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Connecting Through Culture As We Age

Festival of the Future City


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How do we increase participation in social, digital and cultural life in our later years? Connecting Through Culture is partway through a three-year project exploring how participation in all forms of arts and culture – especially in digital form – can influence our wellbeing and feelings of social connection as we age.

The project started life in 2021, funded by UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge, and has, at its heart, a digital co-design process that centres the voices, lived experiences and expertise of minoritised older people. Now is your chance to join a collection of researchers, older adults involved as co-designers, and the project’s six prototype teams for an interactive event that explores the lives of older adults through the lenses of queerness, disability, class and race. 

Be transported to another place through a multisensory dining experience with Tabletop Travels. Browse stories that re-enforce and invigorate the message of vibrancy and value that older women hold in society with Retirement Reloaded: Wonderful Women of Words. Uncover elder stories and memories from the wash house and bath house through zines and soundscape with Anyone Remember the Washhouse? Use off-the-shelf technology to create a wearable, interactive patch with Expressive Pockets. Discover more about Recycle City, a speculative city founded on the values of creativity, community, opportunity and welfare. Or immerse yourself in Murmurations, an installation and collection of experiences and languages that share the hidden words of older people, queer people and the crip community. 


  • Watershed’s main entrance and Box Office are both on the ground floor which is accessible via a ramped, electronically assisted entrance door.
  • There are two Blue Badge parking spaces to the rear of Watershed on Canons Road.
  • Guide dogs and hearing dogs are very welcome.
  • The first floor of Watershed is accessible via lift from the main entrance and includes level access to all areas, including the cinemas and event spaces.
  • The cinemas and event spaces have induction loops.
  • There is an accessible toilet (with baby changing facilities) near Cinema 1. Follow the signs for the Cinemas and the accessible toilet is just on your left through the double doors before Cinema 1.
  • There are gender neutral toilets in the cinema corridor on the first floor.

Visit Watershed’s Access page for more information.

Connecting Through Culture As We Age: The Projects

Anyone Remember the Washhouse?

‘We honour as we remember, 
our working-class forebears
lives of hardship, 
Their creativity, resilience and resourcefulness
we pass down.’

The prototype is a co-operative endeavour. Lead is Ros Martin, Artistic & Tech is shared:  Gill Simmons, Mike Stuart, Pedda Borowski, Andrew Hart. Our co-researcher is Gill Greenwood.

In development, support has come from Ruth Myers, Dan Tagg and Lisa May Thomas, Cleo Lake & Connecting Through Culture As We Age personnel.

Seven workshop participants Doreen, Pauline, Belinda, Mary, Gill, Pam, & Silu aged 60 to 75 years were brought together by word of mouth, to remember, to share with each other. Participants engaged creatively with memories in movement, shadow puppetry, song and creative writing and expression in 3 facilitated 2 hour workshops over 3 months at Bristol 1904 Arts Park Row.

Our aim is to remember, reflect on and capture a bygone ‘wash-house world’, in place, people and, time. Washhouse world objects, sourced by the project, triggered anecdotes and sayings, stain removal recipes, improvised hand clapping and folk song etc. A world remembered often as small children, through the handling and smelling of washing paraphernalia and hearing others’ stories. Creative expression in writings and drawings was encouraged on a shared doodle tablecloth at every session, and verbally, on 40sec talking lids for the blind to be attached to these objects with spare lids to add.

Our products: A digital interface holding the project’s sand animations of stories, and audio stories; an illustrated book to buy, and a pop-up audio visual performative installation incorporating the workshop prototype. Using this latter, we seek additional stories. 

Tabletop Travels 

Team: Jeanne Ellin, Clare Finnimore, Georgina Densley, Natalie Ward, Kalpna Woolf, Paul Macmahon, Stand + Stare, Dr Stuart Gray, Tot Foster
Critcal Friends: Abas Kulmiye, Erica Harrison
Partners: Alive Activities, 91 Ways 

Tabletop Travels is a multi-sensory at-home dining and cultural exploration. The experience is designed to promote the feeling of being transported to another place and ‘presence’ at that location through taste, music, audio soundscaping and storytelling. 

Imagined as a way for older adults with barriers to accessing cultural activities due to longterm illnesses or disabilities to broaden their experiences and enjoy the pleasures of dining and travel without the need to leave their home or care setting to access them. 

The tabletop box is a beautifully curated and decorated interactive device that arrives in the person’s home including a 4-course meal and in-built speaker. As each course is placed in the centre, an accompanying audio piece explores the food story and flavours behind the dish with interesting and entertaining information by the host chef to accompany the user step by step through their meal. 

The first Tabletop Travel prototype encapsulates the sounds, tastes and colours of India, with Kalpna Woolf (91 Ways) sharing her nutritious and delicious food, together with her unique and entertaining personal stories in her relaxed, warm and friendly style. 


RECYCLE CITY was founded by Ruth Harrisson and is about designing and envisioning a sustainable future – it is a speculative city founded on the values of creativity, community, opportunity, human and animal welfare, healing, connection, conservation, love, joy and celebration. It is a place where all ages / species can be together.

Through our workshops with local communities in Barton Hill, Bristol, we have explored how hands-on making combined with digital tools including Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated images and Augmented Reality (AR), can be used to help us imagine RECYCLE CITY. 

Our AR filters, which include street furniture, building facades, and infrastructure, can be used to reimagine existing places. The filters can be found on the @recyclecity_futures Instagram page. Through sharing these, we seek to inspire people to create and capture their own RECYCLE CITY visions. We are developing a manifesto which will share the values and principles of RECYCLE CITY so that the project can travel across Bristol and beyond to instigate positive change.

Our showcase will invite people to engage with RECYCLE CITY through a making workshop, through using our AR filters, and meeting the RECYCLE CITY team.

Expressive Pockets (formerly Emotive fabrics)

Embellishing fabrics as a medium to express identity as we age; sharing life stories through making.

Exploring the theme of ‘Age Rebellion’, workshop participants decorated a pocket for a jute bag.  Through exploration of the theme, participants chose meaningful images and three words.   In a makerspace, the images are UV printed on pocket-sized pieces of fabric, and the words cut from iron-on vinyls.

The workshop connected people in a makerspace, with people on Zoom. The latter received their fabric picture and iron-on vinyls, together with some WonderWeb and a fabric marke rpen, by post.  Using their own iron, they could add other bits and pieces significant to their ideas. They angled their camera to show their hands as they worked.

Everyone (in person and via Zoom) explained the significance of their chosen picture and three words.  This process of sharing stories illuminated lived experience, heritage and life journeys, making deep connections with others.

The resulting pockets were then displayed in different ways – a pocket on front of a bag, a panel on a silk clutch bag, across a t-shirt and even framed to be hung on a wall.

By connecting through making we learned about ourselves and others, while discovering new skills and making new memories.

Murmurations (nothing about us, without us) [previously Dictionary of Missing/Celebrated words]

Team: Raquel Mesenguer (co-lead artist), Chloe Meineck (co-lead artist), Graham Johnson (Creative Producer + illustrator), Hughie Carroll (Co-researcher) Shrouk El-Attar (Creative Technologist) 

Murmurations seeks to share the hidden experiences of older people, queer people and the crip community – the highs, the lows, and the strategies we use to navigate the world.

We have worked closely with groups spanning these communities, listening, talking, and finding out what must be heard. We co-designed values with members of these groups, bringing these into an experience that aims to make the invisible visible.

For those unlike us, this is a chance to learn about the lives of those around you. For those who have lived through these experiences themselves, this is a chance to find your flock – to hear that you are not alone and find those who can fly with you, finding ways to communicate and create new patterns in life.

Murmurations exists as a collection of experiences, and a visual language to hold those together. You can rest on our blanket, touch a symbol, and listen to the words of age, queer and crip. If you prefer, you may choose to read these words – on posters, in a zine, or online. We only ask that you turn in and find out, rather than turning away to stay in your comfort.

If these symbols may help you start a conversation about your own experiences, we invite you to use them yourselves.

This is a prototype, and as a dictionary of our communities it is incomplete. The project has a vision to tour nationally, meeting new people, discovering new experiences and growing this new language.

Retirement Reloaded:

Wonderful Women of Words

Team: Elanora Ferry (co-researcher)  Liz Clarke, Georgina Densley, Barney Heywood, Lucy Heywood

Partners: Alive Activities, Stand + Stare, Rosi Tooth (illustrator)

This female-led project has focussed on reimagining the narrative for older women. We wanted to reinforce and invigorate the message of vibrancy and value that older women hold in society, challenging and subverting existing cultural stereotypes.

Through interactive workshops we have experimented creatively with older women, exploring themes of transition and change, invisibility and permission.  The process has focused on finding voice as an older woman through autobiographical reflection and exploration through spoken and written words that playfully subvert populist images and prejudices around older women and ageing. 

The prototype utilises interactive creative technology to animate showcasing snippets of content from the process to celebrate women’s words and create a playful, experiential, and empowering platform from which to amplify them.

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