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‘Gransters' join up with youngsters in Kilmeen

June 27th, 2017 11:55 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

With Pat McCarthy and Kitty McCarthy (centre) were Kilmeen NS pupils, from left: Emma Medcalf, Brody Hurd, Aoibhin Collins and Joe Barry.(Photo: Anna Groniecka)

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A UNIQUE project, which brought together primary school pupils and senior members of their community, has resulted in an exhibition of work in Rossmore Theatre.

In what is being described as West Cork’s first ever ‘intergenerational project’ Kilmeen Drama and Kilmeen National School came together recently.

The actively retired in the community of Kilmeen, (now known affectionately as the ‘Gransters’), threw themselves into the artistic adventure with great enthusiasm by joining a group of fourth class children to share new experiences. 

The two groups, although distant from each other in age and life experience, discovered a rich and fun-filled shared environment through the project.

The plan was the brainchild of theatre artist Liz O’Sullivan and musician Fiona Kelleher.

Although it was originally intended to last just 12 weeks, it extended far beyond the deadline.

Gransters joined the youngsters in music performance, composing, drama, yoga, poetry, art projects, gaming, zumba, local heritage, baking and gardening.

‘No matter what age we are we want to feel connected and part of a community,’ explained Fiona. 

‘In our fast-paced lives, sometimes older members of our society feel marginalised and disconnected and long to be a vital part of life as they used to be,’ she added.

‘This project gave the Gransters the space to share the rich and vast life experience with the youngsters and this in turn created strong connections and a mutual respect between the groups, which will continue to flourish outside of the project.’

Liz agreed: ‘For their part, the youngsters have shared their knowledge and experience with the gransters and have introduced them to new things, including technology, zumba and rap. 

‘They have also shared their magical young perspective on life which is so infectious – now it’s hard to tell who is a granster and who is a youngster!’

Liz added that during the project, one young boy, when asked who he was working with, replied honestly: ‘I was paired with the girl who had her birthday today.’

 It turned out the ‘girl’ was a ‘granster’!

In a letter sent to the school, President Michael D Higgins voiced his support for the project which he called ‘inspirational’ and ‘heartwarming’, and something that every community should adopt throughout Ireland.

Although the youngsters and gransters will depart for the summer holidays shortly, they will return again in September to look after a new garden which has been built in Kilmeen NS with the help of the entire community.

Kilmeen NS has also created a charming video showing the children and seniors working together. It has clocked up several thousands views, having been picked up by many websites and shared. 

The Arts office of Cork County Council, through the newly established Cork County Municipal Districts Creative Communities Scheme 2017, funded the Kilmeen programme.

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