Tools and Activities for Dreamlike Neighbourhoods

Example 2: Storytelling café on childhood

Setting & target group

In Vienna, the storytelling café, called “Plauderei” (“chatting”), was organised with older people who are regular visitors of an older people’s club. As the club was quite new, the participants did not know each other very well. 

Breaking the ice

  • To get the participants “in the mood” for the topic and to start narratives, the following ice-breaking questions could be helpful:
  • Where were you born (e.g. in a town, in the countryside) and what did you like best there?
  • Where are your roots? Where did you live as a child? 
  • If you were to make a film about yourself. Which actor would cast you best and why? 

To show the answers, a timeline could be laid on a table with string and cards, and participants could indicate their year of birth with clothes pegs or figures on this. The different places of birth could also be shown with cards.

Another suitable ice-breaking method is “The movie of my life”: Based on the question “If you were to make a movie of your life, what kind of movie would it be and who would be cast as you” participants could discuss, e.g.: “Are you James Bond?” “Maybe you’re like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind?” “Or like Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca?” “Or more a Catwoman type?” “Would your life be a drama with Meryl Streep as the lead? Or more like a Mr. Bean comedy?”

Narrative phase

Based on the very general question “When you think of your childhood, what do you like to think back to?” participants started to exchange their memories of their family, school, leisure time activities, etc. In our café, funny events were exchanged as were memories of difficult family circumstance, World War II. or the post-war period. For some participants, it was an emotional journey back in time.

To keep the conversation moving to new aspects of childhood, cards with inspiring questions were distributed around the table. The participants were invited to answer those questions that particularly appealed to them or about which they wanted to tell something.

Closing & sustainability 

To close the chat, we asked participants to describe their childhood in three terms or sentences. We also created a poster with quotes and contributions of participants to share the results of the storytelling café with other club visitors. Cards with inspiring questions about childhood were placed in the club to encourage further chatting (see Storybox).

Some examples of inspiring questions:

  • What did my parents’ house look like?
  • What was my relationship with my siblings as a child?
  • Which of my relatives did I like best as a child, and why?
  • What school experience have I never forgotten?
  • How was I brought up by my parents (and grandparents)?
  • Who encouraged me?
  • What longings and dreams did I have as a child?
  • What mementos do I still have from my childhood?
  • What rituals and habits were there in my family of origin that I have adopted for my own laying?
  • How much child is (still) in me today?