Speech by Mr. Ivor Callely T.D., Minister of State Department of Health and Children, at the launch of the Bealtaine Festival
It is a pleasure to launch the Bealtaine festival – celebrating creativity in older age and I would like to thank Catherine Rose of Age and Opportunity for the kind invitation to be here.
As you know, Bealtaine is the only arts festival that specifically targets older people. It takes place for the entire month of May. This year there are some 560 events running in hundreds of venues throughout the 26 counties. It is wonderful to see increasing numbers of older people getting involved in the arts over the past number of years.
Each year Bealtaine allows for a focus to be put on older people and growing older – on what is possible as we age, rather than what may not be possible. In itself, it is a great demonstration of positivity in action – seen particularly in the number of organisations that come together through Bealtaine to work jointly to make the festival happen.
Bealtaine enjoys the support and commitment of an unrivalled number of diverse organisations. For instance, all the national arts institutions are involved in organising events, as are most of the country’s Local Authority Arts officers, local Arts Centres and Public Libraries. Also involved in organising events are older people´s groups – like Active Retirement Associations and Senor Citizens´ Clubs, as well as Health Board staff of residential and day-care centres for older people.
It is also quite a tribute to Age and Opportunity who are responsible for co-ordinating the efforts of such a range of interests. I am very glad that my Department has for many years been the primary funder of Age and Opportunity and have been involved in the initiation of Bealtaine and in its development.
The Bealtaine Festival is an excellent example of co-operation between organisations of older people in care settings and arts organisations working together at local and national level.
Bealtaine provides opportunities for greater participation by older people in the arts, be that the visual arts, drama, story-telling, dance or films. The festival also communicates a powerful message that old age can be a time of renewal, creativity and empowerment. This is a key lesson for society in general to learn, if we are to make the most of the opportunities represented by the growth in the numbers of older people as a proportion of our population.
The message of Bealtaine is one to which I am strongly committed- that we can all grow and develop throughout our lives no matter what our age. In a world that seems increasingly dazzled by youth and celebrity, it is essential to ensure that our attitudes to older people are open and positive, that we accord weight to their opinions and preferences, that we offer respect based on equality.
The Inter-Departmental Group
That brings me to the provision of services for older people. One of the things that I have been able to do since coming into office is to set up an Interdepartmental Group on services for older people. The question of services for older people was often seen solely as the domain of the Department of Health – as if older people were not affected by policies in other areas like education, housing and environment. I am now able to bring together people with responsibility for a range of areas to focus on what services are needed for older people and, indeed, on how older people can be empowered, their contributions harnessed and valued, their independence enhanced. I´m very glad to say that we have expanded the remit of the Group to include people with responsibility for arts policy and I am a firm believer in the contribution that participation in the arts can bring all of us as we age – both as individuals and as a society.
I would like to finish by commending the broad range of bodies and organisations that come together under the Bealtaine umbrella for highlighting the important issue of creativity and older people through Bealtaine. Finally, I wish to congratulate all those groups who are involved in Bealtaine as organisers, performers, artists, and audience throughout the entire month and for the rest of the year.