Sam Dodd, a graduate of the BA (Hons) Creative and Professional Writing degree, was the project coordinator. She worked together with Link Up (UK) through Great British Community to find groups in the local area that were willing to let our writers talk to their members.
“We were essentially asking groups of people who did not know us to spend their time telling us things that were, and still are, very personal to them. We were asking for them to trust that we wouldn’t present their stories in a way that was uncomfortable for them, or take advantage of how they so openly welcomed us into their memories. It was an intellectual and emotional challenge for the writers, but within minutes of them sitting down with their community members for the many and varied interviews, they felt at ease. We discovered magic and a down-to-earth perspective in our senior East Enders. They were by turns blunt, honest, raw, serious, and playful, and their wicked senses of humour sometimes left us wiping away tears of laughter. These people have seen a significant patch of London become unrecognizable, and they’re happy to talk loudly and proudly, if it means that society gets a snapshot of what ‘community’ used to mean – perhaps, what it should still mean.
Watching the interviews take place was a privilege; seeing the community members laugh animatedly, gesticulate when they were talking of old markets, old docks, old pubs and old manners, and lower their tone to lean in when they had something a bit sadder to talk about. We saw our writers enthralled and engaged, forging deep connections with these elders, then worrying that they wouldn’t be able to represent their stories in a way that did them justice. The sheer amount of work our writers put in — the level of attention to detail, and the complete immersion into the life stories they’d learned so much about within the space of a few hours — was inspiring. It was indicative of how crucial these conversations can be for the growth of individuals.
The value of pairing young people with older community members, so that we can learn more about the world around us and increase conversations between different generations, races, genders and classes, should not be overlooked as a key way to improve and learn from society – as a result, perhaps making it an immensely better, kinder, and more open world to live in.”