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All case studies
8 February 2018

Arts Council of Northern Ireland

2 grants £330,000
A joint programme using creativity as a tool to improve the health and wellbeing of older people in Northern Ireland.

About the project

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) first launched its Arts and Older People programme in 2010 with the support of Atlantic Philanthropies. In 2013, after the departure of Atlantic Philanthropies, the Baring Foundation joined with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Public Health Agency to fund a second phase of the programme (2013-2016). A second grant was given in 2016 for a further phase. The programme has a number of aspects, including an open access grants programme offering up to £30,000 per award.

Lorraine Calderwood

Arts Council of Northern Ireland

ACNI’s Arts and Older People’s Programme continues to increase creative opportunities for our older people, with the second phase particularly aimed at supporting health and wellbeing and using creativity as a tool to tackle the social justice issues facing older people on a day to day basis, including poverty, isolation and loneliness and social exclusion.

The Programme has been particularly successful in improving the health, vitality and connectedness of the population, and encouraging participation from the most marginalised older people. The evaluation evidence we gathered quantifiably demonstrated self-reported improvements in health and wellbeing, decreased loneliness and greater community belonging and provided weight to the qualitative research and anecdotal evidence. It reaffirmed that creative arts activities can improve wellbeing, linking to the strategic drive towards health promotion, early intervention and prevention.

Due to the success of the previous three years the programme continues to run and to date has provided opportunities to get involved in art and culture for over 20,000 older people across Northern Ireland.

Examples of recent projects include…

Strut and Stroll by Play Resource Warehouse

Based in Belfast, Play Resource Warehouse is a centre of creativity using waste materials from industry to create artworks with community and voluntary groups across Northern Ireland. ‘Strut and Stroll’ targeted older participants from across Belfast, creating artworks based on their memories and experiences of the fifties. In March 2015, the participants showcased their work in the Ulster Hall, with an art exhibition, vintage fashion show and singing of music from the 1950s.

“The secret is to not to sit down and wallow in it but to get out and to live as full a life as possible …”


The Bus Run by Andersonstown Community Theatre

‘The Bus Run’ drama project set out to recruit vulnerable, isolated and marginalised groups of older people, including tenants in sheltered accommodation, older people living alone, people with mobility problems and other health problems. Older men were encouraged to participate and the final stage involved an intergenerational element from the local secondary school.

With professional guidance, the cast of 30 performers, many of whom had never performed before, received a standing ovation and went on to produce one of the outstanding events of the 2014 Féile an Phobail / West Belfast Festival, before touring to community centres, day centres and nursing homes.

 “Being a participant in this production has given me a great hunger to continue on and off stage with the wonderful people I have met … Better than a good dose of medicine!”


No Negatives by Age Northern Ireland

The No Negatives photography project aimed to capture images of older people by older people, through photography workshops and training of 45 peer facilitators to engage with sector groups across Northern Ireland. The artworks created challenge the stereotypical images of older people and show the richness and diversity of their lives. The work was presented in October 2015 as part of International Older People’s Day and toured venues across Northern Ireland.

“Perhaps an unexpected and added benefit is the camaraderie, and sense of belonging that this project has brought to some of the participants.”

Project Coordinator

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