Written by Florence Remmer

Voices

Life begins at 80

On International Day of Older Persons, we asked our very favourite 83-year-old Florence Remmer to talk about finding her vocation in her ninth decade.

Florence playing a judge.

Florence playing a judge.

When I was a young girl I wanted to be an actress but, like most working-class families in the early post-war years, my family was poor so when I was 14 I went to work in the Bradford mills.

Back then there were no outlets for a child in the acting world but once, when I was 16, I borrowed a beret, made myself look decent and went down to town to the Playhouse, to try my luck.

I saw a man sweeping the steps there and I asked him: “Do you need any actresses, mister?” How naïve I was. Naturally, he said no and waved me away.

When I returned home and told my dad, he hit me and told me it was no place for the likes of us and that acting was just for the upper classes.

I stayed in the mills until I was 20 then I married a regular soldier and led the life of an army wife.

I had three children, all born in different parts of the world (Accra, Germany and Bahrain) and life really took over so there was no time then for my early passion. My time and years were spent on housework and raising children and grandchildren. I was suddenly an old lady: too old, I thought, for thoughts of acting.

In 2013, just after my 80th birthday, my soulmate, the very love of my life, the man who owned my heart died. I went into complete decline and nothing could coax me out. My sister, in desperation, spotted an advert in the local paper, which said The Freedom Studio in Bradford was looking for elderly local folk to take part in a play.

“I wasn’t prepared for how my voice rose to the occasion. It rose of its own accord like that was what it was meant to do all my life.”

The play was called Home Sweet Home and centred on life in a care home. I was so thrilled to be offered a part. The cast was made up of about nine professional actors and eight amateurs. I played the part of a feisty old lady who was divorced, had gone internet dating and was having the hottest sex of her life. I learned my lines readily and was in my element. I put my heart and soul into it and eventually emerged from the abyss.

I wasn’t prepared for how my voice rose to the occasion. It rose of its own accord like that was what it was meant to do all my life. The play received excellent press reviews and the Guardian described me as “the irrepressible Remmer”.

Florence with other Freedom Studio cast members.

Florence with other Freedom Studio cast members.

I even went on BBC Breakfast to talk about it so I got my big screen moment after all. It was a dream come true and something the 14-year-old me could never have imagined.

I am still a member of the Bradford Freedom Studio and we elderly ones go by the name of Thursday Thespians. In July this year we gave a performance celebrating the Magna Carta in Bradford City Hall. I played a prosecutor and I loved every second of it.

Later this month I am involved in a flashmob event in Bradford (for which I have been given another raucous part) and I have been doing radio interviews about that. And as for what’s next, if there are any directors reading, I would love to be in a Victorian or Edwardian melodrama *polishes ear trumpet*.

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Written by Florence Remmer

Florence Remmer is 83 and likes being a mum, poetry, acting, science and 3D printers. She dislikes knitting, ironing, arguing and running.