Belfast arts charity receives boost from Churchill Fellowship

Published: 9 Feb 2015

Author: Kerry Rooney
Belfast arts charity receives boost from Churchill Fellowship

Kerry Rooney, from Belfast, is Artistic Director at Kaleidoscope, one of Northern Ireland’s leading arts organisations. Last year he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, enabling him to travel to the USA to research the work of prominent arts collectives who specialise in work with older people.

Over a two-month period, Kerry visited arts organisations across the USA, including the Emeritus College of Santa Monica, a specially designed college catering exclusively for older people which offers a range of arts programme to its lively students. Kerry also spent several weeks working with Stagebridge, America’s longest running and most successful arts programme for older people.

The experience has been an invaluable one for Kerry, who now plans to bring his research back to the UK to help shape the plans for Kaleidoscope’s Imagine Arts Centre programme.

Over the last decade Kaleidoscope has been at the forefront of providing arts and cultural opportunities for older people. In 2013 they created the Imagine Arts Festival for Older People, the first ever event of its kind to be held in Northern Ireland, and they now plan to take their work to the next stage by developing Europe’s first dedicated arts centre for older people.

Kerry told us, “The experience of visiting America and seeing first-hand the work of organisations like Stagebridge has made me even more convinced that such facilities and opportunities are vitally needed here in the UK to enhance and enrich the lives of our older people. The Fellowship has helped me develop my ideas for our own older people’s arts programmes and to establish links with other professionals working in this field that will enhance all of our work.”

Another major leap forward came with the announcement that Kaleidoscope has won this year’s Big Lottery People’s Millions Competition. The People’s Millions gives members of the public the opportunity to vote for the projects they want to see receiving Lottery Funding. The Imagine Arts Centre project received over 4000 votes from the public. The victory means that the Big Lottery will support the development of an Imagine Arts Centre pilot programme next year.

Kerry told us, “The funding from the Big Lottery couldn’t have come at a better time. This means that we will be able to begin work on our Imagine Arts Centre programme and begin implementing some of the ideas we have managed to develop thanks to my Fellowship.”

Notes to Editors:

We are working with the Baring Foundation to highlight the belief that arts can play a unique role in older people’s lives, including those with dementia; and the contribution that the arts make to improve society. The three-year ‘Arts and Older People’ partnership, from 2012 to 2014, will award 10 Fellowships per year, and aims to achieve a more coordinated impact at national and regional level of the lessons learnt in this area, and the dissemination of the findings. In 2015 there will be a national conference to launch the research findings. Baroness Joan Bakewell, the former Older Peoples’ Tsar, is our Ambassador for this joint project.