“I was a bit of a loose cannon. I was expelled for not turning up…”

We’ve had a busy few months with our outreach for A Secret Life. We’ve been meeting many wonderful local people and hearing all about their teenage years – and I’ve been popping into Wimbledon Guild so frequently recently I feel like I’m almost part of the team there now! We’ve heard about people’s very different school experiences and yet how career options for women in particular were so very limited for so many years (mostly nursing or secretarial or working in a shop). We’ve interviewed people aged 65 years to 92 years old (the wonderful Derek) at both community centres and individually. The ladies at Merton & Morden Guild kept us laughing with their hilarious first date stories, while at the Katherine Low Settlement we heard what it was like growing up gay when being gay was still illegal…

Meanwhile, it’s also been great fun engaging young people with the audio recordings of elderly people’s memories and how it compares to their own experiences. I think some of the Year 10s at St Marks Academy, Mitcham were surprised to hear Jim (age 82) started smoking when he was 12 and gave up when he was 14, while Jane’s story of not wanting to go to a party because she couldn’t afford the ‘right’ thing to wear resonated with some of the girls. We talked about their stresses about exams and career choices and the pressure on image today, especially with the positives and negatives of social media.

If you’re coming along to see A Secret Life (and you should because it’s going to be great!) you’ll get to hear the words of some of the real people we’ve spoken to as part of the script that Tamara Micner is currently beavering away at putting together. You can book tickets here.

For now, we’ll leave you with a few of the things we’ve heard:

“I had several boyfriends but this time they all came to the door together at half past seven. All to pick me up. My mother was fuming…I was a proper flirt. I just knew when to stop.”

“I wasn’t allowed to go to the cinema, my mum and dad didn’t approve of going to the cinema til I was probably 13 or 14 probably, and that’s when I can remember Elvis Presley films coming out, and being an Elvis Presley fan and wanting to see all his films so that’s when we had to take our little white socks off and get in the queue and hope we’d get in even though we were under 15.”

“I was a bit of a loose cannon. I was expelled for not turning up…I did frustrate them, I know I did. I just went and did things that drove them crazy.”