Jemma and Gracy’s love story started in December 2015. Mid way through an MA in Visual Anthropology at the Granada Centre at the University of Manchester Jemma was obsessed with the everyday lives of the elderly in urban environments and proving that Anthropology wasn’t something just reserved for people of faraway lands. After (accidentally, sort of) breaking into the sheltered accommodation complex of Victoria Square in Ancoats she befriended some residents and began returning to brews galore. After starting up a problem laden photo elicitation project (dementia throws up a whole host of ethical issues FYI) she was introduced to the community gardener, and that gardener was Gracy.
Walking into a smoke-filled-tinsel-sparkling-fairy-light-palace-rotating-Christmas-tree-vodka den Jemma knew that this human was something pretty spectacular.
Fast forward 9 months and Jemma and Gracy had spent countless hours, vodka vimtos, B&Q runs, laughs, lows and life chats together. Gracy wasn’t a subject to be used and discarded at the end of the project, he was now a friend. This deep ethnographic approach through studying Anthropology alongside being a one-woman film team led to a level of trust that otherwise would have been difficult to acquire.
A Dame’s Tale demonstrates that themes of ageing, illness and wellbeing might not always be experienced in ways we might think. Addressing universal themes of life, death and illness it follows his (sometimes outrageous!) unexpected tales of past, present and future through frocks, flowers and fireworks.
UPDATE: Jemma doesn’t mind the probable liver damage and secondary smoke inhalation issues and crippling debt that resulted from the project, she’s honoured to have got his story out. Gracy has now won Outstanding/Gold awards at the RHS awards for the past 2 years, has overcome pneumonia an additional 5 times in 2017 and continues to fight the fight!