On the tail end of Bill and Fred Productions 2023 tour of The Grannies, producer Juley-Ann Collins reflects on the project to date, focused on breaking down the barriers to the arts, and bringing it right into the hearts of care and nursing homes as well as to the streets.

For me, The Grannies pay homage to all the amazing grandmothers and fathers who have lived extraordinary lives and now find themselves living in different versions of themselves, their lives and bodies.

The Grannies show that though this change is inevitable, our cheekiness still lives inside of us and should be nurtured. Also, the amazing ability we have as humans to converse and communicate with each other without words, using humour, movement, and song. We shouldn’t get distracted by what is visible on the outside, but to focus on and connect to our shared humour, life experiences and strength which lives in our hearts.

My own granddad was a natural clown. He always knew when to make me laugh, to comfort and connect with me without saying a word and had the most amazing compassion and empathy. These traits of a grandparent are what makes a great clown. He spent time in a nursing home before he passed away, and the care he received moved me. So I wanted to give experiences to communities who have given the most to their loved ones and bring the shows directly to them, and for them. Thankfully Elysia and Luisa of Bill and Fred Productions trusted in me and felt the same. In turn, when The Grannies shared their story, audiences opened up and told their own stories to the duo.

This tour was conceived after seeing The Grannies perform at Pitch’d Circus and Street Arts Festival ’22. I was impressed with their natural ability to engage with strangers to the point where they joined them for a dance, whilst managing a jealous dog who wanted their owner back!

Then, Bealtaine Festival advertised their first touring award. I approached the company telling them I wanted to apply for this award and produce the tour if we were successful, and we were.

In May 2023 The Grannies performed at Galway Theatre Festival, Moore Street Market Dublin, nursing homes and day care centres with support from Louth County Council Arts Office, Wexford Arts Centre and Market Square Dundalk thanks to support from An Táin Arts Centre and Legends of Louth Festival. In November the Louth Arts Office and An Táin Arts Centre again supported another week of shows to nursing homes and day care centres in the region.

We’re planning to tour The Grannies to new regions of Ireland in May 2024.

Support and thanks

Thanks to Wexford Arts Centre and the Irish Street Arts Circus and Spectacle Network who supported the creation of The Grannies. Circus Factory and Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre who supported the development of the work. Age and Opportunity Bealtaine Festival, Galway Theatre Festival, Temple Bar Company, Dublin City Council, Louth County Council Arts Office, Wexford Arts Centre, An Táin Arts Centre and Pitch’d Festival for supporting The Grannies 2023 Irish tour. Promenade for providing producing support and a very big special thank you to our audiences.

Testimonials 

They were fantastic, the sisters loved it, they were wonderful. Absolutely amazing, so funny and so good. The girls stayed and talked to the sisters and uplifted the mood so much and since then the sisters have been singing and dancing. A couple of the sisters were even walking around and singing. I have been working here since February and haven’t seen them like that before. The Grannies were wonderful and lovely and it was such good fun. 

Kelly Smith, House Manager, Mount Oliver Convent Sisters Nursing Home

It was absolutely fantastic, the residents loved every minute of it. It was so different, my mouth was wide open. They mingled with the residents before they started which was amazing. The way she got up on her shoulders, they loved the music and the way they used their walking sticks to dance. They weren’t expecting that at all. I can’t believe what we saw, absolutely amazing. It was very therapeutic for the residents, they were talking about it for days afterwards, it meant so much to them. Thank you, The Grannies put a smile on the residents faces and that says it all.

Noelle Hoey, Activity Coordinator, Sunhill Nursing Home, Termonfeckin

We initially invited The Grannies to perform in Louth as part of our Bealtaine programme and it was so successful we didn’t hesitate to agree to have them back for an extension of the programme in November. Their unique & energetic performance is a real treat for the residents. Elysia and Luisa were so engaging with everyone, interacting with anyone willing to join in the fun. It’s so different to anything else we have programmed before with regard to entertainment, and it’s definitely something we will look to do again in the future. It proved that you are never too old to have fun!

Moya Hodgers, Arts Officer Louth County Council

I originally programmed ’The Grannies’ as part of our off-site program in the Market Square, Dundalk in May 2023. I loved the show, so interactive, fun and breaks the stereotypes around older people. I was delighted to programme the show to tour the care homes of Louth that we have been working with over the past number of years. The residents loved it as much as me. This kind of work, in this kind of setting is crucial. It inspires and entertains, mixing nostalgia with moments of beauty. The Grannies should be seen in every care home on the island.

Paul Hayes, Director, An Táin Arts Centre

Watch

The Grannies, Age and Opportunity Bealtaine Festival Moore St Market 2023 

Videography: Hannah Bloom