Workshop throws a spotlight on seniors’ memories

  • Cultural legacy: Ruth Thomas, centre, who led the Art and Value of Your Story workshop, is shown with, from left, Greg Smith, Elaine Smith, Sylvie Elliot and Francis Furbert

    Cultural legacy: Ruth Thomas, centre, who led the Art and Value of Your Story workshop, is shown with, from left, Greg Smith, Elaine Smith, Sylvie Elliot and Francis Furbert
    (Photograph supplied)


Seniors talked about their life experiences in a storytelling presentation at the Bermuda National Gallery.

Participants at the Art and Value of Your Story workshop, all aged 55 and older, created an autobiographical narrative by drawing inspiration from three paintings from the collection of the late David L. White, a former editor of The Royal Gazette.

Those taking part read out their stories to the audience at the Monday event.

Organisers said their contributions would help preserve the cultural legacy of the island.

One of the writers, Francis Furbert, was inspired by a 1925 painting, Donkey and Cart by Clark Voorhees.

Ms Francis told the audience: “It had such an impact on me that I sunk into a chair and thought I would burst into tears.”

She said she was inspired by the cottage in the painting, which reminded her of the cottage her late grandfather lived in. She explained: “Memories flooded back of Horace Fulton Astwood, the one and only Grandpa I knew.”

Mr Astwood worked as a gardener and cart-man on Patton Estate, Warwick, where he lived in a small cottage which has since been named “Astwood Cottage” in his honour.

Elaine and Greg Smith, a British-born husband and wife, also took in the workshop.

Ms Smith said the paintings brought back memories of their early days in Bermuda.

She wrote: “In England, especially wintertime, people walking along the streets don’t make eye contact but hurry by with their heads down, so when I came to Bermuda I was surprised by the friendly way people greeted one another, even when they didn’t know each other.”

She added: “I remember cruising along on my blue second-hand Mobylette, taking in the beautiful scenery.

“Almost 50 years later, I am sure that there is nowhere else I would like to live and bring up our two children than on this beautiful island.”

Sylvie Elliott’s narrative spanned a childhood that began in France and moved to Bermuda.

She wrote: “Traditions are a very important aspect of one’s life, no matter where you are or where you come from. It’s the essence of family and togetherness, it’s a learning experience so richly rewarding, it’s interwoven in our lives and forms the fabric of one’s memories.”

The workshop, sponsored by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, was led by author Ruth Thomas, one of the BNG’s founders.

She said: “What you know about the past and what you are experiencing in the present are invaluable, so write them down and tell them to young people, so that they can understand where we come from and why we are the way we are.”

Dany Pen, the education and communication officer of the BNG, said: “Our goal is to be able to bring stories forth from community members so that we can preserve the cultural legacy for the entire island.

“We feel that in order for the next generation to have anything, memories play an important part in letting them have that history that is very much theirs also.”

Another workshop will be held in the new year on a date to be confirmed.

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Published Dec 27, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 27, 2018 at 8:01 am)

Workshop throws a spotlight on seniors’ memories

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