Guest Blog: A grown up coffee morning

Armed with an enormous bag of cake, flapjacks, brownies and chocolate mini rolls, we headed into CPT this morning to takeover the building for our free Coffee & Cake morning, a key part of the development for our upcoming show, GROWN UP.

One of our reasons for initiating GROWN UP was to ignite a dialogue between people of different generations. Back in the Autumn we worked with local students from Netley Primary School, collecting the questions they wanted to ask about growing up. This morning we gathered together a group of grown-ups to give us some answers. The material we generated today, combined with transcripts from one-to-one interviews we have conducted with local resident grown-ups over the past few months, will form the basis of a script. This will then be performed by a solo child performer at our scratch sharing on Sat 12 3

Kicking off with some personal introductions we quickly realised the wonderfully diverse nature of our gathered grown-ups. Our group of 20 included grown-ups who grew up as close as Camden Town and as far as Australia; grown-ups who have jobs, and grown-ups who don’t; grown-up men who shave their beards, and grown-up women who can’t be bothered to shave their armpits anymore; grown-ups who feel like grown-ups, and grown-ups who don’t even know what that means. In between mouthfuls of cake we led a series of different activities to collect everyone’s answers to the questions, starting off with a ‘speed dating’ game of two minute interviews (How do you take people to jail? Who’s your favourite child?), moving onto a quiz, complete with Haribo prizes (How do you make a rubber? Where do earthquakes start?) and finally an anonymous writing exercise, where we asked everyone to give their answers to the more personal questions which the children had come up with (What does it feel like if your baby dies? Why are Mum and Dad in divorce? Do you shave your husband body even look at his body?  Who will look after you?).

Reflecting as a group at the end of the morning we were struck by how moved our grown-ups had been by the children’s questions, and by the shared sense of responsibility that they had felt when crafting their answers. We acknowledged the difficulties of being a teacher or a parent, constantly feeling a pressure to answer questions truthfully but in a way that children will understand. And we considered the importance of engaging seriously with every question, however silly, because any question asked by any child must have been prompted by an experience and by the desire to better understand their world and themselves. People revealed how they had approached their answers from different angles: some said they had answered as if they were talking to themselves, saying the things they wish they’d been told when they were growing up, some answered as if they were talking to children currently in their lives – nieces, nephews, students – saying the things they’d want them to hear now, and some answered as if they were talking to other grown-ups. We’re really curious to see how these thoughts will inform the development of the material.

We’ve now got reams and reams of brilliant material to digest and work through before creating our script text next month and are feeling incredibly energised and humbled by the generous insights from all the participants we met today. A key part of this project, and the People’s Theatre Award which has supported its inception, is to engage people with new opportunities and to encourage meaningful conversation within and between communities. In parallel with the schools’ workshops and the one to one interviews we have already delivered, Saturday felt like a very exciting beginning.