Research activities

Performing Oral History Symposium, 11-13 April 2022


This three-day symposium focuses on the ways in which oral testimony may be used as a source of creative endeavour, resulting in performance which can be shared with a wider audience. This event will be of interest to theatre practitioners, oral historians, academics in the worlds of Arts, Humanities and Education, Community Activists, Archivists and people exploring creative approaches to oral history with people with dementia and their carers.

Our keynote speakers, David Thacker, Pam Schweitzer and Clare Summerskill, bring with them many years of experience as writers directors and performers in this field, which they will be sharing through papers and workshops. Additional Presenters include academics and practitioners in the fields of theatre, oral history, LGBT+ work, education and creative dementia care.

Download a pdf of the full programme here

Dates and Location

The afternoon of the 11 April 2022 will be delivered online. The day of the 12 April 2022 will be face-to-face at the Bathway Theatre, Bathway, Woolwich, London SE18 6QX with presentations and practical workshops. The sessions on 13 April 2022 will be delivered online by partners in the European Reminiscence Network. They will share their experience of running a Europe-wide project entitled ‘Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today’ working with families living with dementia and the impact of the pandemic on their practice.

Symposium Programme

Day One - 11 April 2022 (afternoon ONLINE) - Symposium presentations

Full details including biographies here

Pam Schweitzer and David Hockham
12:15pmChair: Natasha Oxley

60 Miles by Road or Rail

Andy Routledge reflects on ‘60 Miles by Road or Rail’, a year-long arts, heritage and community project exploring the legacy of Northampton’s New Town story through a range of intergenerational activities. These included a new theatre production at Royal & Derngate, a co-created verbatim audio poem, a documentary film, the recording of 26 oral history interviews and an award-winning photography exhibition. In his presentation, Andy will share the process behind the project and the discoveries he made within contemporary, place-based documentary theatre practice.

From The Ground Up

Siobhan O’Neill speaks on the role of metaphor in interpretation of memories in, an inter-generational co-devised performance, which enabled community participants to share lived experience of an urban common in north-east London. This paper will consider how participants generate meaning in the connections between their diverse memories, opening out possibilities to subtly challenge stable personal and collective narratives.

Streaming Truth: Land-Based Truth Activations in the Digital Realm

Jill Carter will reflect work on the St George Campus of the University of Toronto by a collective of indigenous and non-indigenous artists and researchers. Using archival research and ‘land-based’ practices, Jill will explain the process and product of the resulting site-specific events and share the questions that have arisen as its devisors move forward with the process they have begun to develop.

Panel Q&A

1.45pmChair: George Severs

Tribunal Theatre

Tom Cantrell on ‘Tribunal Theatre and Approaches to Listening’. Tom will consider the complexities of using the words of real people in Richard Norton-Taylor and Nicolas Kent’s play ‘Value Engineering: Scenes from the Grenfell Inquiry’.  He will explore the relationship between the original testimony and the way in which it is crafted into live performance.

The Cancer Stories Project

Joseph Sobol will discuss ‘The Cancer Stories Project’: a template for performing illness narratives’ from cancer patients, family members and medical professionals. Joseph will share the process of conducting interviews and devising a performance piece designed to support instructional modules on empathic communication for medical students and residents.

Panel Q&A

2.45pmChair: Harry Derbyshire

The Social Documentaries of Peter Cheeseman

Rachel Walker will talk about the process of archiving the significant body of Theatre work of Peter Cheeseman at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. Peter developed a unique approach to creating social documentaries, drawing on and incorporating local people’s testimony. He has been a vital creative force in British theatre ever since. Rachel will talk about the development of this archive, based at the University of Staffordshire, as an on-going process, led by Romy Cheeseman, the Honorary archivist.

Archiving Reminiscence Theatre

Pam Schweitzer will demonstrate how her many Reminiscence Theatre shows produced over 25 years are being archived. This includes digitising the recordings of interviews on which the productions are based, developing playscript from transcriptions of these interviews, through to the resulting touring productions. The creation of a website has made it possible to share both the process and the product, and provided students with inspirational material for their own creative work.

The Reminiscence Theatre as a Resource for Students

Natasha Oxley has been working with Pam Schweitzer to facilitate devised drama work created by undergraduate students using reminiscence theatre techniques. She will outline the ways in which students have used the Reminiscence Theatre Archive, interviews and memory boxes, highlighting selected examples from performances.  She will also present her findings about the positive impact of this intergenerational work on undergraduate students.

Panel Q&A

4.15pmChair: Sarah Gudgin

What a Voice!  

Martine Robertson and Hannah Wood present ‘What a Voice!’ Ethnology as Performance, GaelGal Creative Productions. They will share their experience of converting interview material into a film and then into a live performance. ‘What a Voice!’ is a short film, featuring the recorded voices of three generations of women from the same family living in the shadow of the shipbuilding industry of Port Glasgow on the River Clyde.

An Amazing Life: Performing Queer Intergenerational Holocaust Testimony

Erika Hughes presents a work of documentary theatre that stages excerpts from a series of oral history interviews between the lesbian Holocaust historian Anna Hájková and Margot Heuman, a survivor of Auschwitz, Thereseinstadt, Neuengamme, and Bergen-Belsen. In this presentation, she will show excerpts of ‘The Amazing Life of Margot Heuman’, a deliberately interventionist queer performance that sought to fill a critical gap in Holocaust history.

Oral History and Scenography

David Hockham begins to bring his work on practice research and practice learning, Oral Histories and scenography, in a paper called scenographic stories.  This is a first attempt to bring together his work over the past five years working with communities, storytelling and his doctoral research on learning vocational practices.

Panel Q&A


Day Two - 12th April 2022 (IN-PERSON at the University of Greenwich Theatre in Bathway, Woolwich, London SE18 6QX) with keynote addresses, workshops and exhibitions

Full details including biographies here

09:30amRegistration, coffee and open exhibition spaces

Making Theatre From Memories

Pam Schweitzer will give a practical demonstration of the processes involved in making a verbatim show from group and individual interviews. She will consider the impact of this work on the older audiences for whom they are performed and the actors who tour with the productions. She will also discuss the fascinating process by which older people become the performers of their own memories

Pam Schweitzer is a writer, producer and director of ReminiscenceTheatre. As Artistic Director of Age Exchange Theatre and Reminiscence Centre from 1983 - 2005, Pam created thirty professional touring productions and later many shows performed by older people themselves. Pam is Honorary Research Fellow and Hon Doc Arts from the University of Greenwich, where she teaches Reminiscence Theatre. Pam founded and directs the European Reminiscence Network. She is also a Regional Networker (London) for the Oral History Society.

11:10amBreak and Exhibition

Creating Verbatim Productions

David Thacker will reflect on his verbatim theatre productions ‘The Rose Between Two Thorns’ and ‘The Enemies Within’, supported by actors who worked on the productions. This will develop into a practical demonstration of his methodology in creating verbatim productions.

David Thacker is Professor of Theatre in the School of the Arts at the University of Bolton. He has been Artistic Director of Dukes Playhouse Lancaster, The Young Vic and the Octagon Theatre Bolton. He was Director-in-Residence at the RSC, directing nine productions. He has directed over 150 theatre productions in the UK and internationally and over 30 films and TV productions for BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

1:00pmLunch and Exhibition

Rights of Passage

Clare Summerskill is a writer, performer and oral historian who has developed verbatim theatre productions on a range of subjects: most significantly using the recorded memories and current experiences of older members of the LGBTQ population. She has also written about the experiences of patients on an NHS secure psychiatric ward. Clare Summerskill will speak about her play, ‘Rights of Passage’, based on interviews with LGBTQ asylum seekers in the UK, exploring ethical and practical concerns in the scripting of verbatim theatre.

Clare completed her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London, on the experience of contributors in verbatim theatre processes. Her publications include ‘Creating Verbatim Theatre from Oral Histories’, (Routledge, 2020) and “Gateway To Heaven: Fifty Years of Lesbian and Gay Oral History” (Tollington Press, 2012). She has worked for several years with Pam Schweitzer on Reminiscence Theatre.

2.45pmChair: David Hockham


Greenwich LGBT+ Staff Community, Bijou Stories and the Caribbean Social Forum will discuss the tensions and experiences of using creative methods to explore and disseminate traditional interview testimony. It will explore the beginnings of a co-design process between traditional researchers, the LGBT+ community and artists, which started in 2022 as an extension of the LGBT+ Culture research project at the University of Greenwich initiated in 2021.

3.45pmBreak and Exhibition

Positive in Prison

Janet Weston and Kate Valentine will present their audio drama based on interviews on the HIV Aids unit in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. The 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis may be recent history, but the experiences of those who lived through it are rapidly disappearing from the public mind. Historian Janet Weston created an audio drama with partners Digital Drama, directed by Kate Valentine.


Performing Oral History Workshop

Kate Saffin and Heather Wastie of Alarum Productions will run a practical workshop on Performing Oral History celebrating UK waterways. They will explore the theoretical perspectives that underpin their work and demonstrate practically their specific methodology.

5.45pmPlenary and Round-up
Clare Summerskill, David Thacker, David Hockham and Pam Schweitzer

Day Three - 13th April 2022 (ONLINE)

Delivered by partners in the European Reminiscence Network. They will share their experience of running a Europe-wide project entitled ‘Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today’ working with families living with dementia and the impact of the pandemic on their practice.

Pam Schweitzer
10:00amChair: Pam Schweitzer


An Amsterdam care home through Covid-19

Annemarie Bolder (Amsterdam) worked in a care home where, in March 2020, the Corona virus was spreading rapidly. Because of the lack of knowledge about this virus, it felt like we were fighting an unequal battle: a battle in which we lost lots of elderly people. But soon after, we turned our focus on to how we could support them and help them to keep in contact with their relatives.


Ingrid Berzau  Freies Werkstatt Theater, Cologne,

Shortly after the start of the Corona Pandemic, we tried to find a way to continue our work with the „Altentheater“. Being a large ensemble of about 20 older participants, it was a challenge to find ways to continue to bind the group as a group, which is one of the most important objectives of the „Altentheater“: In my presentation, I shall explain how we did this throughout the pandemic..

11:00amChair: Sue Heiser


RYCT Online

Caroline Baker and Marenka Gabeler (London).

In London over the last 2 years Pam Schweitzer, Kath Gilfoy and I delivered 3 ‘Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today’ (RYCT) online programmes via Zoom. This presentation looks at what we offered, successes and shortfalls, as well as visual examples demonstrating how we integrated a graduate apprentice artist into our online reminiscence sessions


Training of new reminiscence assistants, Hana Janeckova and Blanka Jirkovská (Prague).

The 5th cycle of the RYCTT (Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today Training) programme started with the two-day experiential course, just before the 2nd wave of Covid19 and a national emergency situation. After an informal on-line meeting of 6 apprentices, we decided to continue in our structured on-line training – teaching, inviting and hosting lecturers, exercising reminiscence techniques. Finally apprentices trained to prepare a reminiscence group session on a certain topic. In Autumn 2020 our complete RYCTT meetings have started with families caring for people with dementia. The cycle has been successfully completed just recently, after 8 reminiscence sessions.

12:00pmChair: Pam Schweitzer


Yasuko Murata and Michiko Lucy Nakagawa (Tokyo)

In autumn of 2019, our NPO invited Pam and Alex Schweitzer to deliver three hybrid lecture/workshops in Japan.Some 150 people participated, learning the Remembering yesterday, varing Today RYCT) project first-hand. We shared handout materials and a DVD recording of RYCT sessions. These have been useful resources for people in Japan learning and practicing RYCT.


The use of adaptive oral history methodology in reminiscence work amongst families living with dementia, Patricia Lee.

Recently, the Oral History Centre at the National Archives of Singapore, together with Dementia Singapore and the Singapore University of Social Sciences, embarked on a community project to document the life stories of these families.  The one-to-one reminiscence through oral interviews proved to be a valuable continuity of the RYCT sessions, especially where families asked “What’s next?” after we complete the 12 RYCT sessions.

1.30pmChair: Sally Knocker


Karen Meenan (Dublin) is Senior Fellow for Equity at the Global Brain Health Institute.

Karen has twin passions: drama and dementia.  She has creatively engaged with older people, through song with internationally acclaimed Forget-Me-Nots choir, through drama with intergenerational Making Hay Theatre and through radio with award-winning series ‘Reminiscence on the Radio’.


Raul Vilar Heraz and Duna Hulsamer (Barcelona)

Duna and Raül have been teaching and leading Reminiscence Projects since 2005 in Barcelona. Both have organized many RYCT projects and on this occasion, they will share how to use Reminiscence in everyday life using objects, sounds, music, and textures, and anything to hand. The goal will be to understand that with little you can do a lot.

Duna and Raül have been teaching and leading Reminiscence Projects since 2005 in Barcelona. Both have organized many RYCT projects and on this occasion, they will share how to use Reminiscence in everyday life using objects, sounds, music, and textures, and anything to hand. The goal will be to understand that with little you can do a lot.

2.30pmChair: Caroline Baker


Reminiscence work with people living with dementia and their families during Covid 19, Hana Janečková, Hana Čížková (Prague)

Our work with families selected for our RYCT programme could not start due to the 2nd wave of Covid 19 and the state of emergency in our country. We offered a form of ‘field reminiscence’ to the families, walking outdoors with them and doing some individual reminiscence with them. In Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022 we decided to go ahead with the meetings under the strict safety measures but with the full programme – participative, creative, enjoyable. After 8 sessions with 3 – 4 families we can observe a small community, where people feel safe and happy, where the atmosphere is friendly and where the families are anxious to come.


Rose Pickering and Rosie Hollands (London)

We shall briefly describe the ‘Sow & Grow’ Project at Sydenham Garden, and how we created the ‘Growing Together’ group. This brought together the RYCT skills/knowledge and the ‘Sow & Grow’ framework. We shall mention evaluation of the two full 12-week groups we have run with some feedback from participating families.  We shall also talk briefly about how we kept connected during the pandemic.

3.30pmChair: Sarah Gudgin


Leonie Hohenthal Antin and Varpu Vistala (Kotka)

From Finland we shall hear about the making of 5 films featuring the 3-dimensional Memory Boxes made by older members of the Memories House.

The films do introduce the built memory boxes and their contents, but in addition to this you can also hear the memories behind the selection. Professional film-makers recorded the older people’s commentary and reflections about their boxes and the 5 five films have been published on YouTube. Furthermore, our project also had a special emphasis on intergenerational work with younger family members participating in the process. We hope to show an extract from one of our videos.


Angelika Trilling and Pam Schweitzer

The ‘Making Memories Matter’ project involved seven partner countries in the European Reminiscence Network. Grenade boxes designed to transport munitions in WWII were recreated by artists and older people as 3-dimensional life story portraits. 60 of them toured Europe, inspiring many others to make their own Memory Boxes and to create pieces of theatre reflecting the stories contained in them.


Looking to the future for the European Reminiscence Network

led by Annemarie Bolder, Raul Vilar Heraz and Pam Schweitzer


This event is free to attend thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, but all participants whether online or in-person must register. For those attending online the Zoom link will be emailed in advance.


Hosted by: The University of Greenwich, Drama, Theatre and Performance Research Group, in collaboration with Oral History Society’s Special Interest Groups (Creative Oral History and LGBT+ Oral Histories) and partnered with: The European Reminiscence Network; The Reminiscence Theatre Archive; The LGBT+ staff community (University of Greenwich)