Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What exactly is a kitchenette?

Making Memories. Oldham – Day 2

Our partnership with Gallery Oldham is a kind of meditation on time, using the contents of reminiscence boxes as a rosary. We're collaborating with the Gallery Oldham and local participants to add material to the reminiscence boxes. Boxes are full of carefully selected objects from the past 100 years, gathered into thematic mini-collections – School, work, Ceramics, Royal Family, etc. These are taken around the local area and used to stimulate discussion among older people, or school children.

Today I shadowed Glenys from Gallery Oldham, who has had 5 years experience of working with these boxes and has added many of the objects and ideas herself. It was fascinating to see another approach to workshops and especially to witness the generative power of these little items to make a spell of the past come back to us. Glenys very kindly let me make notes and question her about the thinking behind her two sessions today.

The morning was a 'taster' at The Grange Supported Home, with a small group of participants and Dorothy the manager; the first box contained twenty or so ceramic objects, mostly related to the royal family. The discussion wound out from a small candlestick through to the dubious genaeology of the royals, via the vexed subject of kitchenettes. (What is a kitchenette? Opinions differ – and who actually has authority over these words anyway, or more broadly these memories?) Glenys presided over a very sweet-natured conversation, weaving in her own childhood and a little specialist knowledge about the objects, to ground us.

The afternoon was at High Barn dementia day care centre, a very different group. Here, Glenys produced her Cotton box, packed with objects and photos from the days of the cotton-manufacturing industry, which once defined Manchester and the North West of England. Many of the people in this group had worked in the mills and so they looked at the bobbins and knotters and paraphenalia of making not as pieces of industrial archaeology, but as pieces of their own lives. It was especially moving to me to see people whose memories play cruel tricks on them come alive with their own pasts, triggered by this haphazard box. One lady consistently described herself as stupid, foolish, dumb – the dementia clearly a huge embarrassment to her. And yet, as she spoke she took these inanimate objects and reconnected them with life.

No comments: