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‘Still Life Dreaming’: It is the mind that makes the
body rich

‘Still Life Dreaming’: a play telling the human stories and history behind an epic Scottish scientific study of how the brain ages, written by Pete Lawson. A Spare Tyre/Wellcome Trust co-production.
Monday 15-Friday 19 August, Pleasance Forth, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

On 4 June 1947, almost every Scottish schoolchild born in 1936 sat an intelligence test as part of the Scottish Mental Survey 1947. Between 2004 and 2007, 1091 of them re-sat the test and became known as the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. This ongoing research, funded by Age UK, aims to reveal how thinking skills change with age and uncover fascinating findings about the brain's white matter - nerve fibres in the brain - and its significance in the ageing process.

'Still Life Dreaming' was inspired by the human stories behind the data of the Lothian Birth Cohort Study into cognitive ageing. Written by 'Eastenders' script writer Pete Lawson, the play has been developed by Spare Tyre, working closely with original members of the cohort and scientists at Edinburgh University.

Frederick Lowrie, a member of the original cohort, spoke about taking part in the study: "When I sat the test in 1947, I never imagined I'd be part of another study and also part of a play. It was great to meet up with people from back then, and to feel part of something much bigger."

Reflecting on the curiosity that drives human beings to explore ideas and interact with each other, ‘Still Life Dreaming’ is a story about science infused with humour and humanity. Spanning two centuries, the play was inspired by the verbatim stories of the individuals involved in the study, as well as those in the bigger picture: philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie and Sir Henry Wellcome, and scientists like Godfrey Thomson and Professor Ian Deary, who heads up the team at the University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology.

Director Arti Prashar talks about her involvement in the project:
"Spare Tyre was approached to create a new play as part of the Wellcome Trust's 75th Anniversary Summer Series. We were given an idea to respond to…cognitive ageing. We thought the study would be all numbers and science, equations and theories but when we travelled to Edinburgh with writer Pete Lawson to meet original people involved in the study, we discovered the human stories behind the data. Art and science working together? Reacting and responding to each other? It’s a match made in heaven. A script was born. With a cast of four of Spare Tyre's older performers and a team of artists from all sorts of backgrounds, 'Still Life Dreaming' came to life."

The performance on Tuesday 16 August was followed by a Q&A with artistic director Arti Prashar, writer Pete Lawson, the cast of 'Still Life Dreaming', cohort member Frederick Lowrie and Professor Ian Deary (who leads the Lothian Birth Cohort study at the University of Edinburgh). This film provides an overview of the play and the discussion.

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Running time: 3 mins 15 s

Read the transcript (105KB)

Spare Tyre is one of the UK's leading participatory theatre companies, producing bold and powerful theatre for over 30 years. Spare Tyre tells unheard stories, combining art forms to create multi-sensory theatre. Spare Tyre has worked with older people for over 15 years, currently specialising in interactive storytelling with older people with dementia.

Still Life Dreaming
Monday 15-Friday 19 August
Pleasance Forth, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Image: cast image. Credit: © Patrick Baldwin 2011.

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