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Guild of Experience continues to celebrate older people’s creativity in the lockdowns and beyond

16 Sep Guild of Experience continues to celebrate older people’s creativity in the lockdowns and beyond

The Guild of Experience, Studio 3 Arts’ programme for people aged 55 and older, celebrates older people’s creativity within the local community with a range of classes and social activities. Having run for two years as part of a continuing commitment by Studio 3 Arts to supporting older people through specialised programming, the current season is coming to a close with a fortnight-long season of celebratory events: the Guild of Experience Finale Festival. Taking bookings now and open to anyone aged 55 and over, the Finale Festival runs from 24th September to 7th October, tying in with the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons, which takes place on 1st October.

Studio 3 Arts is sharing the Guild’s successes in style with a fun-packed fortnight of events, activities, performances, exhibitions and cultural visits. The programme includes many events, such as a MacMillan Coffee Morning fundraising for MacMillan Cancer Support, group visits to Barking’s World Cinema Festival, the National Theatre on the South Bank, and Dagenham’s White House, and a street art tour in Shoreditch, plus much more. The festival looks to celebrate the creativity and spirit the group has shown during a year-long period which has proved difficult for all, but especially those within society who are more vulnerable.

The central event of the finale season is the Guild of Experience Awards, happening on 7th October at The Broadway Theatre in Barking. A night of celebration, the event will feature live performances from local artists, adult humour, and other entertainment for people aged 55+, and will bring all the people who have been involved in the Guild of Experience over the years together with new friends to celebrate the role of older people within society and reward those who are finding their creative sides later in life.

The Guild of Experience first kicked off during Older People’s Week in September 2019 with a well-attended Twilight Tea Party, and has been bringing older people together regularly through a variety of events, trips, and masterclasses since. When a national lockdown was imposed mid-way through the planned 2020 season, making it difficult to bring people together, creativity was required in moving the Guild’s activities online. ‘Unlocking Life’ celebrated the hidden lives and unsung triumphs of the people of Barking and Dagenham through dance, song and words. Having met regularly online, getting to know each other and dancing their way through Zoom rehearsals, the group recently performed a routine live on stage at the Becontree 100 Festival which took place in Parsloes Park in August 2021.

Also occurring recently and moving between online events and in-person spaces, a series of late summer arts masterclasses led by local independent artists brought older people together to learn new skills and create new art in conversation with each other. Classes included life drawing, taught by Sikelela ‘Ziggy’ Owen’, watercolour landscapes with Anna Bisset, and graffiti skills by Ben Martin. Work produced in these sessions and over the full year of the Guild of Experience programme will be displayed in a special retrospective exhibition in the Studio 3 Arts shop space in the Vicarage Field Shopping Centre, on show between 20th September and 1st October and free for all.

The Guild of Experience also offers one-to-one activities in care homes, taking the programme to those who are unable to leave their homes and come to events, Organised using input from a steering group of older people within the community, Guild of Experience’s programming is created from what local older people want to experience rather than assumptions around what older people should enjoy. The Finale Festival takes this same approach, building on ideas proposed by the steering group. The Finale Festival runs from 24th September to 7th October, and is taking free bookings now.