Last Thursday a group of people met at London Bubble to begin a conversation about how we remember and think about being at Primary School. We would also be thinking about how we could gather information about this time in life that most of us experience to develop a piece of theatre.
The evening began by us sharing our names and why we were here. Most of us had taken part in previous intergenerational projects with London Bubble, most recently Grandchildren of Hiroshima. As for me, I’m a member of Bubble’s Adult Drama group but this would be my first experience of taking part in Bubble’s intergenerational projects, and I was keen to see what we would get up to.
We were invited to think about and write down or draw memories of being at primary school. Sheets of paper were laid out on three different tables, and at each table we were invited to consider either the ‘early’, ‘middle’ or ‘final’ years of Primary School, including perhaps any experience we had of revisiting primary schools since leaving. We set to the task and began taking our minds back to days of running around playgrounds, navigating early friendships, the intriguing, comforting or unsettling quirks of our first teachers, and getting used to the norms and rules of school.
A piece of rope strung out between two chairs accumulated these stories, impressions and scraps of memories as we attached our papers to them with wooden pegs, an evocative process in itself. With the group’s memories before us, we took it in turn to share verbally with each other what we had chosen to depict on paper. The personal nature of what we were sharing fostered an intimate and supportive atmosphere. I found that listening to everyone’s experience brought out diverse feelings; the stories were enlightening and funny as well as sometimes sobering and frustrating. As we listened to each other recount our memories, some themes were already beginning to emerge out of the similarities of our experiences.
Now that we had begun to scope out the material of our subject through our personal experiences, we came back together to name and explore what we felt were some common themes. The mind map we began spanned friendships, school values, games, teachers, rules, and a category reflecting the commonality of ‘blood, sick and milk’ in our memories, among others.
This week promises more thinking on how we will gather material to inform our exploration, as well as beginning to ‘sculpt’ and give form to our initial responses and ideas.