Grey Matters

Grundtvig Learning Partnership, 2013-2015

Project coordinator:

acta community theatre.

Partner countries

UK, Slovakia, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland

Target group

Older people who have left the workforce, especially those not currently engaged in learning-focussed activities.

Project Objectives

The project will examine the challenges faced by older people at a European level:

  • Isolation and loneliness of older people
  • Feeling undervalued by rest of community
  • Lack of communication with younger people
  • Sense of frustration, with older people feeling they have a contribution still to make to society, but no means of getting involved

The tool for delivery of this project is Participatory Community Theatre. Participatory Community Theatre is a globally recognised approach which offers participants an opportunity to work closely with other people in a situation where their ideas, creativity and experience are valued, indeed, are essential to the progress and success of the project.

In Grey Matters, the older people involved in the project will not only engage in informal learning which will aid their own personal development as learners, but will also encourage them to reengage with society, and act as ambassadors for other older people, offering a new role for older people as effective, positive, engaged and useful members of society. Younger learners will also feature within the project, offering opportunities for intergenerational encounters, shared goals and learning, breaking down perceived stereotypes on both sides, and developing positive ways forward.


Over the project’s two year duration, partners will engage older people to join diverse theatrical groups with participants from throughout society. Each partner country will create shows using the combined input of the group members especially focussing on the added value contributed by older members.

The shows will be peformed in a series of organised events around Europe, including Bratislava, Rotterdam, Berlin, Bristol, and Antwerp.


  1. Jim

    10 June 2014

    This sounds a fantastic project. I have personal experience of these types of initiatives as my sister, in her 70’s now, was in her youth a violinist. She found out about Blow the Dust Orchestra

    This is a project developed by the National Concert Hall’s Education & Outreach programme. It is designed to encourage older people, who once played instruments, to take them out of their cases, dust them off, and join fellow musicians in forming an orchestra.

    The ensemble is open to players of any level, instrument or style and aims to empower older people to rise to the artistic and physical challenges of playing their instruments while creating a musically orientated social community of older people, with the National Concert Hall as their own ‘clubhouse’.

    The Blow the Dust Orchestra was launched by Education & Outreach in May 2009 as part of the Bealtaine Festival of Creativity in Older Age and began with a small group of just 23 musicians. The orchestra now boasts over 45 members who travel from all over Ireland once a month, throughout the year, for rehearsals in the National Concert Hall.

  2. Neil

    11 June 2014

    Hi Jim, thanks for your post; I hadn’t come across the Blow the Dust orchestra before. Grey Matters is a new initiative, although most of the organisations involved have been going for some time. We’re coming to the end of the first year of the project, and each company has been creating theatre with older people, or in some cases with mixed generational casts. acta’s project involved us in developing a new play for children with 9 women in their 70’s and 80’s, which toured to schools around Bristol, UK. We then took the play to the ICAF (International Community Arts Festival) in Rotterdam, wheree all of the partners met up.

    Next stop for us all is Berlin in June, where our partner Expedition Metropolis is hosting a festival, which will include performances by three of the partners. If you’re interested, then
    have a look at the website,
    – be great to see you there!

    Thanks for your interest

    best wishes

    Neil Beddow
    Artistic Director
    acta community theatre

  3. Maria-Schejbal

    17 July 2015

    Unfortunately, our “Grey matters” project is about to finish…

    It has been a really busy and fruitful time for our team. We, Grodzki Theatre Junior (Bielsko-Biala, Poland), managed to create two performances – one for children (TWO-HEADED DRAGONS) and one for adults (BIRDS OF PASSAGE). In both we were experimenting with different kinds of puppets. One can see some photos at:
    Our actors and puppet dragons in Berlin Birds of passge in Bielsko-Biala

    Fortunately, we found a way to continue this special theatrical adventure. We signed the agreement with The Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to implement the project titled “Birds of passage – theatrical meetings of different generations” (March-December 2015). Thanks to this new initiative and in addition to the performance created as part of the Grey matters project, we have recently worked out an educational program for kids. It consists of two modules: HOW TO CREATE A SIMPLE PAPER PUPPET? and LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE WITH US! The members of our group (deaf and mentally disabled persons among the others) have already conducted two classes, thus becoming independent workshop leaders themselves!

    More workshops and presentations of the play will be organized after summer. We will also publish a booklet about our work with this intergenerational and integration theatre group and will launch a film documentary presenting our actors in action.
    Moreover, four training sessions for educators working with seniors will be held in Bielsko-Biala and in Kraków in October and December 2015.

    And in November we will perform in Bratislava at the ERROR festival organized by our friens from Divadlo bez domova who are also on board of Grey matters project.

    Thus theatre connects people (and puppets) from all over the world!

    • Piotr

      23 October 2015

      Maria, pity Grey Matters project is finishing but great you found another way of continuing it. I saw your group performing “Birds of Passage” and the reaction of the audience – and then the reaction of the actors-performers. Very rarely you can see such a direct almost intimate connection of actors and audience in the regular theater play. Great job!

  4. Patrik

    21 July 2015

    It is my pleasure to contribute to this platform in the final part of this project.

    Summarising it, I am very happy to write that it was a great learning experience with a lot of know-how exchange and inspirations. The main value for me was to know other colleges and members of the theatre groups, all actors and actresses, technical support and really all who were involved.

    We had 15 performances in Slovakia and 1 in Berlin, Germany. It was an imaging experience for all of us, actors, actresses…And we could perform it in German…8-)

    We developed 3 new plays: The Puppet, Theatre of the Oppressed – Primeiro Passo and Theatre of the Oppressed – Outro Passo. These were for us steps forward in our theatrical way:

    Here are some short videos from sum of the results:

    video ERROR 13:

    video ERROR 14 – Theatre of the Oppressed:

    We are looking forward into future cooperation with the partners and this way enjoying the magic of the theatre – the place of and for all of us…

  5. Ulrich

    24 August 2015

    Its a pleasure for me to add a few reflections from our side.
    The involvement in the Grey Matters project within this specific partner-constellation has been an interesting and challenging learning process for Expedition Metropolis Theatre Berlin.
    As an example of our final reflections we would like to share the following:
    Time Matters
    In the frame of Grey Matters project ExMe started to search for a narrative between generations, creating a space to meet and act for people who otherwise probably never would have met.
    In Berlin, actors from ExMe and various Berlin theatre groups addressing generation issues (Die Sultaninen, Theater der Erfahrungen, Theater Herbstwind) discussed and enacted common themes from different age perspectives.
    This resulted in a scenical collage titled “Time Matters”, which is based in every detail on the partnership principle – starting with talks of two people on a bench, who haven’t met before (50 minutes each).
    The production has been performed on various occasions: in the DESI-theatre of Expedition Metropolis, at the ERROR Festival 2014 in Bratislava, and finally at the 3rd Kreuzberg Community Art Festival 2015 in Berlin.
    Acting: Akbar Hajbabaei, Chandrika Jaroschewitz, Eva Willig, Marie Meister, Paolo Grazzi, Saskia
    Neuthe, Siegbert Mathes, Werner Daniel,
    Foto/Light: Elena Karakitsou
    Sound: Paolo Grazzi
    Artistic Director: Ulrich Hardt

    14 persons went for mobilities: out of these 6 over 55 years and 8 under 55 years old.
    These people participated in workshop activities, created a performance and went on mobilities.

    6 persons participated as other activists, all under 55; they participated in the starting phase of the ‘dialogue-talks’ and the first rehearsals, or helped in technical and organizational affairs.

    In the frame of seven public presentations approx.. 400 spectators have seen the ‘Time Matters’ production (approx. 30% over 55 years and 70% under 55).

    The performance being created is titled:
    Time Matters – GemEinsam
    1. 23.11.2014 – premiere in Berlin
    2. 29.11.2014 – presentation at ERROR Festival in Bratislava
    3. 17.12.2014 – presentation at ExMe years’ final in Berlin
    4. 08.03.2015 – presentation in DESI Berlin
    5. 30.04.2015 – presentation in DESI Berlin
    6. 05.06.2015 – presentation in DESI Berlin
    7. 02.07.2015 – presentation at the International Community Theatre Festival in Berlin

    Further outcomes have been:
    – Clip of performance (2 minutes film)
    – Time Matters goes Bratislava (10 min film)
    – Time Matters Fotocollage (4 min photo-collage)
    – Time Matters Slideshow
    – Time Matters Audio Collage (7 min)
    – Time Matters Introductionary (4 min photo-collage)

    In 2015 the production ‘Time Matters’ has been presented three more times in different contexts.
    Especially the elder actors got involved in running the theatre ExMe quite intense – they took over social responsibility in different levels, some of them became members of the association.
    More and more they experience themselves as experts and multipliers, being able to inspire and support others.
    After the summer the group intends to present the production in other contexts – as a first step presentations are arranged in the region Brandenburg outside of Berlin.

    Trailer and photographs on:

    In the context of the European Cooperation project ‘Grey Matters’ the Theatre Expedition Metropolis (ExMe) continued and elaborated a method, which we could undertitle: research&responsibility as dialogue – participation in partnership.
    This method is built on a trustful caring for and acting with each other in partnership as a ‘nature of performance’. It means, partnership and dialogue are used as a repetitive essential element of the production on various levels: in the scenography, in music, in body-movement, in the use of requisits, in dramaturgy and scenic directing, ….

    Expedition Metropolis
    Concept – At a glance
    Expedition Metropolis (ExMe) and its community theatre provide an opportunity for all people to explore through communal artistic activity: who we are, what we want, and what we can do.
    The essentials of ExMe’s theatre work are to enable and support self-confidence through communal learning and taking action.
    The participants explore themselves and their potential during artistic expeditions discovering shared issues.
    Specific and tailor-made forms of working and narrating make them leave their comfort-zones and explore their personal edge to tell about themselves.
    ExMe stand for a by-everybody-for-everybody approach – regarding art as well as other social, pedagogical and organisational aspects.
    ExMe demand and support a do-it-yourself culture.

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