Creative writing & Creative Talking in Gants Hill

On 2nd June, Phil and I were appointed to lead oral histories interviews with a group of women based in Gants Hill. Most of them with a Jewish background aged between 60 and 90. Members of the U3A creative writing group, they meet up every Monday morning in Lillian Kirsch’s home.

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So, Lillian was very kind to invite us to her home. More over, she offered a perfect environment to complete our task:to record a group oral histories session and two one to one interviews.

The ladies arrived one by one and around 10.30 am we had five lovely ladies willing to share their childhood memories; all with a smile on their faces. Least, when we play games we do it for fun and a laugh, to use our imagination and creativity, to learn.

We got talking…

” I haven’t played games. I only remember we were drawing on the mud with wooden sticks. “

“Oh, are you sure? Haven’t you played ball games, hopscotch, skipping rope? ” we asked

” Yes, I did” one of our group said. With a smile….


And the conversation started to heat up. Everyone wanted to share a memory which suddenly came to the surface. Pretending being doctors, nursery rhymes, skipping rope, knock down ginger, French skipping. Lynn talked about how she spent hours making clothes for her favourite dolls. Also, there were memories of a teacher who had once asked ” do you want to become a designer? ”  It wasn’t really know at the time, what ‘ a designer’ meant. But we all agreed that in play there is always a piece of imagination. Imagination we use to create and learn.


No doubt, everybody agreed that back in 1950’s and 60’s there was a freedom. Freedom to play; many children gathered on the street to play; no violence within the neighbourhood; trust with house’s doors left opened. Yes, for a moment we all felt nostalgic….

Lillian suggested the group’s storyteller, Maggie, because ” she speaks nicely ” she said,to read her memories she had wrote in advance. This is a Creative writing group, after all. We were all pleased. Maggie, prepared in advance for the session (and Phil and I were pleased the most). We realised that the ladies were well prepared for the session to help our project! So kind!

Maggie talked about her dolls and Teddy bear. Remarkably, with a detailed description how they look like, names, how she played and her emotional attachments with the dolls. They shaped her life; she talked with excitement.Lillian was right, Maggie talks nicely! Do you hold a similar feelings when think about your best childhood friends- dolls, Teddy bears and heroes we met in the books?

And here come the games played by generations and are still playing: Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo, Chess, Cards, Jacks. Street games were also remembered: hopscotch, ball against the wall, skipping rope and a game called ” King of the golden river “. End of the story. Beautiful story. We all said ” Thank you Maggie! ”


I brought with me Cat’s cradle. There was no need to ask if they know this game, they just took it and started to play. And they were good and precise, although they hadn’t played the game for decades. Amazing!


Laugh. Again.  Time to choose two of them for one to one interview. We did it by drawing cards, where biggest wins. Maggie, the storyteller, and Irene were chosen to share their own experiences and childhood memories…Listen to soundbites from their interviews here.


Thank you all ladies!


Posted by ML







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