Be Forever Young in Laois

Dunamaise Arts Centre invites you to take part in the Always Human project

Leinster Express Reporter

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Be Forever Young in Laois

The Loveliest Night of the Year by Pauline ConroyArtwork created as part of the Always Human pilot project in December

This spring, Dunamaise Arts Centre is inviting those aged 55 years and older to participate in 'Forever Young' – the second phase of its Always Human initiative – a multi-art form, multi-phase project where older people inspire artists and focus on times past by preserving memories through the arts.

Led by poet, creative writing tutor Denise Curtin Dunne, with the support of the KEEP WELL Campaign, Dunamaise is rolling out this second chapter of Always Human by celebrating their memories and special moments and creating a souvenir in writing. No experience or background in writing is necessary and special packs containing all the relevant materials to take part, will be distributed to various venues across County Laois or can be requested from Dunamaise Arts Centre and sent to interested participants.

The Always Human project was created by Artistic Director Cabrini Cahill, understanding how isolating the Covid Pandemic has been for many older people. Whether forced to stay home in their houses or care homes, access to incoming artists, art therapists and guest performers ended suddenly; trips out to theatres, cinemas, art classes and other vital social and cultural interactions which were such beloved experiences, had to be cancelled.

At a time when artists and entertainer’s employment has been decimated and Dunamaise Arts Centre has been closed (for all but a few weeks!) since last March, Cabrini devised and Dunamaise commissioned new ways of connecting artists and older audiences.

The Always Human pilot project last December saw the creation of a painting by Pauline Conroy as well as a radio documentary and podcast by award-winning broadcaster Ann-Marie Kelly, inspired by the memories and life story of Bill Lalor from Mountmellick. A greeting card with Pauline's artwork was sent out to over 100 older people across Laois along with ‘An Invitation to Participate’.

That pilot project has fuelled this second chapter “Forever Young, A Souvenir in Writing”.

Now in this second chapter, Dunamaise Arts Centre presents a warm invitation for older people to celebrate their early adult years, preserve their special moments in life and share their memories through creative writing.

Poet and Creative Writing tutor, Denise Curtin Dunne explains how you can participate.

“Very often, very happy memories surface when looking at old photographs, hearing music, or recalling friendships and events from the early years of our adulthood. We would love you to dip into those memories and celebrate something from that time in writing.

"It can be as short or as long a piece of writing as you like! It could be as a poem, a story, or just a few lines that sum up what you’d like to share with us, or alternatively, you can answer as much of the questionnaire as you like.

“We would particularly like you to focus on that decade in your life, when you were 18-28 years old, and tell us a little bit about what your social life was like then and the things you really enjoyed doing,” she said.

While some people might know exactly how and where to start, some may never before have expressed themselves in this way, so Denise's specially designed prompts and tips that will help guide new writers through the process. One-to-one sessions by phone or online with Denise can be booked, offering guidance and encouragement.

Michelle de Forge, Director of Dunamaise Arts Centre, also commented.

“As older people cannot come to Dunamaise during the lockdown, we’ll come to YOU, in innovative ways, creating meaningful new connections.

“We hope that older audience members in our community will enjoy and benefit from engaging with creative activities which reflect your lives & experiences,” said the director.

Forever Young creative writing packs can be requested from Dunamaise Arts Centre on 057 8663355 or info@dunamaise.ie.

They can also be picked up from All Books shop, Portlaoise and will be distributed through volunteers with Laois Library Service and Age Friendly networks.

Dunamaise Arts Centre would like to acknowledge the funding received from the KEEP WELL Campaign, which is brought to you with thanks to Healthy Ireland, an initiative of the Government of Ireland with funding from the Healthy Ireland Fund and the Sláintecare Fund delivered by Pobal, administered by Laois County Council, and Healthy Ireland Laois. Dunamaise Arts Centre also gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of Laois County Council and The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.

For more information see www.dunamaise.ie