What We Do
Bealtaine is Ireland’s national festival which celebrates the arts and creativity as we age. The festival is run by Age & Opportunity, the leading national development organisation improving the quality of life of people aged 50 – 100+.
Age & Opportunity Arts provides opportunities for older people to be more creative more often, to create meaningful participation and representation for all older people in cultural and creative life and to demonstrate and celebrate how our creative potential can improve with age.
We also aim to:
- encourage more older people to participate in the arts and to increase the quality and opportunities of existing participants;
- support the careers of older professional artists and offer them more opportunities to develop and show work;
- support arts organisations who prioritise (or wish to prioritise) older people;
- provide opportunities for intergenerational exchange;
- generate debate and discourse around key cultural issues impacting on older people and other opportunities to influence national and international policy.
Age & Opportunity Arts comprises the Bealtaine Festival and our development and support programme (see ageandopportunity.ie).
The Bealtaine Festival
Established in 1995, Bealtaine is one of Ireland’s largest co-operative festival and the world’s first national celebration of creativity in older age. The Festival has inspired a number of international festivals including Luminate in Scotland, Gwanwyn in Wales, the Age of Creativity in England, and others across the world.
Bealtaine takes place each May for the entire month. The ancient festival of Bealtaine or Beltane (held on May 1), marked the midway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, and heralded the start of summer. The word Bealtaine is still used in the Irish language and translates as the month of May.
The Festival brings together people from all over Ireland to foster and inspire creativity among older people and to promote the skills, experiences and exposure that can lead to a rich creative life for all older people.
How the Bealtaine Festival Works
As a partnership festival Bealtaine works on two parallel and interdependent strands: a strategic programme, curated by Age & Opportunity’s Arts team, aimed at addressing key strategic priorities for the Festival, and a locally devised and curated national programme made up of hundreds of events organised in each community by a wide variety of groups.
National Programme & Nationwide Partners
We know that participating in the arts enhances our quality of life, no matter what age we are, and so we invite hundreds of organisations to take part each year. In this way, since 1995, Bealtaine has become deeply embedded in local communities and has grown to comprise over 3,000 events involving up to sixty thousand people in towns and villages throughout the country. These partners include artists, arts centres, libraries, theatres, galleries, arts officers, national arts and cultural institutions, orchestras, community groups, local authorities, care homes and supported living venues. At the centre of the festival, are the hundreds of artists and partners that help us create Bealtaine and it is this unique collaboration that makes the festival special year on year.
Each autumn we organise a Bealtaine Gathering of our partners and collaborators in order to support networking opportunties, share information, show-case good practice, gain feedback on the Festival and increase capacity across the sector.
Age & Opportunity’s Arts Programme and benefits of the arts
Creativity is a key factor in how we adapt to change and no more so than in relation to ageing. Although Age & Opportunity Arts is underpinned by intrinsic values of the arts, studies continue to show health and social benefits for older people who engage in arts and creative activities. Specifically, research suggests that the arts and creativity strengthen self-confidence and morale in later life, contribute to physical and cognitive health and enrich relationships through greater social connectivity. See our resources section for further information.
This research supports Irish government policy recommendations in reports such as 2014’s ‘Utilising the Arts in Combating Disadvantage’ which included the call to “Adopt a national policy by which the arts will be recognised as a fundamental means of combating social exclusion and promoting the well-being and inclusion of disadvantaged groups within local communities and at a national level.” This report also proposed giving a “strong consideration to including the level of engagement in the arts as a National Indicator of well-being”. Age & Opportunity, through Bealtaine, also support the Arts Council’s 2016 – 2025 Strategic Plan under its Artist and Public Engagement pillars.
We also recognise the United Nations backed cultural rights of all older people in having access to (amongst other things) meaningful and engaging arts experiences and we support the underlying and inherent value of the arts as a fundamental tool of human communication and connectivity.