May you spring into life during the Bealtaine Festival in Laois

Laois elements of the national month of activities for senior citizens launched

Leinster Express Reporter

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Bealtaine festiveal

Pictured at the launch of the Bealtaine Programme 2021 at Áras an Chontae, Laois County Council

Laois County Council Arts and Library Sections have partnered with the Dunamaise Arts Centre and Music Generation Laois to present a selection of safe and creative projects during the month of May to celebrate the Laois Bealtaine Festival for older people. 

The month of May offers glimpses of new beginnings in nature and also hope for our communities, as we tentatively emerge from Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. With safety in mind, the 2021 Laois programme follows the national theme of Bealtaine At Home with events online, but none the less we hope to have something for everyone to enjoy.

The Arts Office presents Getting Hitched an online comic play sharing memories, storytelling, sing-song, poetry and great fun. It is presented by Carnation Theatre, who are no strangers to Laois. 

Missing going to a wedding? – Join us for at an interactive play delivered via the zoom platform on Tuesday, 4th of May at 11.30 am – Dress up, toast, be merry and singalong with us as we reminisce around weddings of days gone by. Optional Dress Code: Flouncy with hats - Dancing: Mandatory - RSVP to Laois Arts Office, artsoff@laoiscoco.ie or T: 057 8664033 asap – places are still available but limited.

Caring and Sharing Art – Artists in residence at the Arthouse Stradbally are responding to this theme to create a piece of artwork to hang in three of the Hospitals for older people in Laois;  St Vincents Hospital Mountmellick, Abbeyleix District Hospital and St Brigids’ Hospital Shaen and the final work will be selected by a panel from each of the Hospitals. 

In early May all the artwork including the selected pieces created will go on exhibition online in a show titled “A Road Less Travelled” in memory of those who were lost to us during this tragic journey through the pandemic.  People can view the work and consider purchasing a piece for themselves or to donate to a Care Home of their choice in the county.  

The Music Generation Laois: Musical Memories Bandwagon Tour takes place on Thursday, May 6 and Friday, May 7.

Nuala Kelly and Band, along with special guests Mountmellick Men’s Shed Singers, will tour St Vincent’s Community Nursing Unit, Mountmellick, Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit and St Brigid’s Hospital Shaen - all aboard The Bandwagon, a mobile music vehicle created by Laois School of Music, as part of Bealtaine Festival 2021.

A curated Bealtaine Film Collection is a package of six specially selected films, made available to Dunamaise customers though distributor, access>CINEMA, via the Irish Film Institute's digital screening platform.  The selection includes a mixture of new and recent film titles across a variety of genres, chosen with an older audience in mind. Dunamaise offers a discount of 15% when films are booked through them. 

Films include Let Him Go starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as a retired sheriff and his wife who, following the death of their adult son, must set out to find their only grandson who has gone missing. The Mole Agent, is an Oscar-nominated documentary, following an 83-year-old man who goes undercover as a new resident and mole inside a care home, investigating the wellbeing of residents. Talking About Trees follows four retired Sudanese filmmakers, idealists and friends for over 45 years, who are reunited after a long period of distance and exile, as they attempt to bring back cinema to the people of their homeland.

‘Always Human’ is an ongoing arts project with older people, led by Cabrini Cahill. The recent chapter, ‘Forever Young’ – A Souvenir in Writing, will conclude during Bealtaine. Creative Writing tutor Denise Dunne will gather the poetry and prose, created in recent weeks by older people in their homes, and Dunamaise will share these online, and in the  publication of a booklet for the participants and the wider community.

You can request a Creative Writing Pack from Dunamaise on 057 8663355 or info@dunamaise.ie to take part, and Denise can support and assist you via phone or email, in your creative writing drawing on life memories. ‘Forever Young’ was part-funded by the KEEP WELL Campaign, 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. 

Dunamaise partnering with participants of Cuisle Centre art workshops, on at-home creative engagement packs for over 55s, as part of Bealtaine Festival.  Created together by theatre artist Louise White and visual artist Clare Henderson, the packs contain materials for a remote dry-point workshop, as well as story-telling objects, prompts, and reflective exercises, designed to help participants create sketches, which Clare will turn into beautiful framed prints to return to participants to celebrate their achievements at the end of the project.  

Keep in touch with Dunamaise on social media or www.dunamaise.ie for further announcements about brilliant new theatre productions and more, as they are announced throughout May. Box Office (reduced /flexible hours as staff work remotely) 057 8663355 or info@dunamaise.ie

The Laois Libraries are delighted to welcome the renowned John MacKenna for a series of talks on music on Tuesday, 4th, 11th, 18th & 25th May at 7.00pm.  The talks will last 90 minutes and the series will begin with the music and poetry of Leonard Cohen. John collaborated with Cohen, a friend of his for over 30 years, on “Between your Love and Mine”, using Leonard’s words and music to create a requiem. Other artists that will be covered in the series are Mary Chapin Carpenter, Paul Simon and Gretchen Peters. Email the Laois Libraries at mountmellicklibrary@laoiscoco.ie to book a place.

In other good new this May,  Creative Ireland have awarded funding for two programmes in the county through the programme entitled Creativity in Older Age. Laois Arts Office and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) will partner to deliver Talking Art a well-considered, inspiring and compelling online arts engagement initiative for older people who are living at home, cocooning and potentially in isolation as well as residential care in Laois.

A programme pack will be published and this will include five artworks from the IMMA Collection and five selected artworks the Laois Collection. Laois Arts Office and IMMA will work to create a juxtaposition of artworks, perspectives, aesthetics, genres and meaningful engagement with older people – to take them on a journey of discovery, interest and delight. Training will be provided for professional artists living in the county to deliver the Talking Art Programme. 

Music Generation Laois, Offaly and Westmeath will collaborate to present Musical Memories and the Ukulele Ceili. These are intergenerational music projects run by Music Generation Laois and Music Generation Offaly-Westmeath respectively. With the funding from  the Creativity in Older Age programme  they will partner together, and expand both projects across the region, maximising resources and building upon our learning and successes, to access new communities and new participants, using music as a tool to combat the isolation that older people are experiencing as a result of Covid-19.

Welcoming the Bealtaine Festival and the Creativity in Older Age awards for the county, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council said: “Laois County Council is very happy to announce the Bealtaine Festival and the Creativity in Older Age programmes. There is a varied programme to meet all tastes.  I am also very happy to announce the two Creativity in Older Age projects today. I wish all the artists, audience and participants in the Bealtaine and the Creativity in Older Age projects every success.”

Arts Officer and Creative Ireland Laois Coordinator Muireann Ní Chonaill said: “we hope the older people in our county enjoy the Bealtaine programme on offer. We are very happy that Laois has been awarded funding for the two Creativity in Older Age projects and we look forward to rolling them out over the coming months.”

The month of activities was launched at County Hall last week by Cllr Fitzgerald and Ms Ní Chonaill. Also present was Patricia O'Rourke, Arts Office, Bridie Keenan, Assistant Arts Officer, Carmel McNicholl, Senior Executive Officer - Community Arts & Sport, Bernie Foran, County Librarian and Rosa Flannery, Music Development Officer /Music Generation Laois.