Through Sherman Theatre’s Creative Engagement programme, performing arts students at The College Merthyr Tydfil, in the South Wales Valleys, have connected with a local care home to create an original audio drama based on the life stories of the care home residents: Tydfil Tales.

Over eight weeks pre-lockdown, 20 UAL (University of the Arts London-accredited) Performing Arts students attended weekly visits with the residents of memory and dementia specialist care home The Daffodils in Georgetown, Merthyr Tydfil.

Following their visits, the students created an audio drama based on the memories, half-remembered stories, and life lessons from the care home residents, devising the near verbatim play inspire by the tales told.

Timothy Howe, Creative Engagement Manager at Sherman Theatre, said: “This project began as a means of tackling social isolation and giving a platform to young people from Merthyr who feel their voices are not heard on our stages, but it has now become a shared celebration and appreciation of the community within which it was set.

“The genuine connections forged between the residents of The Daffodils Care Home and the students of The College Merthyr Tydfil were not just about friendship, they grew into a shared understanding and trust that is reflected in the final performances. As the project progressed the students grew in their love for the residents who began to be seen as part of their family. The human collaboration and connection that we’re championing through Tydfil Tales celebrates how well the arts can bring people and communities together.”

Focusing on reflections on the past, decisions that the residents wish had been made, and choices that they live with, the audio play celebrates local voice, weaving together an intergenerational narrative which brings the residents’ memories to life.

Timothy continued: “At the foundation of these stories lies a town that is as much a character in the final performances as the people we meet; without each other they could not exist. As such the students have taken great pains to preserve the unique voices and stories of their co-writers. At a time of social isolation, working on such a community-focused project which celebrates artistic talent, community spirit and an often-maligned community in South Wales has been a brilliant tonic for everyone involved.”

In a thank-you letter to the care home residents, the UAL Performing Arts students said: “Your stories have given us an amazing outlet of creativity in these trying times and we truly hope what we have created will do you all justice. You are all an inspiration and we are honoured to have been able to share what you gave us.”

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Directed by Samantha Alice Jones and Sherman Theatre’s Creative Engagement Manager Timothy Howe, the students self-recorded their pieces as voice notes from home. The play was edited and completed by sound designer Christopher Young. 

Student Maelona Evans, 20, said: “We have the stories of one generation told by another, which has bridged the gap [between generations] and created a piece with a real sense of heart. It’s been an experience we’ll never forget.”

The students were supported in the creation of this audio drama by The College Merthyr Tydfil’s Course Coordinator for Performing Arts and Drama, Kayleigh Adlam, as well as Applied Theatre Masters students from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Caroline Halford, Leanne Twidale and Mariana Pimentel Perez. The project was funded by National Lottery Awards for All Wales.

Student Callum Roberts, 19, said: “Working on Tydfil Tales has been an experience I am hugely grateful for. Being allowed to share and tell the public the wonderful stories of the residents of Daffodils is a huge privilege!”

Tydfil Tales can be listened to for free on shermantheatre.co.uk from 6.00pm on 1 July.

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