Making Generation R returns in the flesh after its virtual success
Making Generation R (MGR) graduates took to the stage in February for their in person rehearsals for the first time since the pandemic forced the project online two years ago.
The 16-strong team, who come from across the UK, performed an electrifying and moving medley of their stories at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London to showcase the inspirational workshops that they will soon be running in
schools and for emergency services.
Blesma’s unique project, which uses theatre experts and professional storytellers to train Members to develop and deliver 15-minute life stories, is now in its seventh year and has reached more than 125,000 people. It continued during the pandemic, with online and virtual sessions providing vital support to isolated and lonely schoolchildren
through the pandemic’s bleak months.
“MGR is an uplifting project and it was great that we were able to stage it in person this year,” said Jon Bryant, Blesma’s Chief Executive.
“It was good to be back together as that mutual support is a key element of the Association. Our Members face many tough challenges, but time and again they want to give back to society. Being a part of MGR takes hard work and
sacrifice, but it is rewarding for the Members as well as for all the people who hear their stories and take part in the workshops.”
Alice Driver, founder of innovative training company The Drive Project which delivers MGR, added: “There are a lot of ingredients that go into making MGR such a success. Fundamental to that is the relationship between Blesma and its Members. The programme began in 2016 and has now trained 110 Members, but every Member – and every story – is different. The feedback is always incredible, which is a tribute to all the Members who have taken part.”
The latest group of graduates, who represented all services across a wide age range, collaborated on stage at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre as a final rehearsal for their new roles running workshops to build resilience. Former Army medic Lisa Johnston told how a military training injury left her with agonising pain in her left leg.
“I was in a very dark place. I was a monster mummy and a spectator to life,” said Lisa, a mother of three, who served two tours of duty in Iraq during a 15-year career. “I don’t know how we managed to get through that period. I eventually had my leg amputated. Getting up on stage was a bit daunting, but it was a great way to finish our training and I can’t wait to get into schools. I hope my story will inspire children and help them through tough times.”
Former soldier Dan Richards survived a tour of duty in Afghanistan before he was involved in a motorbike accident that led to his right arm being amputated. He was later medically discharged from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
“The carpet of my life was dragged from under me. I’d wanted to be a soldier since I was eight years old. I had served for 10 years and was used to living life at 100mph, but after the accident I went from being independent to living back at home with my parents,” he said.
“At my lowest point I had sent off 327 job applications without getting anything back. With just pennies to my name I thought about taking my life.”
Dan, from London, recovered by immersing himself in endurance cycling. Social media posts of him riding across
France then led to him getting an agent and a role presenting the Channel 4 reality show Naked Beach.
“Bad things happen but they don’t have to stay bad for a long time. Youngsters face adversity in many ways but I want to show them that the voices that might be telling them they can’t do things are lying,” added. “I want my story to help and inspire them.”
The nation’s schoolchildren have been massively affected by the Covid pandemic, with charities warning that 100,000 have fallen off school registers, whilst research suggests that 95 per cent of school staff have witnessed increased distress across pupils of all school ages. After the Making Generation R showcase, Members, their families, staff and sponsors were invited to enjoy a reception at the theatre, where 67-year-old RAF veteran and course graduate Ted Hill summed up the team’s togetherness after the six-day course: “The Association is a family and Making Generation R is a family within that family. Every Blesma Member has a story to tell.”