During summer 2018, I co-facilitated an intergenerational project in Ashton Vale with the wonderful Nia Evans who also works for Wyldwood Arts. The project focused on bringing together two local groups – the Silver Social Club and Young Bristol youth club. They worked collaboratively and creatively to plan and deliver a joint fundraising event for a place they all depend on – the Ashton Vale Youth Club.
As the two groups had rarely socialised together previously, we felt it was important initially to encourage them to get to know each other. To kick off the first session, the group formed a circle, and passed, rolled or threw a ball of wool to someone who had the same interest as them. This very quickly turned in to a rather messy (but hugely enjoyable!) ball game. Wool flew across the circle and tangled hands were everywhere! As mobility levels ranged across the groups, young people began navigating the woolly web to pass the ball to an older adult; so, whilst it felt chaotic, connections had been formed between the two age groups and they had worked as a team. It had also become apparent how football crazy the youth club were! After a slightly wild start to the project, we had worked together successfully and formed an idea for the main event; a football tournament, with cake and craft stands!
The following weeks consisted of heaps of fun and creative activities; we designed football kits and posters, sewed badges and made bunting and cake! A highlight for me (and a rather tasty one too!) was baking a giant green gingerbread football pitch – yum!
Each session brought us a little closer as people relaxed in each other’s company. They also revealed individual talents through group activities or the stories that were shared… Like the brilliant Alan who looks after the community beds by the railway bridge in Ashton Vale, and made the flower beds outside the youth club from up-cycled wood from the old football pitch fencing – awesome! Chloe – a fantastic gymnast – regularly dazzled us with her gymnastic abilities including the splits and bridge, and Cody – the star sewer – expertly stitched a watermelon onto his hand-sewn football badge! And Marylin our up-cycling Queen who led some fantastic Blue Peter style demos on how to make beautiful boxes and bows from old card and paper.
Another special moment that will always stay with me happened during a game of ‘Discover Bingo’. Taking a break from arts and crafts, we focused on fostering group connections. It was a real break-through moment in which young people and older adults had a chance to share stories and facts about themselves in pairs. At the end of the activity, we all shared our favourite answers: Doreen, when asked what her super power would be, said ‘to be able to cure all diseases’. What a hero!
In no time at all it seemed like the day of ‘The Silbury Celebration’ was upon us. And what a celebration it was! Art work hung from wool strung across the space and tables were laden with home-baked goodies and up-cycled creations. The badge-making table was humming with young artists and the football pitch was alive with nail-biting matches. The joint poster had clearly done a good job at attracting the crowds!
The evening ended with an almighty adults vs kids football match. With no limit to the number of players, both young and old flocked onto the pitch; tensions were high and adrenaline was pumping! When the whistle blew there was no holding back. The ball went flying and goals were scored on both sides. Suddenly it was neck and neck, all to play for… The match went to sudden death – next goal wins all….and the ball hits the back of the adult net. THE KIDS TEAM GOES WILD!!!!
This is one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. There is so much to learn from intergenerational group projects like this, where ages range from 9 – 99! The variety of experience and energy that each person brings, gives so much to a project. Sometimes stepping outside our comfort zone can result in some surprising friendships and unforgettable memories!
I would like to thank everyone who came to the sessions for being brave, generous and getting stuck in. I hope both the Silver Social Club and Young Bristol Youth Club enjoyed the journey as much as I did. And I have a good feeling their work together isn’t over just yet – plenty more gingerbread to bake!
We could also never have achieved this without the incredible support from Julie Chapman (the life and soul of Ashton Vale Youth Club), Faye Joines at Young Bristol and Hannah Clark from Wyldwood Arts.
A special shout out also needs to go to Ted from Young Bristol for being a fantastic Ref!
Blog written by Emma Hughes on behalf of Wyldwood Arts