“When you get talking to people you know so much more about them than just the person you see.” Wise words, especially from a 9 year old. That was Noah’s comment after spending a morning playing the role of Mahatma Ghandi on his recent school visit to the meet residents at Jewish Care’s Betty and Asher Loftus Centre in Friern Barnet.
30 children from Eden Primary School and Jewish Care residents took part in the 10 week joint creative arts project taking a trip back in time together, exploring music, films, memories and photos that they treasure.
Jewish Care invited artist Bob Karper, to facilitate the workshops. Bob, dressed as his alter ego, a kind of 19th Century superhero, Steampunk Bob for the children.
Bob explained, “Steampunk mixes time in a fun way, looking at the future from the point of view of the past. This mixing of the past and future seemed appropriate: young people have their futures ahead of them, residents have lived lives that stretch back long into the past, and it seemed apt. There’s a DIY aesthetic to steampunk too, a handmade, craft like feel to the work, you don’t have to be a fine artist to follow your imagination and get stuck in.”
Bob explained that the residents had shared stories during the earlier workshops and with the children’s help, they recreated scenes from the resident’s lives, casting participants as wardrobe, make up and actors, whilst the residents were directors, clapperboard holders and producers.
Sypora Azizollah, known as Sippi, 65, former nursery nurse and singer and a resident at Lady Sarah Cohen House, entered a jingle competition with Radio London, winning a trip to New York as her prize to celebrate her 30th birthday in New York with a friend.
Sippi said, “I never thought I’d win but I did.It was incredible seeing the children act this out and brought back memories of such a happy time in my life. It’s one of the best projects that I’ve taken part in and I wish the children could come every day. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
The children also acted a birthday celebration for Leonard Finkle, age 90, attended by Ghandi, The Queen and David Cameron. The Queen, played by 8 year old xxx, brought him a birthday cake with candles and sang him happy birthday. Leonard actually served in the British Army and in the early 40’s Ghandi boarded his train in India. He also turns 90 this year, along with Her Majesty The Queen.
Following the workshops, Leonard and Sippi were delighted to visit the school when held an assembly about the project and acted out the scenes again for the whole school and the teachers.
Leonard, who was clearly moved by 300 children singing him Happy Birthday, said, “I don’t know who enjoyed it more, us or the children.”
Miriam, age 8, who took part, said afterwards, “We went on a treasure hunt and what we found was the treasure inside people – the treasure was their stories.”
Art teacher, Laura Fox, who initiated the project was delighted with the outcome. “We wanted the children to understand that older people have stories to share and interesting lives and I think this project really achieved that.”
Jo Sassienie, Eden’s Head Teacher, added; “It’s very important for our school and I hope it’s something we can maintain in the future. We are looking forward to our next project with the home and we’ve asked Sippi if she’ll come back to visit us to help the children in the art room.”