Earlier this month, Made in Bristol, our resident company of theatre-makers in-training, showcased their talents alongside the residents of St Monica Wills for Wyldwood Arts creative arts project ‘Chat Back’.
Following the big event, we spoke to participant Wilf Brunt. Here he talks us through the whole experience and its impact on his fellow residents.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and St Monica Wills House…
My name is Wilf and I was born in Bedminster in 1927. I grew up here and then went away in my life and returned after about 55 years to the place where I was born and grew up.
I’ve settled in now to St Monica Wills and in the past weeks we discovered these young actors, full of song, energy and help. They’ve encouraged us older folk to rediscover and remember important things, through perhaps a song, about our lives in the past. This has been quite an experience.
How has the ‘Chat Back’ project impacted the residents over the last 8 weeks?
In a very meaningful and hopeful way. That’s a big thing for us old people. I wondered, when I had to downsize because of a stroke and I couldn’t continue as I had done, what life would be like. Well I’ve discovered it’s no different than life anyway – right the way through. It’s what you make of it. And it’s bringing back what I remember about my young life; the community, my life then, and how the people that we lived with interacted and made a life as a community.
After 55 years I’ve returned here and that spirit is still there; with schools and the younger generation – it’s all part of it. It’s so inspiring to see that this group of people are interested in us old people and are asking us to question (wisely) what happened in our day. They’re learning the history – so let’s see what they can make of their lives as a result of that interaction.
What has been your experience of Made in Bristol and the work that they’re doing?
It’s been so encouraging and inspiring and joyful to see these young people doing what they’re doing. They’ve got lives, they’re hoping to either start university, learn more, act. It’s so inspiring to see that they’ve included us on that journey and haven’t left us out.
I was able to put my input into it by making it known what experiences I’ve had in my life to these young people. This project is something which really helped us rediscover and learn about our lives and who we live with now. It makes us closer and more of a community.
What will you take away from this experience?
Well, my hope is that this project will be something that the other resident sites of St Monica’s Trust can be involved in. Working together and showing how it’s done, we’ve given the other sites something which they can grasp. It’s the whole purpose of this – to show; ‘Okay, we’ve done this and enjoyed it and made a thing of it. How about you?’
What’s been the funniest or most exciting moment?
Oh, we’ve had laughs. I tried to introduce that as well – the banter that goes on between the men as opposed to the females – and we’re outnumbered. That was part of my bit and it goes on always. It was funny. We just had some fun about our experiences and, well there’s been lots of laughter.
And the speeches that the group made with that last performance… It was meaningful to them. What more could us old people ask for? For them to talk about our memories and life experiences like that. They’re going to lead the way in the future and be able to keep sharing these moments. We’re sharing this life, this place we live in, all that together – and it’s all been wrapped up into one for this project which is so inspiring.
Would you want to take part in a project like this again?
Definitely. We’ve got activities of our own, run by the residents mainly, but I’ve wanted to broaden it out to a bit more variety. This has been a great experience. So enlightening because it can get pretty boring with the older people at times – but it needn’t be. This has given us the opportunity to perform and to share. Life is always making of it what you can and what you’re prepared to go for. With the help of younger people like this and having their input to it as well… well there we go!
To find out more about Made in Bristol and further projects our Outreach department are involved in, click here.