The Performance Ensemble capture hidden stories older people that will 'resonate across the world'

Award-winning theatre and film director, producer and writer Alan Lyddiard is involved in a Leeds 2023 project that he says “resonates across the world”.
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The 73-year-old has worked across the UK, Europe and beyond. He set up The Performance Ensemble in 2015 to create high quality contemporary performances with people over 60, drawing on their life experiences, hopes and fears, for audiences of all ages.

Now the group are working on a new project for Leeds 2023 and they want anyone over 60 to get involved. Here, he tells us more about it:

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We’ve been supporters of Leeds 2023 for five years now and it has been incredibly exciting to be working with them on something spectacular for our city’s Year of Culture.

The Performance Ensemble founder Alan Lyddiard.The Performance Ensemble founder Alan Lyddiard.
The Performance Ensemble founder Alan Lyddiard.

Over the last five years we have developed our plans, working closely with the growing Leeds 2023 team, creating long-term relationships with them and many other organisations and individuals across Leeds who were keen to be involved. The result is 1,001 Stories.

Inspired by Scheherazade’s 1001 stories of The Arabian Nights, we are capturing the stories from this often isolated and ignored group, re-connecting older people living in Leeds and challenging the perceptions of what it means to be ageing today.

Storytelling is an extraordinary thing, it’s a real act of generosity both to tell your own and to listen to others.

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Our project is exactly what Leeds 2023 is all about. We are looking for and listening to the hidden stories of Leeds people, hundreds of them, to bring them together and then present them to each other, and the rest of the world.

The Performance Ensemble member Leung Ip performs Mrs Yip From Hong Kong to LS17. Image credit: Mike Pinches.The Performance Ensemble member Leung Ip performs Mrs Yip From Hong Kong to LS17. Image credit: Mike Pinches.
The Performance Ensemble member Leung Ip performs Mrs Yip From Hong Kong to LS17. Image credit: Mike Pinches.
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A Leeds performance company is breathing older life into new productions

Older people are not a burden, they make considerable contributions to their community, have experience and knowledge to share which is a wonderful thing.

We wanted to make sure that they were heard as part of the Year of Culture, that they were understood, respected and most importantly given a voice. How do we really know anything about people until we listen?

We’re already busy collecting stories from across the city, working with a consortium of partner organisations like Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Older People’s Forum, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Leeds 2023 – but we still need lots more!

Mike Palfrey and Connie Hodgson take part in a performance at the Hunslet Bus Depot back in 2018. Picture: Mike PinchesMike Palfrey and Connie Hodgson take part in a performance at the Hunslet Bus Depot back in 2018. Picture: Mike Pinches
Mike Palfrey and Connie Hodgson take part in a performance at the Hunslet Bus Depot back in 2018. Picture: Mike Pinches
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We want to hear those memories and moments that are held close, the quirky tales from childhood or travelling across the world. Seemingly insignificant moments in life that become memorable. Stories of what it is like to be an older person in 2023 and aspirations for the future.

The issues that older people face are not unique to the UK. Every country is dealing with an older generation, the responsibility and concerns that they bring but also taking care to recognise their contributions, with love and respect. This will be a project that resonates across the world.

If you are over 60 we want to hear from you, take a look at some of the stories already submitted at theperformanceensemble.com/1001stories/ and then get in touch with your own. We’ve all got something to say, our own stories to tell, and now is the time to share yours.