The Pirates of Penzance Intergenerational Project

Opera Holland Park’s The Pirates of Penzance has proven to be an extremely successful pilot intergenerational project for KS2 primary school children (Year 5) and individuals with varying forms and stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Part-funded by Public Health, two KS2 year 5 classes from St Charles Primary School (RBKC) and service users from a nearby Alzheimer’s day centre, Chamberlain House, enjoyed a variety of activities based around popular themes and music from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, culminating with a performance of the operetta delivered by a professional cast of opera singers.

Participants took part in a series of workshops, both independently and jointly, with children from St Charles Primary School travelling to Chamberlain house for combined sessions. The sessions consisted of a variety of musical and creative activities relating to the operetta, including the joint-composition of lyrics to be performed in the show. Alongside these workshops, a professional cast of eight opera singers independently rehearsed a one-hour version of The Pirates of Penzance, (with singers assisting in the workshops) to link the two strands. Outside of these sessions, centre staff and teachers from both respective venues moved the project forward by creating a range of props to be used within the show.

The culmination of the project took place in the school hall before a packed audience of children, services users and parents. The performance gave all participants an opportunity to join in with the cast during specific moments and present a selection of the material covered in the workshops, whilst enjoying the full production.

This intergenerational project gave service users and staff at Chamberlain House the opportunity to take part in a meaningful activity whilst promoting wellbeing through music and presenting young children with a unique experience to learn first-hand about Alzheimer’s and dementia in a highly creative setting. The project was managed by production staff from Opera Holland Park and a professional animateur engaged to work specifically with children and adults.

The positive experience of the project has strengthened the dialogue between the primary school and Alzheimer’s day service who are now seeking a sustained relationship with continued intergenerational work.