Unfolding the fabric of life.

The Return, Life Story Theatre with veterans, families and the local community, 2019.

On a Saturday evening in 2006, the founders of Re-Live, Karin Diamond and Alison O’Connor, co-created their first theatre performance with a group of seven older people. The performers brought their life journeys to the stage by recounting memories of personal significance. Against a background of older generations’ underrepresentation in the arts, the show stepped up as a beacon of hope, inspiring the inception of Re-Live. “I’m going home and bringing my mother,” said one spectator at the end of the performance.

Since that evening, and for the past 16 years, the Cardiff-based organisation has been dedicated to the presentation of Life Story theatre and performances in collaboration with older adults, people with dementia, and military veterans. These communities are frequently confronted with a stark reality of marginalisation and exclusion, which stifles their voice and limits their ability to express and communicate. Re-Live aims to empower people to be heard by providing them with the skills and opportunities they need, rather than simply giving them a voice.

Reclaiming life stories

At the heart of the organisation’s approach lies the concept of ‘Life Story’, a powerful tool that encourages individuals to reclaim and celebrate their personal experiences, memories, and pivotal events that have shaped their lives. Starting with performance-based training in autobiographical groups, Re-Live and members of the community embark on a journey of self-discovery. This process allows them to delve into the rich and unique qualities and textures that make up their pasts. The result is a theatrical experience unlike any other, where the script is not simply written, but woven into the fabric of the community’s lives.

Life Story Arts can transform trauma, bust personal and societal taboos, amplify incredible ideas, and reveal new perspectives on past experiences that help us shape new stories about ourselves and the world around us.
Karin Diamond, Re-Live’s Artistic Director

To reminisce is also to enhance life. As such, the work of Re-Live doesn’t stop once the curtains close. “The theatre process is a building process,” says Karin. It’s a journey of growth, where the performers use memories as powerful storytelling tools to bring personal catharsis and closure. And the audience gets to be a part of this transformative experience, becoming a witness to these moving stories.

Top of FormMore recently, Re-Live expanded beyond theatre and performance to co-create the comic book Coming Home. This powerful and moving portrayal sheds light on the hidden struggles that many veterans face after leaving the military.

Jeannette Carter in Memoria, part of Life Story Theatre with people living with dementia and families, with, 2014.

Performing my story changed how I looked at myself. I no longer saw myself as a victim.
Terri Morrow, ‘Life-Story’ performer

A lighthouse for training, research and the art of growing old

Today the field of arts and wellbeing is experiencing a newfound excitement, as more and more people recognise the possibilities of the arts to heal and transform lives. In this context, Re-Live aims to promote a preventative approach that encourages social care and government officials to prioritise the arts in civic society.  The organisation is also in the process of writing ‘Co-creating Life Story Theatre’, a handbook to guide practitioners of the field, set to be published in 2025.

Building on its past and present work, Re-Live aspires to be a lighthouse for artistic practice, training, and research across Wales so that it can continue to inspire the ‘art of growing old’.


By Maria Danai Parlamas Pertejo, King’s College London Cultural & Creative Industries MA.

Other case studies
Updated on 20 march 2023

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