Bev Wilkinson – founder of Celebrate Living History

Bev Wilkinson is the founder of Celebrate Living History; a not-for-profit focused on connecting generations through documenting the stories of seniors.

With a background in journalism and public relations, she has used her skills to create an internship program that not only provides a portfolio for students, but a way to connect the generations through storytelling.

Bev has learnt a lot from listening to stories from seniors and feels it is very important for future generations to follow in her footsteps. She explains:

“For me it’s very important to cherish these stories and make a senior feel like a star,” she said, “I personally love working with university students and seniors, its such a generation gap but its so beautiful to see that it doesn’t matter how old you are, it really is who you are on the inside.”

Currently Bev is studying aged care, which has helped to form the desire to create a socialisation program with retirement villages.

It’s interesting to see the other side of the coin; I believe Celebrate Living History has the potential to add so much joy in a nursing home. I have so many ideas, but as one wise person said take the world step by step and eventually you will climb that mountain.

Celebrate Living History is located in Frankston Victoria but has students internationally and from all over Victoria and the Gold Coast thanks to Swinburne University and Griffith University. @Celebratelivhis facebook


Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

The idea for Celebrate Living History started when I created an exhibition showcasing the stories of Frankston seniors. While doing an interview with a senior, I thought it would be sad if these stories never had the opportunity to be heard within the community.

I realised that some seniors are socially isolated and Celebrate Living History would be a good way to get the seniors talking and meeting other people.

I ended up flying up to the Gold Coast and pitched the idea of a student internship program to my old teacher Professor Stephen Stockwell. He said yes and this formed the very beginning of Celebrate Living History.

If there is anything I have learnt, it is how important it is for a senior to socialise, as it improves their quality of life so much. Just taking time out to hang with a senior means so much to them, everyone should feel important.


Please explain your business model.

Celebrate Living History started as an initiative that was mainly self funded and worked on by myself. I initially relied on work from other sources to get Celebrate Living History up and going.

We originally started with in-kind sponsors such as Bat Design in Frankston who supported us with the design of the Frankston book, logo and Facebook banner.

Also, Tax After Hours assisted us with both legal and accounting matters.

Currently we are looking at creating corporate sponsorship and advertising packages for the website.

We have also applied for the Local History Grant, to assist in the creation of a book made by students and starring the senior’s stories.

Other avenues for funding include membership, donations and grants.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months? 

We have just started a Celebrate Living History youth committee; I am so excited to have some fresh ideas in the mix.

The committee consists of students from Swinburne University and we are looking to expand to include students from other universities, so we can create events, workshops and educational activities to suit both seniors and students.

We will also be showing the Celebrate Living History of Frankston exhibition once again at Cube 37 at the Frankston Arts Centre in October.

It will be exciting to showcase all these wonderful stories and interviews within a community environment again.

How do you make ideas happen?

I think the passion to make my dream a reality is what drove Celebrate Living History to this point, and then a lot of hard work to make it happen.

Prior to Celebrate Living History, I had no idea about social enterprise or even how to run a not-for-profit.

I volunteered at conferences so I could learn from the best and networked with people in the know to get good hints and tips. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve read about social enterprise, business, not-for-profits and seniors!

I really had to get out of my comfort zone and learn how to pitch my idea to universities and especially to those who do not know me.

I’m still constantly learning; to gain respect and to move forward you really have to know your industry inside and out.


What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

If I had known how hard it would be to create an organisation in the first place, I think I would have been hesitant about diving in!

Because we had no funding at the start, I pretty much had to do everything myself, a lot of hair pulling was involved and the scream of, “I don’t know what this means”, was quite common!

Now that we have a strong foundation ready for 2014, it makes it easier to move forward.

I’ve realised if I need help, all I need to do is ask.

What piece of advice you are willing to give away for free?

If you have a dream, no matter how big it is you have to go for it. Life is short and is not meant for regrets. Work hard, think big and the rest will fall into place.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

Ted X

I am constantly inspired by these amazing talks.

IMDb biography site

I admire Ita Buttrose she is such a strong and powerful woman.

ABC Radio – Life Matters

I’ve just read Patricia Edgar’s book and it’s brilliant, definitely made me think more about how intelligent seniors are.

Name 3 accounts we should follow on Twitter.

Ita Buttrose

The Fetch Melbourne

RMIT socent

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We are looking for business, journalism, photography and social enterprise students who would be keen on assisting a not-for-profit from the ground up.

Celebrate Living History is like a real-life university project. I started out not knowing anything but through trial and error I have made the organisation into what it is today.

We are also looking for funding from corporations who would be interested in advertising on our website, book and events.

We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?

The first Celebrate Living History book, which features the interviews I did for the Frankston exhibition.

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