Festival Blog by Patrizia Perugini
I wish there were a Festival like Bealtaine in the city where I live
by Patrizia Perugini
On the flight that takes me home, I rethink of the weekend spent in Dublin exploring the city, Bealtaine Festival and a few questions about creativity that I had brought with me.
Many impressions, people I have met, places I have visited, overlap in my head, as I repeat to myself: „I wish there were a Festival like this in the city where I live“.
What's special? Why is this Festival different from the many cultural activities that nowadays are organized almost everywhere for the elderly?
I attended the event scheduled for May 11th at St. James Hospital Dublin:
The Bealtaine Debate, Does Age Have a Bearing on Creativity?
The debate has been organized in collaboration with MISA (Mercer's Institute for Successful Ageing) and the National College of Art and Design. Visual artists Brian Maguire and Jochen Gerz, together with Professor of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, Ian Robertson, and Dr David Robinson, a geriatrician at St. James Hospital and Clinical Lecturer at Trinity College, have discussed the topic with interesting and sensitive insights. The debate has been coordinated by Sarah Glennie, Director of the National College of Art and Design.
Beyond the contents, I found above all significant the synergy that exists between the organizing bodies: artistic and scientific. And this is perhaps the distinctive element of the Festival itself, which manages to merge instances of the various kind under the common denominator of the creative expression.
While the discourse about creativity on an artistic level is, so to speak, obvious, it becomes particularly relevant when the most up-to-date medical research establishes a link between creativity and a healthy and happy existence. One can be creative in a thousand ways in everyday life. Important, as suggested by Professor Robertson and Dr Robinson, is breaking old habits, stimulating curiosity for new things and ideas, and practising thinking in images, as children do, by loosening the structure of verbal language in favour of a language that is not verbal but rather imaginative.
But how do we do it in practice?
The most sensitive suggestion came from the artist Jochen Gerz: „Let's be nice to ourselves!“
He suggests that we all have the licence to speak. He also affirms that an ideal society is a creative one, that is to say, a society with widespread creativity, where the creative act is not necessarily expressed only by artists, but by each one of us. He adds that old people are precious in this way since they are witnesses of long temporal arcs.
Brian Maguire reinforces the concept when he says that the art market is only interested in money, but outside it, there are a lot of very creative people who simply are not known.
So perhaps the purpose of this and other similar festivals is precisely to bring out the creativity that is in each of us, and develop, or rediscover hidden talents.
I am a baby boomer, so I belong to a generation that has now entered the years of maturity. For professional reasons, I have often had contact with artists and creative people. And I dedicated myself to creative hobbies whenever I had the time. My interest in the topics discussed during the debate has been therefore multiple. The personal and professional level have often intertwined and I believe that I started to give some answers to the questions I had brought with me.
However my journey into creativity as we age did not start last week in Dublin, but a few years ago, exactly in autumn 2010, with the reading of a wonderful book on creativity by Annamaria Testa: „La trama lucente“ (The Shiny Plot). The chapters dedicated to creativity in mature age opened up new perspectives and the desire to learn more. Two other great travelling companions have been the books by James Hillman and Theodore Roszak, respectively: „The Force of Character And the Lasting Life“ and „America the Wise: The Longevity Revolution and the True Wealth of Nations“. Finally, thanks to the internet, I followed a wonderful MOOC, designed and led by Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Trinity College Dublin: „Strategies for Successful Ageing“. In lesson five, the Bealtaine Festival was mentioned. The decision to get on a plane and take a personal look was a logic consequence.
For years, the baby boomers generation has been associated with pessimistic premonitions of economic and social collapse due to the increase in public spending on pensions and medical care at the time when we would have become old. I confess that I experienced these predictions with some discomfort. Meanwhile, I have reached my sixties and none of the dark forecasts has come true. On the contrary, now we talk about longevity dividend and some say that older people enrich the economy too. We are rethink ageing. The simple fact that we are so numerous could actually make our society a better place, highlighting the values associated with mature age: Compassion, justice, care, conservation of the beauty and health of the planet in which we live. Incentivizing everyone's creativity is undoubtedly a key to achieving all this and, in this sense, festivals like Bealtaine can have a fundamental role in connecting creatively individual destinies and the society as a whole.
In conclusion, a comparison with the country in which I now live, Germany, and the one in which I was born, Italy, becomes inevitable. In the very rich panorama of the cultural offer of both countries, there is nothing, as far as I know, comparable with Bealtaine. There are countless festivals, designed around every possible topic, just as countless are now the initiatives dedicated to the elderly: Health, culture, tourism, entertainment, lifelong learning, new housing solutions and much more. What is missing is an integrated and holistic vision, where the offer is not passively received, but on the contrary, there is a direct, active and creative contribution by the elderly to the development of new ways of being and living, for themselves and for those around them.
Bealtaine, together with its partners, MISA, NCAD, just to name those directly interested in the 11 May debate, have a pioneering role in my opinion. Their integrated and synergistic model, the holistic vision, and the strong emphasis on individual creativity, beyond artistic production, and in any case not only this, should be taken as a model and reproduced elsewhere.
May 20th 2018