Winchester’s Nonagenarians Celebrated in ‘Tea Party’ Performances

Press Release: 18/08/2016

Phyllis, Nonagenarian. Photo credit, Joe Low

Some of the oldest residents of the Winchester District have given their stories, time and even personalities to shape a brand new performance piece to mark the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.

This theatre piece called Four Score Years and Ten has been created by Flintlock Theatre and Hat Fair at the request of Winchester City Council. Flintlock were introduced to a number of organisations working with older people in the Winchester District to find 90 year-olds interested in taking part in this unusual piece. St John’s Charity Winchester, Winchester Live at Home scheme and Age UK were all keen to be part of the project, which is being produced on behalf of the Council by Hat Fair. Clive Cook, Director of St John’s, commented:

We have quite a few people over 90 who are living independently in our almshouses in central Winchester. Our residents are well enmeshed in the local community but this type of project is highly innovative and provides our residents with something different, of unique interest to them. It will help keep alive good memories and provide a really positive challenge. Those that have been participating are really looking forward to seeing them brought to life on stage. The project will also provide new fresh memories for people which I am sure they will appreciate.

Around 40 older people came forward to share their stories at a series of coffee mornings and group sessions earlier in the summer. After more detailed interviews with eight of them, the team at Flintlock Theatre produced a script, and will begin rehearsals on Thursday 25 August for the brand new show. Four Score Years and Ten takes the form of a tea party – a cultural institution about which Winchester people are very enthusiastic, particularly at times of royal celebration. There will be just 54 members of the audience, seated at trestle tables and involved in the action, for each performance.

Cllr Steve Miller, the City Council’s Portfolio for Economy and Estates, said:

The Council is often seen to support arts projects for younger people. In a year when we have celebrated the Queen at 90, we felt it was appropriate to commission an arts project that involved some of our very oldest residents.

The theatre piece is one of a series of initiatives throughout 2016 to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, including the popular ‘Clean for the Queen’ clean-up day in March; the lighting of beacons in Winchester and Bishop’s Waltham; a host of privately organised street parties around the District and in the Cathedral’s Outer Close, and the Grand Celebration and Picnic in the Abbey Gardens. Cllr Miller added:

We have definitely paid tribute to Her Majesty in this milestone year. We often worry in this day and age about the challenges of an aging population, but I hope that projects such as Four Score Years and Ten will remind us that our older neighbours, friends and relations can also be a source of great wisdom, joy, comfort and experience.

Michelle Walker, Artistic Director of Hat Fair, added:

Hat Fair is all about ensuring that everybody, young and old, has opportunities to participate in the arts and cultural life of our home city. We're interested in giving voices which often go unheard a platform, and we're really proud to share the life stories of some of Winchester's amazing 90-year-olds - and even 99-year-olds - with audiences through the creation of this show.

Show times are at noon, 3pm and 7pm on each of the following dates:

Friday 2 September Jubilee Hall, Kings Worthy SO23 7QN

Saturday 3 September All Saints Church Hall, Highcliffe SO23 0JD

Sunday 4 September Otterbourne Village Hall SO21 2ET

Tickets are free but should be reserved from the Theatre Royal Winchester box office on 01962 840 440.