences of stepping into the thick of the action – brave for someone who hasn’t acted since their primary school nativity. 

Our performers and Active Inquiry

Analysing reading group data  

Our reading groups from last year covered so many subjects that we have been exploring this year. From discussions of increased life expectancy, intergenerational relationships and what was in store for us all in the future. We’ve found that our groups craved authentic connections and were keen to talk about the complexities found in intergenerational relationships.  

There were many discussions on how we might be able to effect change. We summed up some of our thoughts on how speculative fiction might help us imagine new futures of older age. 

Sharing our findings 

It’s been so wonderful to get feedback on the project so far. Presenting at (online) conferences has been a great way to meet other researchers this year. We also gave a series of creative methods workshops and learnt much from the people who attended. 

The Sociological Review magazine published some of our experiences using creative methods in an article ‘Using fiction and theatre to reimagine the post-COVID-19 future’.  

In November, we presented to the Intergenerational National Network, who were the first audience to get a sneak preview of our new film. 

…and 2022?  

In the New Year, we will be releasing a toolkit and film made by Rare Bird Media that gives further view into the creative methods used on the project. We can’t believe the project wraps in February, but we’re excited to keep delving into the data and seeing what new narratives are uncovered as we enter into the final throes of ‘Reimagining the Future in Older Age’. 

If you work for a third-sector or policy organisation and are interested in trying these methods out in person, please email jade.french@stir.ac.uk for more information about our end of project event on 15 February 2022. 

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