Dial brings things back to the basics: two people, a phone and the time to engage creatively and connect meaningfully


During lockdown we saw older people reduced to negative numbers and throwaway figures. From the treatment of older people in care homes, to their increased isolation and lack of connectivity – it’s clear that there’s need for a conversation about the way we treat older people, and for change in our society. Older people deserve better. They deserve safer spaces. Clearer connectivity. Creative interactions that go beyond practicalities. To be more than a tally of numbers.

Dial – Connecting elders through creative conversations

Last summer we paired 5 Greater Manchester artists with 25 elders from across the region with the simple aim of connecting with one another. We called this project ‘Dial’ as it took place over telephone between 2 people. Through Dial we wanted to reduce isolation for participants who might not have the digital skills or internet access to take part in online activities.

Over 150 hours of conversation took place before our creative collective hung up their phones to one another. During that time, they laughed together, sang together, drew portraits of one another, wrote poems, talked politics and pandemics, shared life stories and recipes, created maps and imagined fantasy lands together.

We invited our artists to create a series of responses to their conversations. Here they share the voices, stories, frustrations and hopes from elders across our local communities. They are calling for change, and it’s about time we answered.

Creative Responses and our Creative Collective

Alice Proctor

Visit Alice’s creative response, ‘A covid Conversation Capsule’, which features a selection of poetry, haikus, sketches, quotes and a mini podcast by following the link here.

Alice is an actor, facilitator, storyteller and usher from Wakefield. She’s worked with Z-arts, The Edge, The National Citizens Service and other arts organisations, and performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, New Vic Theatre, Unity Theatre, Hope Mill and 53two as well as outdoors around the country for Plunge Boom. Alice has also done a bit of telly, but both of her Grandads agree that Doctors was their favourite because they already knew the storylines!

Tell us a story about a moment when you connected with someone unexpectedly 

We moved house during lockdown and have got to know our neighbour Sylvia really well. She lives on her own and has been shielding so when the weather has been good we’ve had a socially distanced G&T or two in her garden. Then we invited her for a BBQ. She tells us stories of growing up in Jamaica and makes us pour large measures of whatever we’re drinking. If it hadn’t been for lockdown I don’t think we would have spent as much time together as we have. It’s been so lovely. Now we’re planning for a shared meal indoors once it’s safe.

Chelsea Morgan

Visit Chelsea’s creative response, ‘Refreshing Perspectives’ featuring family recipes, a series of postcards reclaiming and celebrating Ordsall in Salford and a beautiful short film about tress by following the link here.

Chelsea’s work mainly involves developing and delivering creative projects for people. In the last ten years, she’s worked with some amazing people from different backgrounds to create theatre, tell stories and make connections. She’s worked in the engagement departments at Oldham Coliseum Theatre and The Royal Exchange Manchester and as a freelance practitioner for organisations across Greater Manchester and beyond.

Tell us a bit about one of your hobbies!

I really enjoy painting and drawing, although I’m not very good at it. In fact I was pretty bad! The last few months I’ve been painting more and I have improved loads and I’m really proud of myself. I keep showing everyone my pictures!

Joe Glimour-Rees

Visit Joe’s creative response, ‘Cards of Connection’ and choose from a selection of creative activities by following the link here.

Joe is a theatre maker, creating shows mainly with young people. He’s worked at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Bolton Octagon and Leeds Playhouse. He also runs Manchester’s Big Theatre Podcast, where Art with Heart featured last year.

What do you like best about connecting with a new person or making a new friend?

I love meeting people with different experiences to myself, and I love a good chat! I think seeing something from somebody else’s point of view, or hearing a story you didn’t expect from someone is always great!

Roma Havers 

Visit Roma’s creative response, ‘Meeting is the most human of inventions’ and choose from a selection of creative activities which invite you to escape lockdown by designing your own fantasy adventure, or writing a letter to an ancestor with all the questions you wish you could ask them by following the link here.

Roma Havers is a poet, theatre maker and facilitator. As a poet she has worked with Young Identity to produce commissions for Manchester Histories, Manchester International Festival, Manchester Literature Festival, Sexuality Summer School and HOMEmcr. She has performed for TV Radio and festivals nationally and internationally. In 2019 she was Poet in Residence at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections. As a theatre maker her first solo show ‘Bolted’ which explored agoraphobia debuted with UK Young Artists in 2019 and her second solo show ‘LOB’ was Winner of GMLGBT Arts and Culture Network Bursary 2020 and will debut with Queer Contact in 2021.

Describe yourself in five words

Notorious, Aquarius, mysterious, curious,Vesuvius.

What’s been your favourite way of communicating during lockdown? 

My favourite way to communicate during lockdown has been shouting through the wall to my flatmate.

Ella Otomewo

Visit Ella’s creative response, ‘Equal parts strangers and faceless friends’- a series of beautiful poems which capture her conversations with local elders- by following the link here.

After graduating with a degree in English and Drama three years ago, Ella has been working as a freelance performance poet and workshop facilitator. She’s ran creative writing workshops at festivals, in libraries, and in schools – and she’s performed her own work around the UK, as well as in Amsterdam and Berlin.

Tell us a bit about one of your hobbies! 

One hobby that I have nurtured recently is looking after plants. I’ve really enjoyed propagating my house plants and watching my bedroom slowly morph into a greenhouse, especially since I’ve been spending so much time in there during lockdown. I’ve had various seedlings on rotation sitting on my windowsill (until they get big enough to be planted outside) since the beginning of spring. I think the sweetcorn has been the most impressive – they started on the windowsill and now they’re as tall as me!

Dial in – Free resource booklet 

Designed for use over the phone,in person or via video call, Dial In is a booklet of activities created by artists from Greater Manchester – chock full of fun games and creative activities to activate your imagination and help you build connections.

Image of the front cover of Dial In booklet. It features an illustration of a young white woman with black wavy hair holding a pastel blue phone to her ear. Opposite her is an illustration of an elderly black man with grey hair holding a vibrant purple phone. They both look happy. Text above them reads: ired of talking about the pandemic?  Out of practice in making conversation? Looking to connect? Fancy getting creative? Dial in - we’re here to help! Designed for use over the phone, in person or via video call, Dial In is a booklet of activities created by artists from Greater Manchester – chock full of fun games and creative activities to activate your imagination and help you build connections.









DOWNLOAD the Dial In booklet here.

With thanks to 

Funded by GMCA and the Arts Council England Emergency fund, with a special thanks to Salford CVS for continuing to help us build connections in our local community and to Reform Radio, Yellow Jigsaw, Tony, Hebe, Krishna from the Indian Association in Oldham and Mo from the Brunswick Parish Church for giving time and energy to help us reach more people.

The Golden Years Caravan

Celebrating the curiosity, creativity and culture of Greater Manchester’s older generation, The Golden Years Caravan is roving cinema and art gallery featuring a series of ambitious artworks which confront common perceptions of ageing and retirement.

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