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The Grange Day Centre
Newburn Road
NE15 9AF
Telephone: 0191 2673728 (option 1)
Fax: 0191 2290503

© Grange Arts 2014
Grange Day Centre Limited is a company registered in England & Wales. Company number 02916458.
Registered charity number 1058445. 

The Discovery Museum
Tea Dance

The Grange Day Centre held a 1940’s tea dance in the Great Hall of a local museum, (Discovery Museum) to celebrate the end of WW2. With help from museum staff we will involved over 200 older people from Newcastle and Tyne and Wear. Our aim was to create an authentic experience for elders to enjoy, reminisce, meet with friends from the past and make friends for the future.

Many of the older people we targeted are from the outer west area of Newcastle upon Tyne who are often isolated and excluded from cultural events due to lack of money for entrance costs, transport costs (this is a semi rural area) or lack of support help they may need if they have mobility problems or suffer from mental frailty e.g. Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Over the past four years we have built up a good relationship with the local museum service, Tyne and Wear Museums and staff have regularly used their loans boxes for reminiscence projects that have had a positive impact on our service users.  Many of our service users have mental frailty and working with objects and talking about the past can be both comforting and stimulating for them. The tea dance event sets out to carry on this work and reach more people in this participative and engaging way.

Local children will be involved through their schools. 

The learning team at the Discovery Museum visited schools prior to the event and helped children to create bunting and other historically accurate decorations for the tea dance in the Great Hall.  The children also learned about WW2 through real objects brought to them in loans boxes from the handling collection at Tyne and Wear Museums (TWM).  On the day of the tea dance the children were invited to help put up their decorations ready for the older people later on that afternoon.

Marketing and publicity

All the publicity was older people friendly in terms of large point size of text and colours that are easy to read.  Tyne and Wear Museums are helped us with this through their access policy and their designers provided design time as an in kind contribution.  The tickets we sent people were also based on authentic tea dance tickets in the museum’s collection.

Live music

We had a live band, dressed in 1940’s style clothes playing waltzes, quickstep and other popular music of the time.  The music they played was decided by older people through consultation prior to the event taking place both in The Grange Day Centre and other centres from which older people came from to attend the dance.

Professional dancers

During the tea dance we will also had two professional dancing couples who will led the event and encouraged and reminded people of the dances of the time and learn new ones from the older people.  These dancers had previous experience of dance from the 1940’s and already had experience of this kind of event.


Refreshments were provided and we received help from TWM regarding a catering company who were more than willing to research 1940’s food with a regard for the rationing that was still in place at that time.

Object handling and reminiscence

TWM had objects of the time on display in the Great Hall for people to reminisce and had people from the learning and outreach teams present who were around for questions and to learn more about the objects through the older people themselves.

Recording and archiving

The Great Hall had a video booth from the V&A project ‘Every object tells a story’ where people were encouraged to pick an object from a museum collection and add a story to their growing archive.

There was also a memory book that people added to throughout the event recording thoughts, memories and feelings that the tea dance triggered, looking at the end of WW2 and what that meant to them.  Memories recorded were added to the TWM loans boxes with the objects they relate to.  The loans boxes will have these treasured memories in them and will go out to many schools, colleges, youth and community groups for years to come.

Free event

The most important element to this event is that it was free to older people and their carers.  There was free transport, refreshments and tickets. We wanted this day to be a celebration of peace and a thank you to all older people who contributed to our freedom.

We had over 350 older people attend and participate in the Tea dance celebrations at Discovery Museum.  The elders benefited from the event enormously.

The day started by the elders from The Grange being picked up by an original 1940’s bus and driven to Discovery Museum.

Quotes included:

‘The bus was somebody’s darling – all done up with real leather.’ Hannah

Their mental well being was increased through the social interaction with other older people and through talking to younger generations who worked at the museum.  The time spent with the older people meant museum staff got great stories for the memory book and older people felt valued and important as they were treated with respect and dignity.

The older people were confident in talking about the past and their memories of the end of WW2 and were happy to share the stories with museum staff who wrote them up in large memory books.

Here are some quotes from the memory books:

‘I went to get the train and they said the war was over, and everyone was singing and cheering.  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought the war might last forever.’ Ella

‘I saw a plane shot down when I was a child.  Waiting for a bus stop, sirens went off and the plane was caught in the lights at 9pm in 1941.’ Ron and Joan

‘We all went to the Oxford after work and I waited for the toilet to draw a line up my legs.’ Bernadette and Jean

‘A wonderful nostalgic afternoon and what a pleasure to dance to live music.  Music was my best memory from the war.’ Alice

Many people were overwhelmed when they arrived at the Great Hall which was laid out with beautiful linen, 1940’s inspired food and familiar live music they knew and loved from their younger days.  School children had decorated the Great Hall and lift with newspaper bunting.  Once in the lift the older people started singing straight away, as they felt taken back to their teenage years.

The older people benefited from healthy exercise as they sang and danced for hours and the feedback we got was amazing.

Quotes included:

‘Just listen to the music, just let it flow.  Start on the right foot, ladies on the right foot, gentlemen on the left foot.’ Hannah

‘One thing’s evident – everybody’s enjoying themselves.’ Joe

‘You don’t know how far this takes me, back to my teenage years, that’s for sure.  The highlight of the week was the dance.  This is where boy met girl.’

‘It was like being transported back in time.  The great hall is breathtakingly beautiful.  I had a strange feeling when I looked at the orchestra, Sweet and Hot that I was actually there all those years ago.  Joe danced with me since the first time he’d had his stroke.  It must have been quite a challenge for him, as my ballroom dancing needs a lot of improvement.’ Margaret.

The band and the professional dancers were a huge success and The Discovery Museum received a letter of thanks from Les Morrice on behalf of the XV.XIX. The Kings Royal Hussars, he wrote the letter as soon as he got home on the evening of the tea dance and stated,‘our thanks to you for inviting us, also to all who obviously worked hard to make it the terrific success it was.  The bonus being the best band that I have heard in a long time with a perfect selection of music.’

The elders from the grange also wrote a song inspired by the Tea dance event, which goes to the tune of, You are my Sunshine.

They danced the foxtrot
First time together
He held her closely in his arms
She danced as lightly as a feather
And the words they spoke were warm.

It was the tea dance
Where he first saw her
She was as lovely as a rose
He was so handsome and reassuring
And she knew he would propose.

So they were married
And raised a family
And helped their friends with word and deed
Through war and peacetime, through feast and famine
They were given all they should need.

Today in love they
Are never parted
Though time has brought its pain and tears
Their precious memories are there forever
And their joy has tamed their fears.

The band plays music
They can remember
With words that mean so much today
And all the memories in their September
Are as clear as those from May.

The tea dance has spurred on the development of a project that continues to work with older people and museum objects.  The Grange Day Centre, Tyne and Wear Museums and Newcastle City Council Arts Development Team have successfully been awarded £53,000 to create new resources for Tyne and Wear Museums’ loans boxes for youth groups, community groups and schools.  This is a result of the tea dance and the inspiration it gave staff, older people and the school children it involved throughout the whole process.

Supported by:
Home Front Recall

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