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Rebel Elders – An Intergenerational Perfromance Project – Ballarat

16 April 2015

“The performance itself was the most interesting act of rebellion and the incredible people within it defied all labelling. They were real.” [Real Time Magazine, Dec 2014]

Rebel Elders involved eight Ballarat residents (aged 71-93) and ten young musicians including a pianist, a grunge guitarist and some hip hop artists.

One aim was to disprove ideas revealed in the Human Rights Commission (2013) about the negative image of elderly people in the media who are often portrayed as dull, sick, grumpy or boring.

I wanted to focus on stories that people might not expect to hear from our elder folk – daring stories about risk taking and adventures.  I was honoured to be welcomed into the homes of all elders and greatly appreciated their generosity in answering my questions.  The result was a collection of audio pieces including tales of stealing petrol; being chased by bulls; and running away to Tasmania, aged fourteen (for five whole years!).

The musicians then listened carefully and chose stories they related to.  They wrote thoughtful and inspiring music to emphasis the moods.  These stories and music formed the soundtrack for a movement based performance by the elders who rehearsed with a director/choreographer for an intense month.  Despite the elders lack of performance experience, a professionally executed show was presented.  Some of them surprised themselves with their own ability and confidence and certainly surprised the audience. Fancy seeing an elder playing air guitar to a screeching distorted electric guitar track!

Rebel Elders will continue in 2015 with a music/video collaborative project.

Vic, aged 93: “It’s quite an experience for me, some people would be not game enough to do it. It’s really an eye opener for me. I’ve got an urge to keep going!”

More info at:


Rebel Elders was supported by the City of Ballarat (Positive Ageing) and Victoria Seniors Festival.

Rose Turtle Ertler is a musician/sound designer and community arts facilitator/artist currently based in Maldon, Central Victoria. She has composed and performed music for numerous theatre productions in Australia and Europe and has been involved in many musical and theatre collaborations over the last twenty five years. Rose instigates community arts projects which usually involve interviewing participants about particular themes and she is also very interested in bringing different age groups together to challenge any stereotypes that our society has about our elder folk.

Rose loves listening to people’s stories and is regularly surprised at people’s generosity and willingness to tell her their personal tales. She believes it to be a privilege and an honour to be at the listening end of such amazing stories.

Photo from Rebel Elders
Photo from Rebel Elders
Photo from Rebel Elders
Photo from Rebel Elders