Tea Dances


A group of Toonspeak members (aged 11-16) and members of the North Glasgow Men’s Group (aged 30-70) came together for four workshops to research the history of tea dances in Glasgow, and specifically the Barrowlands Ballroom. They created decorations, historical posters and imaginative design for the Music Tent at the Festival of the Imagination in August 2010. This event is run by North Glasgow Arts and Regeneration Network. New Rhythms for Glasgow, co-ordinated three tea dances, bringing together people of all ages and abilities to dance for free.

Toonspeak has been running empowering creative activities with young people in North Glasgow for 23 years. It involves members in all levels of decision-making; with half of the board of directors members aged 14 to 25. Members have always embraced the opportunity to work with adult groups and often ask for such projects.

It has recently visited the North Glasgow Men’s Group during a young person-led project called Workshop Leaders of the Future. Ten young people were trained to run drama workshops and went out to community groups to use their skills. The session with the men’s group (supported by Rosemount Lifelong Learning) was a roaring success, with normally under-confident men getting involved and enjoying the drama games. The Toonspeak members hope to work with them again. While the current focus is on fundraising to support core activities, a Big Lottery Our Place application for three years of activity in Royston includes a number of intergenerational projects.

Success factors

The four Thursday night workshops were very successful. However because of other commitments, and, perhaps a little uncertainty, not many of the men’s group managed to one particular tea dance. If this activity was repeated, Toonspeak would make sure that the tea dance was integral to the project.
All the participants commented that they felt more respect for different age groups as a result of the project. This is central to the project’s aims – to reduce ‘ephebiphobia’ (‘inaccurate, exaggerated and sensational characterisation of young people’). Toonspeak believes all young people have the potential to be excellent role models, given the right opportunities and support.

Lessons learned

Never underestimate how much time is needed to build trust and to challenge preconceptions with a group. However bringing two existing groups together is definitely easier than starting from scratch. If doing arts-based activity, it is best to introduce ideas gently. Most older adults (with whom Toonspeak work) would ‘run a mile’ if, at the start, they thought drama was involved. Starting with stories is an emotionally safer way.

“It worked well because you could get different opinions” (Lauren, 14).

“Good, funny and interesting” (David, 11).