Festive fun in Grandma's Footsteps
13 Dec 2013 I London Play
As families prepare to come together to celebrate, eat, drink, reminisce and play together over the festive season, London Play has released an online resource that could pave the way for richer, more playful interactions between the generations.
The online ‘Evacuee Play Trove’ includes a short film, games and a glossy photo book, and is the result of a year-long Heritage Lottery funded project which saw London Play collecting the memories of people who were evacuated from London as youngsters during World War II.
Alongside some of those former evacuees and armed with the testimonies of many more, London Play and partners Half Moon theatre worked with children in London schools to bring their experiences to life for a new generation. Through a series of drama-based workshops, the children explored the realities of life for children in London during the 1940s – from washing with carbolic soap, to sweet rationing and the games they played. Encouraged to imagine themselves as evacuees, the children wrote letters home to their parents and developed songs based on the evacuee’s experiences which they later performed in front of parents and pupils at their schools. These songs, which feature in the online resource, encompass the gamut of emotions and experiences – from the pain of separation from families and the sometimes intense loneliness of new foster homes – to the wonder and novelty of the countryside (sometimes being seen for the first time), new friendships forged and games played.
Games were interesting to explore because of the way some travelled with the children from the streets of London into the countryside – and others came back to the city with them on their return. Indeed play formed a large focus of the project and evacuees taking part in the workshops showed children first hand games such as ‘Grandma’s footsteps’ and even resurrected their skipping skills. Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, they caught the imaginations of the so-called ipad generation. “I loved five stones,” said one 10 year old. “Me and my friends made up loads of games with them and I have now taught this to new friends on my street.” A parent said that her son was now playing outside more often: “I really enjoyed working with my son finding out games and toys from the 40s,” she said. “He has learnt new games that he now plays outside with his friends.”
The games, film and book of the project are available here and have fantastic potential for kickstarting discussions and transforming the way children look at their grandparents. Download them and share with your friends and family this Christmas. Full press release is available below.