Image shown: Artist Andy Parsons and Maisie

Bealtaine Festival, Ireland’s national celebration of the arts and creativity as we age, takes place across the month of May. The 2021 edition embraces the theme of ‘In(ter)dependence’ with a wide-ranging online programme of workshops, discussions and performances for public audiences and care settings. 

Conversations in Portrait: An Online Exhibition
Artist Andy Parsons began this virtual portrait project in spring 2020 as a response to the Covid crisis with the support of the Arts Council’s Covid Response Award and Bealtaine at Home. To date he has painted 12 portraits of older people in their homes in County Roscommon, and a further 18 portraits nationally thanks to funding from Creative Ireland and the Keep Well Campaign. Each painting has created a lasting record of a moment in time and is a defiantly optimistic gesture by both artist and sitter at this strange time.

How Are You?
How Are You? is a new scent artwork by acclaimed visual artist and vocalist Ceara Conway designed in collaboration with perfumer Erin Quinn. Age & Opportunity, in partnership with Family Carers Ireland, will send a sensory artwork to over 200 family carers caring for older relatives at home. A limited edition of this sensory artwork is also available to the public and can be purchased at the link above.

Of Scent and Song, a companion discussion on the converging worlds of music, scent, art and memory is taking place on 28 May with Ceara Conway, Erin Quinn and Dr. Caro Verbeek, embedded researcher of olfactory heritage at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Bealtaine Discussion Series: Care  
Chaired by journalist, writer, and former carer Patrick Freyne, this discussion on 13 May will explore the issue and politics of care in Ireland. Who is responsible for caring, what are the gender, class, and ethnicity issues linked to care and what do our models of care say about attitudes to ageing in Ireland? Patrick will be joined by Margaret Oryang, carer and one of the co-founders of the Great Care Co-op, Sheila Robertson, Kerry-born resident of Regina House in West Clare, Donal Behan, former carer and member of ALONE, and writer, broadcaster and former Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell.

IMMA Tracing Memories
Tracing Memories draws on an audio archive of interviews with participants of Studio 10, IMMA’s long-running gallery and studio programme for adults. This series of themed, documentary-style audio podcasts is based on those interviews. The podcasts interrogate the role of art in our lives, pointing to positive outcomes of art engagement from childhood into older age.

Cyanotype Masterclass with artist Ciara Harrison
To Coincide with National Arts in Care Homes Day on 21 May, artist Ciara Harrison will lead a masterclass in cyanotype techniques and explore the role of making and materials as prompts for recollection, observation and storytelling. This pre-recorded workshop is aimed at arts practitioners and activity coordinators working in care settings with older adults.

Creative Conversations
Throughout May, Roscommon County Council Arts Office is pairing up artists and participants in care homes and households for short one-to-one creative exchanges. Activities might include a reading, piece of music, demonstration or exhibition of art, a dance piece or letter writing. Sessions are taking place via Zoom and telephone. Participants are matched with artists depending on their activity of interest.

For the full programme of events visit

Bealtaine festival is led by Age & Opportunity, the leading national development organisation improving the quality of life of older people.


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