Wandering Methods. (Photo: Lian Bell)
The Arts Council recognises the important and valuable contribution made by older people in the arts as artists, audience members, critics, arts workers and board members. It also recognises that many older people did not have access to the arts in their younger years and that they face additional barriers to participation as a result.
Arts participation is a core value across all areas of the Arts Council's work as reflected in the current Mission statement, which commits to increasing public access, participation and engagement in the arts. Older people are an important constituency in this regard. The Arts Council is also committed to assisting artists of all ages to make work of excellence, including those who centre their practice specifically in the area of arts and older people.
There are a small number of key agencies, funded by us, who have a central role in supporting this area of work. One such organisation is Age and Opportunity, which coordinates the Bealtaine Festival, an annual celebration of creativity in older age, which takes place around the country in May. Other Arts Council funding is channelled through venues, local authority arts officers, festivals, and production companies, many of which co-ordinate high-quality arts programmes directly targeting older people as participants and audiences.
The Arts Council offers a wide range of financial supports across artforms and arts practices, including arts and older people. Those supports, direct and indirect, that are available are described in detail in financial support. They include bursaries, projects, and travel and training awards as well as specific schemes such as the Artist in the community scheme which is externally managed by Create.
The artist in the community scheme provides funding to enable artists and diverse groups to work alongside each other in the making of collaborative art. It is a scheme that is much used by groups of older people around the country. In 2010, it piloted a bursary specifically aimed at artists working with older people.