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Rockfield Care Home on the Windmill Road in Newry was the scene today for the launch of a reminiscence book produced by c21 Theatre Company during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rockfield residents and Actors from c21 read extracts from the book at today's event with plenty of laughs and memories on the go.

Collette McAteer reads a story from the Through the Glass book. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The c21 Theatre Company’s ‘Through The Glass’ The Reminiscence Project in 2020 involved working with care home residents and day centre service users from Rockfield Care Home and across Northern Ireland and memories through stories and poems have been compiled and published into a special booklet.  Called ‘Through The Glass’ Reminiscence Stories. The booklet was supported by The National Lottery Community Fund and Doyle Shipping Group.

Launching the Through the Glass Reminiscence Stories booklet at Rockfield Care Home were from left: Stephen Kelly, Creative Director, c21 theatre company; Caroline Anderson, Activities Co-Ordinator, Rockfield Care Home and Donna Hunter, Producer, c21 theatre company. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Launching the Through the Glass Reminiscence Stories booklet at Rockfield Care Home were from left: Stephen Kelly, Creative Director, c21 Theatre Company; Caroline Anderson, Activities Co-Ordinator, Rockfield Care Home and Donna Hunter, Producer, c21 Theatre Company. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Working against the backdrop of the pandemic and within Covid-19 guidelines,  ‘Through The Glass’ The Reminiscence Project 2020 used ‘reminiscent boxes’ containing historical items ranging from powdered milk in WWII to 1970s shoes to help stimulate conversations among residents and create personal stories.   Activity coordinators located in the homes facilitated workshops to gather stories which provided writers Gary Wilson, Tom Rowntree-Finlay and poet Shelley Tracey with content for a series of theatrical scenes.  The scenes were made into short films which were distributed to the care homes, as well as broadcast on c21 Theatre Company’s YouTube Channel, during November and December 2020.

Extracts from ‘Through the Glass’ Reminiscence Stories booklet, compiled by poet Shelley Tracey, will be presented and performed as part of c21 Theatre Company’s tour to five of the  care homes involved in the project. Following a public competition, the booklet’s cover illustration was designed by Strabane based artist Berni Bradley of Bradley Art. The illustration was inspired by her own interactions with tutoring older age groups and use of artefacts that evoke reminiscence to stimulate creativity.

Speaking on the incredible project Stephen Kelly, Director, c21 Theatre Company, said “Through the Glass’ The Reminiscence Project has been an incredible journey for everyone involved. In the face of a once in the lifetime pandemic we were fortunate to be in a position to work with a range of partners who supported us to create meaningful  and creative content, provide a voice for the social care sector, the residents and provide vital employment for those working in the arts sector.  We are very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund and Doyle Shipping Group for their support throughout the making of the ‘Through the Glass’ Reminiscence Stories booklet. It is a privilege to revisit some of the care homes as part of our NI tour and perform some of the stories and poems featured.  It is our way to say thank you for giving us such wonderful stories to share, for future generations to enjoy, and for inspiring us during challenging times.”

Christina Nelson, Actor with c21 theatre company reading from Through the Glass at Rockfield Car Home.
Christina Nelson, Actor with c21 theatre company reading from Through the Glass at Rockfield Car Home.

Caroline Anderson, the incredible Rockfield, Activities Co-Ordinator thoroughly enjoyed the experience and welcomed the c21 Actors to Newry today.

Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund, commented “We are delighted to fund this booklet, which is giving care home residents a voice to tell their stories, capture important memories and in turn, improve their wellbeing.   National Lottery players raise around £30 million every week across the UK for good causes like this, and they can be proud to know that it is making such a difference to people in Northern Ireland.”

Resident Collette McAteer read one of the stories from the book. Snapshots of our lives and work to fellow residents.

Sean McCready, Director of Doyle Shipping Group, Belfast added “It has been a real pleasure for us to be involved in such a beautiful project with c21 Theatre Company.    We can never really appreciate the times our parents, grandparents and great grandparents lived in, but these snapshots take us back to their time.  Our employees got to watch all the films together and felt privileged to have contributed in some way to the process.”

‘Through the Glass’ Reminiscence Stories booklet will be available to the residents, service users, care home providers and families. For a downloadable copy of the booklet and for further information on ‘Through The Glass’ The Reminiscence Project visit www.c21theatrecompany.com Follow c21 Theatre Company (@c21Theatre) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Schooldays by Shelly Tracey (from Through the Glass Reminiscence Stories)

Memories that linger of our schooldays, at Mayobridge, at Bessbrook School, St Patrick’s and St Clare’s.

Hurrying to get there for the start of school at 9am, lucky if your shoes were new, not your cousin’s hand-me-downs, which pinched you as you walked.

Rockfield residents listen to some of the stories from the book. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Rockfield residents listen to some of the stories from the book. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Some of us had satchels, some had books tied up with twine. Girls and boys in different classes,
a strict headmaster, Mr. Dara, our teachers
were the nuns, and Mrs. Goose and Mrs. Gray.

In Geography, a big map of the world pulled down across the blackboard. The teacher then would call you up to point some places out.

The smoky smell of fire in the winter classroom. In the centre of the room, the stage for
our Nativity plays. Our families came to watch.
I made myself a frock in sewing class.

We learnt to knit; squares for making blankets, socks and scarves. If you had no money for the wool, your ma would wash a jumper, pull it all apart,
then wrap the wool around a chair until
it was unthreaded and send it in to school.

Singing in the choir meant going to Sunday Mass, or the teacher giving off to you for not attending. One day at Mass, that Nessa Smith pulled down

my heavy petticoat to raise a laugh or two. It did not make me smile.

Money also needed for cookery lessons in the Tech. We picked ripe blackberries
to sell at Mr. Blackstork's shop
to make the money for the jotters for our classes.

The sounds of school days linger in our memories.

The clanging of the bell when school began at 9am, and at start and end of break time,
grace time, lunch time, home time.

The scrape of chalk along the blackboard made us cringe. Doing our sums and spellings on small tablets,
a crack across the knuckles with a cane for all mistakes.

Breaktime, and the clatter and the natter
in the schoolyard. We played football and rounders, our marbles clashed together: the waterloos, the taws, the glassies and wee dingers. Oh, the shouts
of “Knuckle your trig and shoot like a pig!”
The waterloos, the taws, the glassies and wee dingers.

The bash of conkers brought to school for competitions,
kept warm to harden them
to help your chance of winning.

c21 Actors at Rockfield. From left: Debra Hill, Christina Nelson and Eoghan Lamb.\
c21 Actors at Rockfield. From left: Debra Hill, Christina Nelson and Eoghan Lamb.Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Skipping in the schoolyard, singing skipping songs.

Jelly on the plate, jelly on the plate Goes wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble, Jelly on the plate.
I am a little Irish girl dressed in blue Here are the things I like to do:
Salute to the captain, bow to the queen Turn my back on the submarine.

I can do the tap dance, I can do the splits I can do the Hokey Cokey, just like this.

The tastes of school days linger in our memories.

or going back home for dinner,
or munching pieces with our friends.

At 3pm when school was over,
buying penny sweets from O’Hagan’s,
or crispy chips at Curley’s for the journey home.

School friends were the best friends. School days linger in our memories.

 

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