Artist and organizer over 60- how does it work

Convener(s): Deborah Paige

Participants: Poppy Burton  Miller, Alan Escott, Kath Burlinson, Sue Frumina, Regeina ?

Summary of discussion. 

After a life-time of working in organizations and of organizing, I have the opportunity to fill my time with another job or explore my work as a director and artist. But somehow the question arises: if I’m not ‘in work’ am I retired? Why is that so scary? Should I put my home and my creative life all in one place, or would that mean I would never get back into work into the work place. How to change my work pattern and make space for myself to work as a theatre artist in isolation?

The group discussed their needs and found validation for individuals as well as thinking about wider questions and responses. Here are some:

Retirement isn’t an appropriate word: ‘if you’ve spent a life time doing something you love, why stop?’

Maybe just stop and see what happens. Why are we frightened of stopping? (challenge the idea that at our age you won’t have the chance of going back.) Maybe ‘there’s no going back’ can be exciting!

In response to what is different about the work you want to make no and the work you have always made:

‘It’s about exploring BEING not DOING’

‘When I was young I loved the short sharp energy of writing episodes. Now I long to close the curtains and write the long story’. 

How to wear yourself as an artist on your sleeve. Don’t hide it behind ‘going to work’ which is easier for non-theatre people to understand. 

What is the creative visibility of 60+ artists. Not honoured by our society, which is profligate with it’s senors’ work and experience 

As you get older everything gets harder. You feel more invisible. Your need for enjoying the confidence other people have in you is be greater.


‘I want to run workshops but my confidence is ‘down there’ 

‘I want to be on the course and not running it’

‘I want to be creating theatre not doing the jobs I have to do to stay alive.’

‘How do you keep going if you’re not perceived to be successful?’


Older artists don’t want to make work about remeniscences, they want to make work about now. Why are older people always on the receiving end of art, condemned to participate as audiences only? 

But we don’t want it to be about older people teaching younger people – we want it to be about an exchange.

We like ourselves as the age we are. We need to accept we have a different sort of energy, and to find ways of exploring that in our work. To explore, to welcome this new quality of energy. All we need to know is how to slow down, not how to stop. 

Collectively the group gave each other a present: Looking at each other and saying (in response to a feeling of ‘non-validity’)  YOU ARE STILL HERE. YOU ARE STILL IMPORTANT. 

The possibilities are here.

‘We’re the front line. We’ve got time that previous generations didn’t have, we’ve had resources that future generations may not have. We’re the special people on the planet at the moment.’

Kath told us about her work in Bury St Edmunds bringing young and old artists and participants together in a project backed by the Theatre Royal.


DP 30.1.11