A few months ago I had reached a crossroads in my life. Me and my partner, photographer Lorenzo Hernandez, wanted to move out of our comfort zone, maybe abroad. We had already lived in London, Lorenzo for a few years at the beginning of the 1980s; I had studied there at the beginning of the 1990s, before becoming an English teacher at the Official School of Languages in the South of Spain. Going back to a place where we had been young and happy sounded like a very attractive prospect, to see how the city had changed and how we had changed ourselves.
I started searching for work possibilities and just by chance I came across an announcement in the British European Commission Grundtvig database: Pam Schweitzer, president of the European Reminiscence Network, was looking for an assistant who spoke English, had experience in theatre and could manage a website. She explained that the European Reminiscence Network used theatre to preserve people's memories and to promote inter-generation exchange. I had been involved in the SenVol (Senior Volunteering in Europe) project and thanks to this experience, I'd had the opportunity to meet a group lovely hard-working senior citizens who were really involved in volunteering, like Charles Betty and his wife Eileen, whose hands you can see above, photographed by Lorenzo.
One of the firs things I did when I became a teacher was to do a course on the use of drama in the EFL classroom at the University of Edinburgh. When I came back, I founded The Bandage Theatre Company at the Official School of Languages in Jaen together with my colleague Conchi Mengíbar; Gelo Sanz, another enthusiastic and charismatic teacher, joined us a few years later. One of the students who became part of the company on that first year was Rafa Abolafia, who eventually devoted his life to acting (not thanks to me, I'm afraid) and now lives in New York.
I was in charge of The Bandage until I left the school in 2000 to work at the Official School of Languages in Fuengirola, where I founded The Jumble Sale Theatre Company. Many have been the teachers and students who have contributed to this project, but I would like to thank specially Ana Quijano, who supported me from the very first moment, Roberto Vicente, who gave me the opportunity to start this project without asking questions and a group of enthusiastic language assistants like Amy Nickerson, Julia Halpyn Jackson, or Priscilla Schimidt.
I decided to put an end to this theatre adventure four years ago in order to start a new one: editing COLLAGE magazine (www.collage-magazine.com). Little did I know that my theatre days were not over at all.
I sent an email to Pam introducing myself and the rest is history. Here I am, about to start a new life in London, doing something completely different from my teaching experience. Pam is an amazing person and there is a lot to be learnt from her. I have read two of her books: Reminiscence Theatre: Making Theatre from Memories and Remembering Yesterday Caring Today: Reminiscence in Dementia Care. Now I will learn from experience.