Kerry Rooney’s Story
Kerry Rooney’s 2014 Fellowship saw him travel to the USA to meet with organisations and professionals involved in the area of arts for older people.
Kerry Rooney is the Artistic Director of Kaleidoscope, an arts organisation based in Northern Ireland. For several years, Kaleidoscope has been involved in creating opportunities for older people to participate in the arts. Kerry wanted to use his Fellowship to share best practice and learning with likeminded organisations.
A highlight of his trip was having the opportunity to work alongside the team at Stagebridge, an arts centre based in Oakland, California, which boasts America’s longest running and most successful arts programme for older people. He also visited the Emeritus College of Santa Monica, a specially designed college catering exclusively for older people which offers a selection of arts programmes to its students.
During Kerry’s Fellowship Kaleidoscope was awarded funding from the Big Lottery People's Millions Competition to set up a pilot for a year-round arts for older people programme. Kerry cites his Fellowship as a key factor in securing this funding.
The Imagine Arts Centre, set up in 2015, was the result, and it now enables over 200 participants aged between 60 and 88 to take part in weekly classes in activities such as drama, dance, creative writing, storytelling, photography, ukulele playing, singing and knitting. Kerry credits the experiences he gained through his Fellowship as greatly influencing the design and structure of the programme. Testimonies from participants attest to the “life-changing” effect that learning new skills and meeting new people at the Imagine Arts Centre has had.
An extension of the programme, Imagine Outreach, takes the Imagine Arts format into new settings such as care homes and nursing homes. Kaleidoscope now also provide training to staff at these settings, enabling them to bring elements of the Imagine Arts programme to their work on a daily basis.
In 2016 Kerry was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to older people and drama in Northern Ireland.