When the Albany and Entelechy’s BOLD Festival took to the streets of Deptford

Entelechy’s Artistic Director David Slater describes the powerful impact of  when the Albany and Entelechy’s BOLD Festival took to the streets of Deptford

Bed 4

Sometimes you’ve got to take risks for the unknown. You don’t know what you are going into but you’ve got to take that risk.’ – Gwen Sewell, Entelechy Elders Company

It’s lunchtime on Wednesday afternoon. A teenager stands in the foyer of the theatre with her two friends. They are in school uniform. Collectively they hold an energy; a sense of urgency. A number is scribbled in blue ink along the side of the girl’s hand. They want to talk. They think that they have witnessed a crime.

All morning the public spaces in and around our neighbourhood have been full of the choreography of people being taken by surprise. There are electric huddles of conversation on street corners. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing unusual, nothing that is not happening hundreds of thousands of times up and down the country now, as these words appear and crawl across the screen of my laptop, now as you read them. We’ve read about it, we’ve heard about it. The papers are full of it. Our great social concern: loneliness and the isolated old. But in Deptford today it has hijacked the ordinary wanderings of people’s lives: the popping out to pick up the paper and a pint of milk; going around to the library. In plain sight there is an older woman in her night clothes, lying in a bed, haunted by images from her past.

BED was a fragment of street theatre commissioned for the Albany and Entelechy’s BOLD Festival of arts and older people. It was created by members of Entelechy’s Elders performance company. “Everyone is talking about loneliness and older people but nothing ever gets done. It’s as though we are invisible as a generation. We wanted to be seen. We wanted our stories to be heard.” say the older performers.

And that is exactly what was achieved. The impact on the street was palpable. It’s as if a mirror was held up to the lives of so many who stumbled upon it. People needed to talk about their elderly relatives. They needed to talk about older people they knew. Anger, concern, disbelief transmuted to wonder and awe when the penny dropped. The vulnerable, frail older women were actors. This was theatre. This was a political action. Perhaps to create is to change. The performer’s sense of agency set out a challenge.

Back in the foyer of the theatre that’s what the girls had picked up. They had responded and taken action. They had witnessed an injustice. Social isolation kills more than obesity does. It needed to be reported.

BOLD is a festival of performances, events and workshops made with, by and for older people as well as audiences and participants across the generations. It challenges all of us to think about ageing differently. From unpicking the politics of the care system to storytelling and singing workshops, it’s a chance to be BOLD in our choices, to try new things, meet new people and forget about acting our age. BOLD is a national festival taking place across the UK in Bradford, Stockton and London