Art at the heART of Health.

Welcome to the 2015 “Here and Now” Older People’s Festival!

It is now the third year of the festival and we are incredibly excited to get started after an extended planning period. Over the next few months we will be delivering creative workshops in visual art, dance, jewellery making, photography, sculpture and crafts to around 3,000 older people in up to 75 host organisations. The workshops will be facilitated across all five Health and Social Care Trust from cities to towns to villages and in community centres, residential care homes, village halls and the occasional hair-dressers.

As with last year, the RIPE exhibition for older people over the age of 60 who have never staged a solo exhibition before will be launched on the 14th of January at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. The exhibition will run until the 24th of January before being moved to the Ulster Hall for another three week run. Please watch this space for further details of the exhibition and any for opportunities for it to tour outside of Belfast.

We will also be launching our service user exhibition, “In Full Bloom” in April to showcase all of the work which will have been produced throughout the life of the festival. Our performance-based showcase, Aloud, Allowed, Aloud,  will also be pirouetting across a stage near you in the coming months. Again, watch this space for more details of both events over the coming weeks.



Wednesday 18th February

Bronagh Corr-McNicholl Cuts a Creative Swathe Across the North-west

Our Western Trust Artist in Residence, Bronagh Corr-McNicholl, is always a busy lady and now even more so with her huge input into the “Here and Now” festival. In addition to her regular Arts Care residency, Bronagh will be facilitating four separate projects, two with her fellow-artist husband, Justyn.

“Memory Map” is a large-scale textile based project which uses photos, transfer papers, ink, stitching and creative writing to create a collaborative “memory map” of places throughout Derry and the north-west of the province, inspired by personal events. Bronagh will be taking this project to the Waterside Hospital in March, no doubt with fabulous results.

In the meantime, Bronagh has been overseeing printmaking at the Derry Print Workshop with members of the Brandywell and Bogside’s Men’s Group and some of their wives and partners. The participants have been rendering images of the city into print, some that were brought with them and others which were sourced, inspired by familiar landmarks. One service user, Frank, had served with the Royal Navy on the SS Uganda during the Falklands War. He was delighted when Bronagh was able to source a picture of the steamship online and even more so when he was able to produce a beautifully cut image to take home with him. Other images created included a sewing machine from a lady who had spent her working life in a sewing factory and a rather grand family Coat of Arms from a gentleman service user. In all, a very productive four days.

The last two projects, which Bronagh will be co-facilitating in March with Justyn, are “Bowl of Plenty” and “Outside the Box”. These projects will involve creating sculptural pieces for display in the “In Full Bloom” exhibition in March. For “Outside the Box”, participants will create cubes representing aspects of their lives, whether it be love, work, family, play or soul, which then be composited to produce one large artwork. “Bowl of Plenty” will teach service users how to create bowls from balloon moulds which will then be decorated with fabric, buttons, pictures or tissue paper. Each participant will create mini envelopes containing words, expressions or memories which make them feel happy. The envelopes will then be put into each bowl, creating a “lucky dip” of happiness whenever the owner retrieves an envelope to read.

A very busy schedule? Absolutely, but we have every confidence that Bronagh will pull it all off with her customary enthusiasm and calm, collected manner. The Here and Now service users of Derry are certainly in for a treat.

Sunday 15th February

New Blog Post and Gallery

Nancy2Our artists have  been sending in information at a rate of knots on their workshops so here is a mini update (please click on the workshop titles to access the blog):

Cheryl Bleakley has been producing some gorgeous work with her group in Owenvale Court Residential Home in Belfast for their project entitled “Alive”. The older people are in the process of producing a sculptural piece which explores their thoughts around feeling truly alive in the here and now.

Patricia Lavery and Clare McComish are in Lisburn with a group of ladies from Women’s Aid. “Taking Flight” attemptsADSC_0735 to empower the participants to let go of past experiences and the project has already produced some beautiful imagery.

Ciara O’Malley is helping a group of ex-prisoners from Sandy Row to explore the old and new identities of their area through a really interesting photography project entitled “Self”. The group have never been able to explore the creative medium of photography before and have learnt a great deal during their time with Ciara. In addition to the blog, a gallery can be found here.


Wednesday 11th February

Let’s Make an Opera I – Ulster Museum, Belfast

8HD_7638Last week saw the first performance from “Let’s Make an Opera” at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Facilitators Elaine Agnew and Charmaine McBride have been working with an intergenerational group of primary school children and older people from supported housing units in the Belfast HSC Trust to create a movement and vocal based performance showcase.

After weeks of hard work from participants, the performance debuted in the foyer of the museum on Tuesday 3rd February. The showcase was attended by many members of the public along with Arts Care CEO and Artistic Director, Jenny Elliott and Arts Care General Manager, Janine Walker. Jenny commented, “It really is wonderful to see such fabulous artistic interaction between two generations who are learning to find their creative voice. The “Let’s Make an Opera” project is such a wonderful opportunity to see the benefit of creative collaboration between young and older people and the enthusiasm shown by both groups has been equally infectious and inspiring.”8HD_7727

The next phase of the project will culminate in another showcase performance at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Omagh on 25th February. The performance is open to the public and we would like to encourage as many people as possible to attend. For further information please contact Rachael at or keep checking this site for updates. A full gallery from last week’s event can be found here.

Arts Care would like to thank Ruth Osbourne and Briege McClean at National Museums Northern Ireland for their help and support in organising and staging the events.


Tuesday 10th February

Feedback from “Thinking with your Hands” at Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry

gwens030215image23comWe have already reported on Gwen Stevenson’s series of workshops at Daisy Hill hospital in our blog. We have now added a second instalment to Gwen’s adventures in Newry, and we’ve updated the gallery here, but there has been so much fantastic feedback from service users that we thought that we’d share a little bit more of it:

“Can’t believe how this is all coming together! It’s amazing.” – Rosie

“I think I’ve found my calling!” – James

“This (workshop session) really takes your mind off everything.” – Jim

“It was very relaxing and therapeutic.” – Jane

“It really got the creative juices flowing!” – Pauline


Sunday 8th February

Gallery and Blog Updates

We’re just past the halfway point of the 2015 Here and Now festival so, just in case anyone has missed any of the regular website updates, here is a brief handy guide to what our faithful web editor/minion has been feverishly beavering away at lately:

We have blogs covering some of the workshops which have already taken place including; “From Home” with Michelle Moloney at Bruce House Residential Home in Belfast; “The Heart of the Rose” with Charmaine McBride and a selection of poems from “You are My Sunshine” with Michelle Garvey at Melmount Residential Unit in Strabane.

In the gallery, there are some wonderful images from the “Resonance” workshops with Deirdre McKay and Helen Bradbury in Antrim Day Care Centre and Rosedale Residential Home in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. There are also new images from a performance at Clifton Nursing Home with leading Irish composer, Elaine Agnew and a group of 3rd Year Medical Students from Queens University, Belfast.

There has also been a bit of a tidy up of older media. The gallery from the last two years of the Here and Now festival has also been archived into a separate section which can be accessed via “Archived Media” on the menu bar above. Films from the previous years can be found here.


Castlederg Dance Rehearsals with Carmel Garvey

IMG_0434Dancer Carmel Garvey has been overseeing the first rehearsals in Castlederg for the groups with which she has been working as part of her series of “Old Time Music” workshops. The intention is to create a dance piece telling the story of the Red River Valley and the history of the castle, the bridges and the flowing Derg River.

We will keep you updated on Carmel’s progress but other images from the rehearsals can be found here.


Thursday 29th January

Poetry from Strabane

As reported in the Blog section, writer Michelle Garvey has been working with older people at Melmount Nursing Home in Strabane as part of her “You are My Sunshine” poetry workshops. Michelle asked the participants to use “Magic Keys” to bring them to a special place in the past or in their imagination and the results of that inspiration can be found here in the blog section. In the meantime, here are a few more:

My Street

By Rita

My street, Ebrington Street –

Where my home lies.

I’m safe on my street.

The fire lights up the room

My daughter and friends

Making tea, chattin’ and listenin’ away.



By Margo

See all of my family and friends and

All the big shopping stores

Smell the expensive perfume

The big sun beats down on my skin as

I walk through the streets

See the big towers

Meeting the rest of my family reminds me of my old friends.


Thursday 22nd January

Feedback from “Resonance” – a series of music and visual art workshops facilitated by Helen Bradbury and Deirdre McKay

As reported in the Blog section of this website, Helen and Deirdre are currently making their way through the Northern HSC Trust area with a series of workshops which combine visual art and music to encourage a safe and tranquil environment for service users to explore their creativity.

Some of the feedback that we have been receiving from the workshops has been so positive and lovely that we thought that we should share it as what better advocacy for the festival than some of the joyful expressions below:

“I only came today ‘cause we were doing this – I felt very tired, but I came for this.”

“I wanted to thank yous for what yous are doing … it’s doing me good. I was trying to put it on that (the canvas) – just marvellous what’s yous are doing.”

“Oh I feel good!”

“I felt very relaxed. I have dementia. Yes, I really have!”

“All the worries on your head seem to go on the turn of the (Tibetan singing) bowl”

“It’s lovely – the bells will be in my dreams.”

“Being in the company, in the little group, it’s lovely, rather than the television on.”

Helen asked the group if they had one word to sum up the morning, what would it be? “Love. I’d say love, a morning of love.”

“It’s done me good – my mind and my heart would race and I’d be very anxious and my mind is clear and my heart is clear. I feel like a fairy! It’s done me good. Yous are like two angels coming in. I feel all light, like a fairy, leaving now.”

(Helen asking): “How do you feel?” (service user) “Not bad.” “Are you comfortable?” “I am!” – a conversation with a participant who habitually runs down what she creates. This week, this was her sharing; no self-criticism of her own work. What a significant step. Wonderful.


Upcoming Events to Look Out For

Not all of the Here and Now festival involves creative workshops with service users. Here are some of the public events which you can enjoy:

Making an Opera 1 – Ulster Museum, Belfast – Tuesday 3rd February

Making an Opera 2 – Ulster American Folk Museum, Omagh – Wednesday 25th February

We are delighted to be partnering with National Museums of Northern Ireland in a unique inter-generational music project which will use the artefacts and stories of both museums to generate creative ideas in song and movement for older people. The participative workshops with culminate in two choir performances,  staged at the heart of each museum: in the foyer of the Ulster Museum and the Emmigrant Ship and Dockside Exhibition at the Ulster American Folk Park.

Big Snowball – Knockbracken Healthcare Park, Belfast, Thursday 5th March

Arts Care Musician in Residence, Brendan Popplestone, will be completing his run of music workshops with his annual Big Snowball performance showcase at Knockbracken Hall in Knockbracken Healthcare Park. This will be the third showcase that Brendan has staged and will feature service users and groups from the workshops who will enjoy an afternoon of music and dance.

Aloud, Allowed, Aloud – Strule Arts Centre, Omagh – Tuesday 3rd March

This performance showcase will bring together all of the performance activity from across Northern Ireland and promises to be a grand finale which will provide a platform for the creative voices of older people to be heard. Local and visiting choirs will be part of this event as well as stunning dance pieces by older people’s groups.

RIPE Exhibition – Ulster Hall, Belfast – Wednesday 4th – Friday 27th March

For the second year, the Ulster Hall has extended an invitation to enable the next stage of the RIPE exhibition to be showcased at this fantastic city centre venue. Arts Care is delighted with this ongoing partnership which offers the opportunity for the Here and Now festival artwork to be shown to the wider general public. Look out for the RIPE exhibition as it tours up to the Northwest to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry/Londonderry later this year.

In Full Bloom – Venue and Date TBC, Belfast

One of the most celebratory events of the festival will be the In Full Bloom end of festival art exhibition. The exhibition will feature up to 100 artworks created by service users throughout the five health and social care trust areas over the course of the festival. Some of the artwork will also be for sale from the exhibition. Please contact for further information.

Make an Opera 1

One very special project taking place during the festival is “Make an Opera 1” which will take place in the foyer of the Ulster Museum, Belfast. The project will bring older people from supported housing units and young children from primary schools together to explore some of the exhibits and stories at in the museum. The stories and themes that will form the basis of this interactive, cultural well-being project will be the inspiration for a short opera, created by the project participants and aided by composer Elaine Agnew and drama facilitator Charmaine McBride. Together the children and young people will perform the mini opera in the heart of the museum on 3rd February 2015.

Arts Care CEO and Artistic Director, Dr Jenny Elliott, commented “This is one of the many exciting Here & Now projects that will take place between January and March across Northern Ireland. The ‘Making Opera 1’ project offers young children and the older people an opportunity to visit the museum together, some perhaps for the first time. The festival is really about enhancing older people’s well-being through quality arts engagement and Arts Care is delighted to be partnering the Ulster Museum in this life-enhancing project. What has struck me has been the curiosity of the young children and the ease with which they encourage the older people to join in the music, drama and song-writing. It is an ambitious project but having skilled facilitators Elaine and Charmaine on board will make this an ‘opera’  not to be missed!”

The “Make an Opera 1” performance will be open to the public so please feel free to come down to the Ulster Museum on the 3rd of February to listen to the opera and support the Here and Now Festival.


Wednesday 21st January

Musical Performance at Clifton Nursing Home, Belfast

1Website5The residents of Clifton Nursing home in Belfast were in for a treat today when they were visited by musician Elaine Agnew, Arts Care CEO and Artistic Director Jenny Elliott and a large group of Queens University third-year medical students. The visit was to provide the older people with a musical performance and hopefully have some of them participate in the singing.

1Website8Elaine Agnew got proceedings off to an enthusiastic start as she led the room in a sing-a-long of popular musical theatre tunes. The medical students then stepped into the fray with a group piece followed by several solo renditions by vocalist Ruby, accompanied by Connor on the keyboard. We have been incredibly fortunate each year of the medical students’ module that most of the participants have had some sort of musical interest or ability (last year’s group even formed their own choir off the back of their Arts Care experience!) and this year was no exception with Ruby, Anna and Connor’s musical expertise very much on show and the rest of the group enthusiastically throwing themselves into proceedings.

All it takes is a skilled arts facilitator, supportive staff and critical funding to truly enhance the quality of life of older people in residential care. The Here and Now festival is creating an exciting culture, feeding into residential care settings and supported housing where there is a great hunger for music, song, dance and art. This is why it is vital that arts funding is not reduced and that we, all of us, support our artists throughout the province as they go into these critical areas of need.

RIPE Exhibition Launch

The Here and Now RIPE Exhibition opened at the Crescent Arts Centre last Wednesday (14th January) to great aclaim. The event was attended by many of Arts Care’s valued supporters and advocates including Tony Stevens, CEO of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust; Mairtin O’Muilleoir, former Mayor of Belfast and Sinn Fein MLA; Professor Tim Dornan from Queens University, Belfast; Chris Totten from the Public Health Agency and Arts Council of Northern Ireland Arts Development Officers Lizzie Devlin and Lorraine Calderwood.1Website2

The exhibition was officially opened by Arts Care Chair Bob Ferguson and Chris Totten, who noted that it was fantastic that the exhibition was so successful in its first year to enable it to run for a second year. The level of professionalism and artistic talent was even higher this year with both visual art and sculptural exhibitions on show, a testament to the many hours dedicated to their completion.

The exhibition was also well attended by service users from residential care facilities, there to see some of their own pieces on show, and looking forward to the impending visits from Arts Care artists in the coming months to facilitate arts workshops in their centres. It was obvious from the faces of the visitors from Sydenham Court residential care home that there was a great deal of pride and achievement in seeing their artwork exhibited in such a professional setting.

Website31Also present were some of the medical students from Queens University, Belfast currently in the middle of their arts in health module with Arts Care. The students, Ruby, Anna and Connor, performed a vocal, flute and keyboard piece to an appreciative audience. Queens University and Arts Care have a 15 year partnership and the medical students’ module is now in its fifth year. Twice a year, third-year medical students come to Arts Care to learn about arts in health and its place alongside clinical medicine. They will have the opportunity to not only take part in creative workshops and performances but to interact with service users in a way which goes beyond any clinical engagement that they will experience throughout the course of their careers. Most of the students will be profoundly affected by their time with Arts Care and this will in turn inform their own practice and bedside manner once they qualify.

Artist Liz Loughridge was the first lucky artist to sell their art-work during the exhibition opening – two of her watercolours entitled “Roundstone Donegal” and “Winter Cottage” were snapped up and we hope that there will be many more to follow.

The RIPE exhibition will finish at the Crescent Arts Centre on the 24th of January but will re-launch at the Ulster Hall on the 4th of March. Anyone wishing to purchase any pieces after the completion of the exhibition on the 28th of March should contact Amanda Turnbull at


Tuesday 13th January

We are now almost two weeks into the Here and Now festival, with the programme of events unfolding at a rapid rate as Project Coordinator, Janine Walker and Project Administrator, Rachel Kelly settle in to juggle a very busy schedule – managing the facilitation of workshops, planning new content and trying to shoehorn in as many groups as possible to meet the overwhelming demand that we’ve had for workshops.

Whilst this is fantastic and irrefutable evidence of the impact of the festival since its inception two years ago, it is literally a white knuckle ride for all of the staff involved as they deliver in the space of two months what is becoming one of the most in-demand festivals of creative engagement for older people in Northern Ireland.

So what is on the menu for this year? For those of you who would like to see the story so far, a blog has just been published here detailing the initial workshops of dynamic music/visual art duo, Helen Bradbury and Deirdre McKay who are currently galloping through the Northern HSC Trust.

For a more detailed overview, a programme for the entire festival can be found here. Whilst the majority of the content has now been confirmed, there will be regular updates to refine dates and locations of workshops, plus any new workshops that may become available, so please keep checking for those details.

As for the workshops themselves… the delights on offer in the coming months include:

“Musical Snowball” – Musician-in-residence, Brendan Popplestone (with new partner-in-crime Seamus Ó Labhradha), returns for a third year with his musical juggernaut which aims to engage older people in musical workshops, culminating in a showcase performance in March. Anyone interested in attending the performance should contact

Mother and daughter team, Carmel and Michelle Garvey will be cutting a fabulously stylish swathe through the Western HSC Trust. Carmel will be facilitating a number of dance and movement workshops whilst Michelle will be putting her fantastic talent for writing to good use by holding a series of creative writing/storytelling sessions.

“30 Musical Minutes” – Here and Now newbie but long-time Arts Care ClownDoctor Elaine Duncan a.k.a Doctor Twinkle will be encouraging service users to find their voice whilst taking some time to talk and reminisce. Elaine, a very talented singer, will be popping up all over the Southern, South-eastern and Northern HSC Trusts, though sadly she’ll be leaving her stethoscope and collapsing clown car at home.

Lastly but not leastly… you just can’t keep a good woman down – Arts Care CEO, Artistic Director and Laban dance guru, Jenny Elliott will be leaping from behind her desk at the Arts Care HQ to work with the Craigavon Muslim Women’s Group in the Southern HSC Trust in a series of dance and movement workshops. Jenny’s massive enthusiasm for dance always engages even the shyest participant so these ladies are in for a treat.

As the above is a mere soupçon of the creative nibblets on offer throughout the Here and Now festival, please keep checking in for further details of the unfolding workshops.


Friday 9th January

The Here and Now Festival RIPE exhibition opens this Wednesday (14th) at 6.30pm in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast. As with last year, the exhibition is an opportunity for artists over the age of 60, who have not previously showcased their work in a solo exhibition, to exhibit their work publically in a professional arts space.

Featuring 60 original artworks from 26 artists over the age of 60 years, RIPE includes bronze-work, oil, pastel and watercolour paintings, photography and sculpture. After the success of the first RIPE exhibition last year and its subsequent tour, we are hoping that this year’s showcase will reach just as many people.

Last year’s exhibition has already born fruit for one artist – In January 2014, Edward Cartin submitted several pieces based on the work of poet Seamus Heaney and was subsequently able to complete his Heaney collection and stage his first ever solo exhibition, which opened in October 2014 in the Arts Care space. Edward commented that it was the RIPE exhibition that gave him the confidence to complete and showcase his collection. How wonderful that someone in later life should be able to achieve something that many artists half his age could struggle to realise.

Anyone wishing to attend the RIPE launch should RSVP to Rachel Kelly at


Tuesday 6th January

Elaine Agnew

Musician Elaine Agnew

The festival officially kicked off today with the commencement of a series of music workshops facilitated by Arts Care regular collaborator and all-round musical genius, Elaine Agnew. Throughout January and February, Elaine will be working with a group of older rural people from the joint Parishes of Ballyclare and Ballygowan in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Elaine has previously worked with the group over the first two years of the festival so this is a fantastic chance for her to return and reconnect with fantastic group of people to creatively build on their existing work. Elaine’s project is a prime example of the ethos and spirit of the Here and Now festival – to build a model of sustained cultural engagement for older people and enable them to revisit the work that they have collectively developed.

This particular group has gone from strength to strength each year – in 2013, the project culminated in a small performance to a limited audience and 2014 saw the group become part of the Aloud, Allowed, Aloud showcase at the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn so we are hoping that they will move onto even great things this year!