Vanessa, Head of Volunteering and Community Engagement at Princess Alice Hospice, shares her own experience of the Family Talk project.

At the start of lockdown as we were thinking about how we might feel better connected to each other I thought there could be a great opportunity for children to interview their grandparents or other older adults in their lives.  I was (am) very much a Granddad’s girl: I went to my Granddad’s before school, at lunchtime and after school for 7 years. I loved listening to his stories but I never thought to record them or even realise that time was short – he died when I was 14.  I would love to be able to go back and ask all those questions and, even more so, be able to access a recording of my Granddad sharing his wisdom with me and recalling that very special bond we had.

I was also inspired by a Radio 4 programme where Guy Garvey talked about interviewing his Dad.  The words that stuck in my mind were his Dad asking him if he wanted to record something because Guy thought he was going to die and he replied, ‘no, it’s because I know you are.’ Sometimes there’s nothing like northern bluntness for getting straight to the point.

I felt that lockdown would give us a unique opportunity to spend the time asking those questions and learning more about our families. I loved the idea of an intergenerational project which could help connect younger and older generations – realising how much people have in common and that grandparents were also young once, too; capturing that unique bond and also realising that life moves on and we should seize the day and capture these moments.

I spoke to Barbara Altounyan, Founder of Hospice Biographers, about my idea and how it would be lovely to record interviews, how  it would be a moment in time for the child as well as the adult, and how the recording would be for and about both parties, their relationship, as well as stories to be left for posterity.

Barbara jumped on board very quickly and has taken the project forward rapidly, establishing a process for recording the interviews. A website will be launched soon. Initially I presumed that as I don’t have children, this wouldn’t be a project I would participate in myself, but Barbara persuaded me that as it was my idea I should give it a go – so that’s what happened today.

It was a really lovely hour – I heard some old family favourite stories, as well as stories I had never heard before.  My Dad, who loves to talk, really enjoyed sharing anecdotes from his childhood and after an hour of recording we just about made it to him going to teacher training college!  More sessions are planned to talk about his adult life, parenthood and grandparenthood.  By the end, we both felt really lucky to have had this opportunity to talk, and I know that when I don’t have my Dad on the other end of the phone I will have an audio treasure to return to.

Barbara is handling the technical side of this project, but you can choose to do it for yourself and record the conversation if you prefer.  The truth is that we felt lucky to have the opportunity, but it was one we could have created ourselves – we just needed to make the time – life gets in the way if you’re not careful.  At the end of the conversation my Dad said that he wished he had done this with his parents, which brings me full circle to why I wanted to do this project in the first place.

If you’re interested in recording your family we have a list of top tips on our website to help you; the hardest (and also easiest) part is just deciding to do it, but I really would encourage you to take the plunge.