I’m having supper with the eleven members of Entelechy’s elders company in the elegant surroundings of the restaurant in the Midland Hotel in Bradford, Yorkshire. We have all travelled north to participate in the next stages of the ‘Home Sweet Home’ project with Freedom Studios. It’s a two year theatrical exploration into the art of getting older bringing together older people living in Bradford, southeast London and Stockton on Tees. We’re all here for a week of meetings, performances, workshops, conversations and debates.
Around the dining table there is so much laughter, energy and vitality exploding from this diverse group of seventy and eighty-year olds who are publicly plotting and planning. It seems to be an unfamiliar sight. Recognising the curiosity and confusion of our fellow diners, Gwen helps with a public introduction: “We are a group from London. We are artists”.
Earlier in the day we had visited a Bistro in Centenary Square in the centre of town to eat and watch Freedom Studio’s looped performance of Pensioner Warehouse. The façade of the Bistro had been taken over and transformed as a shop that sells older people. On display with their knitting and cardigans are two ‘cut price’ pensioners quietly affirming the casual stereotypes of what it means to be old, quietly that is until the watchful eyes of their security guard minder are called away. It is then that the fun begins. Out come the water pistols, the camouflage netting and the combat jackets.The lunchtime routines of office workers, passing shoppers and school students are intercepted by this surreal spectacle that challenges the ways that we look at old age. Suddenly this moment of theatre transforms the civic space into a place of encounter and exchange. Strangers are talking with each other about their grandmothers and their older neighbours. “It’s different, it’s good. There should be a lot more of things like this” one man shouts out.