Some of Greater Manchester's most incredible pensioners have been brought together to tell their life stories.

From spending a night in the Tower of London to moving an entire family to Ethiopia, and picking up the pieces from a life started in wartime, life lessons from across the decades are all being shared in one place this winter.

Some of the participants in A Grand Life Heard have seen Greater Manchester change over the course of almost an entire century, including watching their Salford community being turned to rubble by developers.

The project, which comes from Heard Storytelling, will be taking over one of the sheds at Salford Quays soon.

Bill in Swinton, who spent a night in the Tower of London

As part of Box on the Docks' public art display, one of the sheds - which acted as dining pods in the summer months - will be decorated to resemble a grandparent's living room.

Once seated inside, visitors will be able to listen to recordings of the significant moments that these inspiring locals have chosen to share.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the recordings will also be made available online in a virtual art gallery at in the near future.

Wendy, who built a life in Ethiopia

The recordings and portraits have been taken in a safe way over lockdown, with entries still open for anyone with a tale to share.

Heard co-founders Colette Burroughs-Rose and Caroline Dyer recognised how isolating this year has been for elderly people, so wanted to give them a chance to connect with others.

One participant is Rosemary, a personal trainer, marathon-runner - and grandmother.

Rosemary went out on her first run in jeans and a t-shirt

At 70 years old, she admits that she used to find the idea of running 'mad', but was soon swept up in the fitness crazy of the mid-1980s.

Rosemary had four children under the age of five when she went on her first run.

She says: "I remember my first run very very clearly.  

"The twins were still breastfeeding so I came downstairs in the morning with t*ts like melons and I had to feed the twins.

"I didn't put on running gear because I didn't want to look idiotic if I had to stop halfway around, so I was just wearing ordinary jeans, t-shirt, didn't have a running bra - and you can imagine what that must have looked like if I was breastfeeding!

"I decided I would do a mile, that seemed like a sensible sort of distance to do, and I remember when I got back I felt awful.

"I was puce, my face was puce, my chest hurt, I was absolutely exhausted, and I thought 'Why, why would anybody do this'.

"But then, after I had recovered a bit, I started to feel quite good! I thought, 'Oooh, I ran a mile!'. And so I kept going."

Since then, after half a lifetime of running, Rosemary has joined a running club, and completed several marathons - including the London Marathon in 2003 and a marathon around Cape Wrath in north-west Scotland.

After retiring at 61 years old, she completed her personal training qualification.

She's tracked every step of the way in a running diary - she says: "I've kept a running diary from 1984 and I still keep it.

"People record stuff electronically but I have what I call my Stone-age Strava - which is a notebook and pencil! 

"I found one the other day, phwoar I was fast in 1985, I was fast then."

In her recorded story for Heard, she also said: "Over the years running has seen me through lots of happy times, sad times, divorce.

"There's never been a year where I haven't run - some years I've run more than others.

"During lockdown I went a bit mad and I got myself a Collie pup so he can run with me when he's older.

"Everything is to do with running now that I'm retired! I think I'm going to start doing ultras  - so that's anything over a marathon, probably about 35 miles.

"As you can see running has given me an awful lot. It's not just the running, it's all the stuff associated with running."

Box on the Docks at MediaCityUK

And has she slowed down since becoming a grandmother? That would be a no.

Rosemary says: "If you were to ask me what my proudest moment in running has been, I would have to say it's being beaten.

"On Christmas Day 2017 I ran ParkRun with my 10-year-old granddaughter and she beat me, comprehensively.

"Never was there a prouder nanny. And that, folks, is running."

94-year-old Les has seen almost a century of change in Manchester

Other participants in the project include 94-year-old Les, born in Salford and reflecting on almost a century in Greater Manchester.

There's also Phyllis, whose parents moved from Russia to Britain hoping to find the freedom to practice Judaism. She shares her memories of the second world war as well as the tricks her brother used to play on her.


Moss Side's Patsy McKie has also lent her voice, as co-founder of Moss Side’s Mothers Against Violence, which she started after the tragic death of her son Dorrie in 1999.

Colette said: "The impact of the Covid-19 crisis has been particularly difficult for older people, as many have had to shield from the outside world.

"Against this backdrop of increasing isolation, we wanted to collect and share these important voices to bring people together to listen to each other’s lived experiences.

"The power of true storytelling and its ability to create community and connection is more important than ever in these uncertain times."

Box on the Docks hopes to welcome visitors in person when restrictions ease.

All the artworks in its new season will be uploaded to a virtual gallery at