Belfast Telegraph

Pensioners illustrate how age is no barrier to art

Arts Care, the Northern Ireland arts and health charity, showcased the talent that was discovered during its recent Creative Age Festival at a prestigious finale event at Belfast City Hall last week.

The festival, which ran from April to June 2010, saw older participants from health and social care centres across Belfast take part in a series of arts workshops to develop new skills.

The scheme was designed to foster a sense of shared experience and celebrate the diversity in each other's lives.

Lorna Hastings, Arts Care director, spoke of the variety of artistic events participants were able to join in.

“The art festival took place in five healthcare facilities across Belfast, incorporating hospital, day care and residential services.

“Visual, literary and performing arts workshops were offered in each facility comprising silk painting, dance, music and creative writing.

“Almost 350 participants took part in over 35 workshops,” she said.

The finale, at Belfast City Hall, featured a short film about the recent Creative Age Festival and a dance performance by participants. An exhibition of the visual artwork created during the workshops and a number of musical performances also comprised the grand finale.

May Hodgen, from Meadowlands, Musgrave Park Hospital, was one of those who enjoyed taking part.

“I have loved doing all this art and the music and dance,” she said.

“It reminds me that I still have so much to give, and how much life I have in me. It's been great to have fun and to learn about each other,” the pensioner added.

Cheryl Bleakley, an Arts Care artist-in-residence, commented on the benefits of the scheme for the willing, elderly participants.

“The festival demonstrates how the different art forms can be used as a tool to engage older people with their community,” she said.

“It also works to encourage them to make their voices heard through artistic expression.

“Throughout the project, it was evident that participants gained an enhanced sense of wellbeing as a result of their shared learning experiences and achievements,” added the artist.

Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “The Arts Council part funded the Creative Age Festival as an important part of our wider programme of support for arts-led opportunities that address the creative and social needs of older people today.”

Financial support from the Arts Council, National Lottery, Northern Bank and Arts Care project funds made this project viable.

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