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Author: Arts Council of Northern Ireland
Published on 01 March 2012 11:30 AM

The Arts and Older People Programme is a pioneering, Northern Ireland-wide initiative of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, developed in partnership with The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The programme was set up to increase opportunities for older people to engage with the arts. It achieves this by providing funding to arts-based projects that address related social issues such as poverty, isolation and loneliness, as well as promoting positive mental health.

The three-year programme was established in 2010 with a total budget of £700,000. More than 30 awards have been given out so far by the Arts Council to community groups, voluntary groups and arts organisations.

The range of arts-based activities funded by the programme is extremely diverse, and encompasses all art forms, from painting and crafts and filmmaking, to poetry, storytelling, music, carnival, circus, song and dance.

The Arts and Older People Programme vision is to ‘Strengthen the voice of Older People through the Arts’.

  • The Arts and Older People Programme uses the arts as a tool to tackle and highlight social justice issues older people face on a daily basis
  • The programme challenges ageism and prejudice by encouraging older people to be creative and participate in the arts.
  • Participating in arts events can help to overcome social exclusion as well as feelings of isolation and loneliness often experienced by older people.
  • Arts activity has the power to raise self esteem, confidence and motivation and can have a positive effect on a person’s well being.
  • The programme contributes to building a fair and inclusive society. It is being rolled out across Northern Ireland, including the most disadvantaged, marginalized and deprived areas.

Some examples of projects funded to date:

Carn Media- Stepping Back in Time

The Stepping Back in Time project, developed by Carn Media, began in October. Over the coming months, residents of Ballinascreen Fold in Draperstown will be working in partnership with pupils from St. Eoghan’s and St Mary’s primary schools to produce a series of art projects documenting the history, culture and customs of the local area.

The project will have a number of elements to it. A DVD will be produced, drawing together interviews with old Super-8 footage and photographs to document the history of the area. Children from the local primary school will also be making a short animated film explaining what they have learned through the project.

A book will also be produced containing stories, poems and illustrations based on local history and the children’s impression of what the area will be like in the future years.  The final element will be the creation of a new wall mural for St. Mary’s and St. Eoghan’s, celebrating community life and the relationships forged as a direct result of the scheme.

Workshops will be facilitated by Mark Quinn and Declan Carville.  The project is due for completion in early Spring 2012.

Upper Springfield Development Trust – Engage in Art Age

Engage in Art Age, a project developed by Upper Springfield Development Trust, was set up to increase the quality of life for older people living in the area by creatively exploring and addressing  what it means to grow old in West Belfast.

Groups took part in a range of arts activities, culminating in a creative showcase. The event was held at Andersonstown Barracks in October and was officially opened by Councillor Paul Maskey and Arts and Older People Ambassador Olivia Nash MBE.

The work produced by older members of the local community, included handcrafted sculpture using wax, knitting, and crochet. A limited edition book was also produced as result of creative writing workshops, giving older participants a voice to creatively express their views on some of the social issues which affect their lives every day.

The artists, writers and storytellers were Brenda Murphy, Pam Brighton, Charlotte Bosanquet, Bronagh Diamond, Julie Millar, Joy Gray, Sam Walklett, Pauline Holland, Conor McGrath and Rachel Devenney.

Call for Applications

Application forms and guidelines for the programme are now online at or contact the Arts & Older People Community Development Officer (weekday mornings only) on 028 90385200, email

Closing date: Thursday 15 March 2012 at 4pm

Information Session:

Monday 5 March 2012
10am – 12 noon
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
77 Malone Road, Belfast

Please register your attendance at the information sessions by contacting Emma Dargan on 028 90385200 or by e-mail

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575