Q&A with Tell Tails

Published 27 Feb 2019 by Owen Kimm

Earlier this year it was announced that Tell Tails had been awarded one of 12 Make it Happen grants.

As part of London Borough of Culture 2019’s Fellowship Funding programme we are aiming to support extraordinary projects across the borough. We quizzed Maisie Turpie from Tell Tails to find out more about the project.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to start the project?
Tell Tails is made up of myself and Ashleigh Cheadle. We met whilst at drama school and fell in love with the magic of puppetry. We realised that older people in care facilities often can’t take their pets with them, and wondered whether our puppet combined with storytelling could stimulate conversation. We were interested in the strong connection that owners can have with their pets – the memories that animals can unlock. As well as engaging imaginatively with a new experience, puppetry, it has been inspiring to see how emotionally engaged people are with Lucky in the workshops. 

What does your project, Tell Tails, involve?
We have a puppet sheepdog called Lucky. She was made to be incredibly realistic so that people can interact with her as if she is a real dog. We will be taking Lucky into care settings, working with older people living with dementia in the borough, to encourage story sharing. Sometimes this will be through adopting a character or it could be as simple as stroking her to inspire stories and memories. We will then develop a response piece of theatre and invite nurseries or local schools to watch alongside older residents. We anticipate Lucky playing a major role and are looking forward to developing the content of the performance to include themes such as companionship, community and connection. 

When will your project be taking place?
The workshops happen in a variety of care homes in Waltham Forrest over May and early June and then the performances for nurseries and schools will take place in July before the end of the summer term. 

Why is it important that this Tell Tails is happening now as part of London Borough of Culture 2019?
Tell Tails gives a voice to those who might otherwise go largely unheard; we believe everyone should have both access and opportunity to enjoy the arts regardless of age or location. Often those living with dementia can be cut off from the things they used to love. By engaging older members of the community in their own homes, our project aims to break down the access barriers to culture that these groups might experience. We are excited about our intergenerational performance and the interaction between early years and older people, who might not normally spend time in a creative space together.

What is your hope for the project beyond 2019?
We are always looking to expand the work we do – we’d love to be able to offer the workshops to more care homes, enabling us to meet more people in the community. We are really keen to forge strong links between local schools, nurseries and care homes as we are excited about the legacy of intergenerational creativity and the benefits for both younger and older participants. We are hopeful about getting the devised performance out to a wider audience later in 2019, and beyond, to continue the conversation with Lucky!

To find out more, visit wfculture.co.uk/telltails