Linda Woodhead, from Hyde, is a member of the Hearts & Minds over-55s theatre group, which is run by theatre CIC Made by Mortals.
They used to meet every week and take their musical theatre productions out to schools across the North West. When lockdown hit back in March, the group took to video conferencing and their Armchair Adventures podcast was born.
An Armchair Adventure is an adventure of the imagination, where you can go anywhere you like. Even though we’ve all been through a really difficult year and many of our theatre group have been shielding, we can still dance, sing and move in our armchairs. You can do anything in your mind that you want to do. And importantly, we can still come together and form a connection when we’re all taking part.
Armchair Adventures has really brought people together at a time when we felt like everything was falling apart. I found that creating this podcast series gave me a purpose and hope and I really felt like we’re all in this together. Creativity and being active is really important for people’s health and wellbeing and this has been so important to all of us for staving off the loneliness we could have felt this year.
Getting everyone online
At first, we were so disappointed that we were not able to continue our weekly theatre group. But then the two Made by Mortals directors Paul and Andy suggested that we try running the sessions using video conferencing technology.
It took us a while to get everyone online – some of us didn’t even have the internet! We got around all the connection and device issues eventually, with some of the group able to phone into the sessions via a freephone number. This meant that social distancing didn’t have to mean social isolation.
But once we all had a connection, we just started talking and playing music and drama games. We kept chatting and discussing what we were thinking about – and eventually between us all, we came up with the concept for an Armchair Adventure.
Linda’s Treetop Adventure
I’m featured on the first episode, which is called Linda’s Treetop Adventure. The narrative focuses on 15-year-old Connie who lives above her parents’ travel agency. The business is on the verge of going bust because of the pandemic, so Connie invents an Armchair Adventure. All of our theatre group are Connie’s customers, who go along on a journey of the imagination with her.
I have always loved walking and hiking, so on my adventure, Connie takes me on a walk across the treetops, with all sorts of singing, acting and movement activities to do with her. We worked alongside professional orchestral musicians to record this podcast, which was an amazing feeling.
We launched the podcast with a live virtual event for 1000 primary school children and their teachers in November. Seeing all their faces and watching them join in the actions really makes it all worthwhile. We know that children have had a really tough year too, so it’s fantastic to make them smile with what we have created.
We’ve missed taking our theatre productions out to schools as that’s really why we all do this – to see how it affects the kids and to watch them really get involved. But being able to still run workshops online has been amazing and it means we still have that important connection.
The Armchair Adventures podcast is the perfect antidote if you’re feeling a bit lonely.