London Play is a small charity working to provide “quality, accessible and inclusive play opportunities” for children in London. On their most recent project, named Evacuee Play Trove, they worked with Sarah Reed (creator of Many Happy Returns 1940s and 1950s, and a CQC Expert by Experience) to gather the memories and stories of a number of former WWII evacuees now living in London to share their stories of playtime in the countryside during the war with children from St. John’s Primary School in Bethnal Green.
Pupils at the school had a chance to meet with some of the evacuees interviewed by Sarah and, with the help from staff at the Half Moon Theatre, the memories gathered by her - both sad and joyful - were brought to life in unique songs and performances by the children in a number of drama-based workshops at the school which ran over six weeks.
As the evacuees remninisced about childhood, the school children were able to learn about carbolic soap and mothballs; sing songs and play games such as ‘Grandma’s Footsteps’ and ‘Jacks’.
Encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of former evacuees, the children reenacted playtime in the countryside and emotions such as fear of bombing raids and tearful goodbyes at the train station.
The workshops culminated in a lively musical performance at the school, to an audience which included some of the evacuees in question.
According to London Play, one child said that the most interesting thing that they learnt about the past was “that they had lots more cooler games (sic).”
A parent also said that her son was now playing outside more often as a result: “I really enjoyed working with my son finding out games and toys from the 1940s - he has learnt new games that he now plays outside with his friends.”
Many Happy Returns' founder, Sarah Reed said - of being commissioned to find, interview and film 25 evacuees to underpin the project -
"It's been a real privilege to listen to the evacuees' astonishing, moving and sometimes funny stories of a life that we've long left behind".
The project it seems has successfully brought together old and young, with both pupils and evacuees sharing, swapping and comparing their playtimes from then and now, and even playing together. We watched as one of the evacuees involved in the project showed-off her skipping skills in the wings, as the children prepared to go on stage.
It was clear that everyone involved had enjoyed being a part of the project, and it just goes to show that intergenerational activities and reminiscence activities can be valuable, educational and really quite fun!
The full project's work, which will include a video and a book, will be launched in October 2013 at The Museum of London.
A full Press Release can be read here.