Open Arts Media Coverage
Open Arts have been getting quite a bit of press lately since the Open Arts Community Choir launched their third album, Three. Here are snippets from the Daily Mirror, The Irish News, and The Belfast Telegraph. Keep your eyes peeled for our NVTV feature and a few other upcoming newspaper feature stories.


Saturday's Daily Mirror Article by Jilly Beattie.

Saturday’s Daily Mirror Article by Jilly Beattie.



Thursday's article in The Irish News, by Jenny Lee

Thursday’s article in The Irish News, by Jenny Lee

snip from paper

See the following link for the full atticle online:




Community Choir launches new album

On Thursday night, the atmosphere was electric in the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts with the Open Arts Community Choir debuting a stunning new collection of songs from their long awaited new album, Three.  Open Arts Community Choir is an award winning, dynamic, inclusive choir that is an integral part of Open Arts, an arts and disability organisation.

Guitar maestro Colin Reid started the evening with a mesmerising performance. NI Soul Troop brought funk to the evening with their set and also joined with the choir for the final two songs of the night, ‘Somebody Everybody’, an NI Soul Troop original, and a captivating rendition of ‘Something Inside so Strong’.

The beautiful Duncairn Centre was packed with devoted fans for the launch of Three, including Councillor Nichola Mallon, Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon wished Open Arts Community Choir every success with their new album. “The Open Arts Community Choir are fantastic. I was delighted that they performed at my Installation Dinner in City Hall earlier this year. People are still raving about them,” she said. “This is an inspirational choir. They challenge us all to look beyond a disability to see the person and their incredible talent.”

It has been 3 years since the launch of the Choir’s critically acclaimed album, Going Global. Since then, the choir has gone from strength to strength, winning fans and accolades across the UK and internationally.

Three is the Choir’s most diverse album yet, with songs from Rachmaninov to Snow Patrol. Open Arts’ Musical Director, Bev McGeown, said, “I am so proud! This proves the musical talent, passion and commitment of our members. I love that the songs on this album are as diverse as our singers and we have enjoyed every minute of recording it!”

Fionnuala Walsh, Head of Participatory Arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “Open Arts aims to increase participation for disabled and non-disabled people in arts activities across Northern Ireland. The choir provides valuable opportunities for singers to come together and share in their love of music. This latest collection of songs builds on the success of their previous albums, creating quality, inspirational music for all.”

Three is available to buy, go to for more information or search Open Arts Community Choir on Amazon UK and iTunes UK to download.

For more information contact Bev McGeown, Open Arts’ Musical Director, 028 90 240 765


Other performers

Colin Reid is a renowned finger style guitarist who draws on a wide range of influences – blues, jazz, country and classical – to create a powerful, sensitive and universally folk sound on his acoustic guitar. Colin has performed and recorded with a variety of famous bands and musicians including Eddi Reader, Brian Kennedy and Bert Jansch.


NI Soul Troop was formed in 2007 by Donal Scullion. The shape-shifting line-up has seen around 30 of some of the North’s finest musicians moving through the ranks of the Troop. With the current 10-piece line-up the band has been captivating audiences all over Northern Ireland for the last few years and has been one of the freshest and unique live acts on the scene. The band infuses elements of soul, funk, ska, jazz, blues and rock and roll, with clever lyrics and arrangements.


Our multi-award winning Open Arts Community Choir are launching their newest album, Three, with a special concert at the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts, supported by Colin Reid and with special guests NI Soul Troop.www.openartscommunitychoir.com 

This is a BYOB event. The Duncairn Centre appreciates your moderation.


Tickets are limited
For access enquiries please contact the Duncairn Centre on 028 9074 7114
For all other enquiries call Open Arts on 0289 024 0765

Or email



 Royal Ulster Academy offers Accessible Tours of Its annual Exhibition 

Also this Saturday (8th November) we have a guided tour by exhibiting artist Majella Clancy for wheelchair users and mobility impaired visitors. The tour will commence at 5pm but participants are advised to meet in the reception area of the Ulster Museum at 4.45pm.  All blue badge parking will be reserved for this event. To book a place visit or +44(0)28 90440000.

The Academy’s 133rd Annual Exhibition features over 300 works by some of Ireland’s best known and up-and-coming artists – a mix of painting, sculpture, ceramics, glass, photography and film.

Exhibiting artists include: Cristina Bunello, Simon Burch, Colin Davidson RUA, Brendan Jamison ARUA, Oliver Jeffers, Sharon Kelly RUA, Elizabeth Magill ARUA, Hughie O’Donoghue, Paul Seawright RUA, Dermot Seymour ARUA, Neil Shawcross RUA and Amelia Stein.

Entrance to the Exhibition and participation in education activities are free.  Further details available at and The Exhibition runs until 4 January 2015. (Closed on Mondays)

Further details available at and The Exhibition runs until 4 January 2015. (Closed on Mondays)

Classes Resume in September

All Open Arts classes will resume again in September on the week of the 15th. All classes are currently full but please get in touch if you would like to put your name on the waiting list or for more information.




Monday Players Development Intensive

Our Monday Players drama group will have an intensive development week with Open Arts drama facilitators from the 1st to the 5th of September based at the Crescent Arts Centre.

Over the course of the five days the group will work to develop their skills and confidence for future performances. They will also set a plan for the future development of the group.

This intensive development week is funded through the BBC Performing Arts, Community Theatre grant.



Luminous Soul Development Intensive

Our Luminous Soul dancers are set for an intensive week of development with professional choreographer Marc Brew.

1236806_543587339028358_386237614_nThe workshops will be held from the 18th to the 22nd of August at the Crescent Arts Centre.

Marc Brew will work with the entire group and also mentor a Luminous Soul dancer in choreography to develop a new piece.

This development week is funded through money raised from The Funding Network, ‘Dragon’s Den’ event that Open Arts pitched at in November 2013, distributed by CFNI.

Summer Schemes with Angel Eyes NI

Open Arts, in partnership with with Angel Eyes NI, are facilitating gamelan and dance summer schemes in three locations across Northern Ireland for children who are blind or visually impaired.

Angel Eyes is a charity which was set up by parents of blind children to support blind children and their families.

The tactile nature of the Gamelan, as well as the evocative sounds produced will provide these children with a rich musical experience. Also included in the Summer schemes will be physical movement and dance workshops with reacting to sounds, exploring expression through the body and enjoying the opportunity to discover new possibilities in a safe place.

Tues 5th August, 10.30am to 3pm – Share Village Lisnaskea

Wed 6th August, 10.30am to 3pm – Echo Echo Studios, Derry/Londonderry

Thurs 7th August, 10.30am to 3pm – The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

To book your place or for more details contact Frances on or text/phone 07735059763








OACC Representatives to attend World Choir Games in Riga

Three delegates from the Open Arts Community Choir (OACC) are going to the World Choir Games in Riga in July this year.

During their stay from the 16th to the 19th of July, Open Arts Musical Director Bev McGeown and two other choir members will attend a number of choral workshops and seminars, led by renowned composers, arrangers and conductors.

In addition to networking with international choirs of high quality, they will also meet up with the Paros Chamber Choir, a similarly inclusive choir for singers with disabilities based in Armenia, with a view to future collaboration and professional development opportunities.

The World Choir Games is inspired by the ancient Olympic ideal and brings together people of all nations, cultures and ideologies. The World Choir Games takes place every two years in different partner cities around the world. As in sports, the singers compete on behalf of their nations for gold, silver and bronze medals in roughly 30 different categories – the ultimate goal is the coveted title of ‘Champions of the World Choir Games’. No matter what category they compete in – from children’s, women’s or men’s choirs, through folklore and jazz to Gospel – an international jury judges all fairly and impartially according to a finely-tuned evaluation system.

This World Choir Games trip will raise the skills, profile and international connections of Open Arts and the choir. The OACC delegates will learn a lot from adjudicators’ remarks on performances at the Games. They will be exposed to new singing techniques, genres and choral traditions.

The trip is very generously funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through the Artists International Development Fund Scheme.

arts council


Ship to Shore Exhibition Launch Photo Gallery

Acorn Arts, Open Arts’ blind & partially-sighted art group,launched a print exhibition on the Belfast Barge on Thursday the 19th of June at 7pm.

The ‘Ship to Shore’ exhibition includes an array of prints inspired by Belfast’s maritime history and changing port area. It is Funded by Belfast City Council’s Arts and Heritage Project Grant and Belfast Health Trust. The exhibition will run for one month.

The venue for the exhibition is a former cargo barge, permanently moored adjacent to Lanyon Place, which is located to the rear of Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. It houses a museum, a multi-use performance space and a café and has become a cultural hub on the river Lagan.

1 Lanyon Quay
Belfast BT1 3LG
Telephone: 028 9023 2555



Ship to Shore Exhibition on the Belfast Barge

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Acorn Arts, Open Arts’ blind & partially-sighted art group, are due to launch a print exhibition on the Belfast Barge on Thursday the 19th of June at 7pm.
The ‘Ship to Shore’ exhibition includes an array of prints inspired by Belfast’s maritime history and changing port area. It is Funded by Belfast City Council’s Arts and Heritage Project Grant and Belfast Health Trust. The exhibition will run for one month.
The venue for the exhibition is a former cargo barge, permanently moored adjacent to Lanyon Place, which is located to the rear of Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. It houses a museum, a multi-use performance space and a café and has become a cultural hub on the river Lagan.

1 Lanyon Quay
Belfast BT1 3LG
Telephone: 028 9023 2555



Jalan-Jalan Photos!

Our Jalan-Jalan event was a huge success. Our Choir, Gamelan, Luminous Soul, Monday Players and Visual Artists wowed a full audience at the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill Road with the Jalan-Jalan performance and exhibition launch afterwards.

Congratulations to every artist involved.

Please click the photos below for the whole album of stunning photos of the event taken byphotographer Paul Marshall. To see more of Paul’s beautiful work, visit his website:




JALAN-JALAN – Book your tickets here!


Jalan-Jalan is Open Arts’ showcase performance inspired by the Indonesian version of the Ramayana which explores human values, the struggle between light and dark, good and evil.

It is an emotional journey from intrigue, threat to resolution and a return to safety and peace.

Jalan-Jalan is a collaboration between all Open Arts’ groups: Gamelan players, Monday Players drama, Luminous Soul dancers with content inspired by work from our creative writing group and parts of the set designed and painted by our visual art groups.

There will be an exhibition of work from our visual arts groups and the evening will also feature a new set of songs from Open Arts Community Choir.

The venue for Jalan-Jalan is the Spectrum Centre on the Shankill Road on the 14th of June at 6pm. From 1pm on Friday 13th June ticket bookings can no longer be taken by telephone phone so please reserve your tickets below. There will also be tickets available on the door from 6pm on the evening of the show.
Parking: there is no specific car park at the venue but there is on street parking in the area, particularly on Tennent Street along the side of the Spectrum Centre.


6pm: Doors open.

6:30pm: Show starts with a performance by Open Arts Community Choir

7pm: Jalan-Jalan: Gamelan, Luminous Soul dance and Monday Players drama group.

7.30 – 8.30: Exhibition Launch for Open Arts Visual Arts groups in the Spectrum Centre Cafe, with refreshments.

New Visually Impaired Reading Group

Belfast Central Library have started a visually impaired reading group. The group meets the 2nd Wed of every month. The next meeting is on Wed 28th May at 10.30am. Everyone is welcome.
Please contact Belfast Central Library at for more information.
Royal Avenue
BT1 1EA Belfast

Andrea Hope Completes the 8 Mile Belfast City Marathon Walk

Open Arts wishes to congratulate Andrea Hope on completing the 8 mile Belfast City Marathon walk  with her guide dog Zeta Vale Hope on Monday, 5th of May.

Andrea, a member of our Open Arts Community Choir, Luminous Soul Dance, Open Arts Gamelan and newly appointed Open Arts Board member, took on the challenge to raise money for Open Arts to show her appreciation for our organization.

She was delighted with the experience afterwards and commented:

“I did it!! I completed the walk!! I was ahead of my time too. My guide dog Zeta had a pretty fast pace going all the way so I’m not sure who is more tired. It was a lovely walk and such a pleasure to do it for Open Arts.”
“I started off with a couple of friends and then we ended up in front of them and we lost them. So we just carried on walking and followed the crowd. So Zeta and I were doing it alone with some help from walkers we met and that is an achievement I never thought would happen. It just goes to show what having a guide dog gives me the confidence to carry on regardless. I’ve got a sore leg so it can be tricky to walk sometimes. It was worth every step though.”

You can still show your support for Andrea’s achievement and for Open Arts by texting: OART21 (with no spaces) followed by your donation choice, remembering to put the £ (pound sign) before your figure e.g. £1, £2, etc to 70070.

So to donate £5: text ‘OART21 £5′ to 70070.

Well done Andrea (and Zeta)!



Gamelan Gala at the Spectrum Centre


Our Gamelan has found a summer home in the Spectrum Centre in Belfast.

The Gamelan will begin its public residency on the 2nd of June, working in partnership with the Spectrum Centre to provide workshops and classes for community groups in the Shankill and North Belfast area.

The workshops will build up to our big event this year, The Gamelan Gala, an integrated performance involving the Open Arts Gamelan, our Luminous Soul dancers and Open Arts Monday Players drama group on the 14th of June.

The multi-disciplinary performance is inspired by the Indonesian version of the Ramayana, in that it explores human values, the spiritual struggle between light and dark, good and evil. It will be an emotional journey from intrigue, threat to resolution and a return to safety and peace.

The Monday Players will perform physical theatre tableaus along with the Open Arts Luminous Soul dancers and the Gamelan will provide the music for the performances.

Our Visual Art groups are currently researching Indonesian art and stenciling the Gamelan boxes with beautiful designs that will be used as stage props for the Gamelan Gala. They are also creating Mandalas and art inspired by traditional Indonesian art and designs.


Our Creative Writing groups are currently researching Indonesian stories as inspiration for their own writing. They are producing pieces for drama and songs. Printed poems and stories may be displayed in the Spectrum Centre and there may be a live reading or recorded spoken word played.

Sponsor Andrea Hope on her Marathon Walk for Open Arts


Open Arts’ amazing Gamelan player, Community Choir singer and Luminous Soul dancer, Andrea Hope , is taking on the Belfast Marathon 8 mile walk with her guide dog Zeta Vale Hope to raise money for our organization.

Andrea said: “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Open Arts. They gave me the confidence to do a music degree and I’ve always been encouraged to try new things and to improve the artistic skills I already have. You can support me and Open Arts by texting a wee donation. It doesn’t matter how much, every little can go a long way.”

“I know that so long as I’m involved with Open Arts so many doors will continue to open. I’ve already had some amazing experiences with Open Arts, and I’ve achieved so much as well, and it’s all because of the wonderful guys who work for Open Arts. This is a fantastic way to say thanks and to give something back. We’re all one big happy family at Open Arts.
Thank you all very much. All the support you give will be much appreciated.”

Text OART21 (with no spaces) followed by your donation choice, remembering to put the £ (pound sign) before your figure e.g. £1, £2, etc to 70070.
So to donate £5: text ‘OART21 £5′ to 70070.

Please join and share Andrea’s facebook event page:



Check out our new video about Luminous Soul

Click the link below to see the Luminous Soul Dancers in action. Open Arts CEO Eileen Branagh and Luminous Soul dancer Katy Megahy talk about their successful pitch as part of The Funding Network event in November which secured development funding for Luminous Soul. The Funding Network event was organized with local partners: Community Foundation NI, Giving NI, and Belfast City Council. Open Arts’ sponsor for the event was The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.

JAM with Open Arts

IMG_3648JAMDIN is Back!
Join the loudest, most fun jam session in Belfast. JAMDIN is an interactive and inclusive music-making session held one Saturday morning per month in the Crescent Arts Centre, led by two experienced Open Arts community musicians.

It is for everyone, people with and without disabilities, who love jamming with musical instruments and drumbeats. You can bring your own instrument or use one of ours. You don’t need to know anything about music. You only need to be prepared to have fun and make some noise!

At JAMDIN you can get into:
-Drumming with Boomwhackers, drumsticks, and other percussion instruments.
-Singing and writing songs.
-Melodic experimentation with tuned percussion
-Jamming with whatever instruments people bring along.

The Details:

Where? The Crescent Arts Centre, University Road, Belfast
When? JAMDIN is held one Saturday per month from 10.30am-12pm, beginning February 2014.
Who can come? Anyone aged 16 or over with a love of music, regardless of disability or previous musical experience
How much does it cost? £0! Nothing! JAMDIN is free!
If you would like to jam with Open Arts, get in touch with Bev Whyte Or phone 02890 240765 to register your interest.

Luminous Soul Light Up CityDance14

Open-Arts-Several-Stories-High_210613-800004On Saturday the 22nd of February, Open Art’s Luminous Soul will perform among some of the best local contemporary dance groups at CityDance14: Contemporary Dance Showcase.

The night will be a real treat for dance fans, with 9 different dance groups performing their innovative and creative contemporary routines at the showcase in the Crescent Arts Centre.

The Luminous Soul piece, In the Shadows, was inspired by the Light & Shadow sculptures of Japanese artist Kumi Yamashita and the poem Luminous Soul by John McGuckin. The dancers will explore their own shadows and how things are never quite what they first seem. It is directed by Sheena Kelly and choreographed by the dancers themselves, to the music of Paper Tigers by Helios.

Luminous Soul are contemporary dancers who have a disability.  Over the last 5 years they have moved from strength to strength working with some of the UK and Northern Ireland’s finest choreographers.  Their performances have been highly praised and they have been featured at 2013 World Police and Fire Games, 2012 Paralympic Flame Festival, and the Milk Cup NI Welcoming ceremony. Open Arts’ Luminous Soul is a unique, contemporary dance project that provides high-quality dance training and development, enabling disabled people to become professional dancers.


Where: Crescent Arts Centre
Saturday 22nd of February
Time: 8pm
The Line-up:
Elderflowers Dance Theatre Company – Ave Maria
Flor Rodríguez Chávez – Lo Que No Entiendo – I Do Not Understand
Jayne Smyth, Helen Hall, Jade Rogers & Kirstie Toman – Endeavour
Maeve McGreevy & Eleonora Ramsby Herrera  – Lighten Up
Oona Doherty – NOW
Gary Rowntree Dance – Laboured Episode
Sheena Kelly – Lapsed
Open Arts’ Luminous Soul – In the Shadows
Bridget Madden Dance – Mnemosyne
Tickets: £5 for more information.


Opportunity to host the beautiful Open Arts gamelan


The Open Arts Javanese Gamelan is now available for residencies in Belfast!
Since the Open Arts Gamelan arrived in Belfast from Java in 1995, it has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, and for the last 3 years has resided in the Music Department at Stranmillis University College, running Gamelan music sessions with community groups of all ages and abilities.

However, from January 2014, it will be released to travel again…!

Not sure what a Gamelan is??
A Gamelan is an amazing orchestra of percussion instruments from Indonesia, comprising gongs, metallophones and drums of various shapes and sizes, and can be played by up to 20 people at any one time.

As well as being stunningly beautiful, the Gamelan has an other-worldly, vibrant & sonorous sound, and can be played by anyone, regardless of age, disability or previous musical experience.It is therefore the perfect tool for bringing school or community groups together, and for corporate team-building days.

Please follow the link below to get a flavour of some of our recent Gamelan projects and performances.

If you are interested in hosting a Gamelan residency – for a minimum of 6 weeks in a secure and accessible room of about 375 sq ft or 15 x 25ft

– please contact Bev Whyte, Musical Director for Open Arts, on 02890 240765

or email

Please feel free to forward this information to any other groups whom you think may be interested


Open Arts is 21


21 – Open Arts Comes of Age
Usually on your 21st birthday you are given the proverbial ‘key to the door.’ But Open Arts has turned this tradition on its head by opening its doors to the public with an interactive showcase exhibition that highlights its extensive work in enabling disabled people’s participation in the arts over the past 21 years.

The exhibition launch and birthday party was held on Monday 28th of October in the Crescent Arts Centre. It included performances by Open Arts Luminous Soul dancers, Gamelan musicians, members of the Open Arts Community Choir and readings by the Open Arts creative writers. The Open Arts staff shared out a 21st birthday cake with all of the invited guests.

Open Arts has worked steadily away in the background since 1992 providing a huge array of opportunities for disabled people in the arts. This exhibition is a chance for Open Arts to flaunt its scope and impact.

“It is amazing how much work Open Arts has done over the years” said Eileen Branagh, the new CEO of the organization. “We have involved people with disabilities in world class shows from the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony to the Last Choir Standing TV show, to the World Police and Fire Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies this year.”

But these high profile special performances are only the tip of the iceberg. Open Arts runs an extensive programme of classes in creative writing, dance, choir, gamelan, visual arts and drama for hundreds of disabled people every year in Belfast and all over Northern Ireland. On top of this, they organise major events and performances.

The showcase exhibition ran until Saturday 2nd November. It also included daily hour long workshops activities for exhibition visitors to get fully immersed in the work that Open Arts does. In true Open Arts fashion, these were open to anyone who wanted to join in.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said, “The Arts Council are delighted to support Open Arts as they celebrate their 21st anniversary of supporting and enabling thousands of disabled people from across Northern Ireland to participate in the arts,” she said. “This goal is unachievable without Open Arts and the other organisations working in Northern Ireland to make the arts genuinely open to all. That is the reason why Open Arts is one of the Arts Council’s core clients and the reason why we’ve been a keen and enthusiastic funder of Open Arts for as long as anyone can remember.”

Open Arts is 21

Open Arts presents 21
An exhibition highlighting 21 years of commitment to valuing creativity, furthering artistic excellence and promoting the rights and employment of disabled people within the arts.
Monday 28 October to Saturday 2 November
at the Crescent Arts Centre Gallery
2 – 4 University Road, Belfast
Free public activities each dayUpdated public activitiesOpen Arts 21 launch inviteExhibition week details





Open Arts Gamelan at Culture Night Belfast Launch

Our Gamelan was selected by Culture Night Organizer, Adam Turkington, to perform at the Culture Night Belfast Launch Ceremony in August. On Culture Night itself, the Gamelan played in the Art College for several hours.


Click the link to watch a video of the Open Arts Gamelan Players performing at the launch event.

Open Arts is currently recruiting new Gamelan players, with rehearsals starting on Wednesday 25 September at 4.30pm. Please email Bev Whyte, Musical Director, for more info, or to register your interest.

Morton Community Centre Mural

Morton Community Centre Mural, with Craig Blakely and Marylouise McCord (Lou Lou).

For Morton Community Centre’s celebration of 25 years of bringing people together,
the Open Arts Morton Monday Visual Arts Group worked with artist Ash Reynolds and other centre user groups to create a beautiful mural for permanent display in the centre.

with Craig Blakely and Marylouise Mccord Lou Lou.

Kate Ingram Honoured with Belfast Ambassador Award

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O’Muilleoir surprised Kate Ingram, CEO of Open Arts from its foundation in 1992 until April of this year, with a Belfast Ambassador Award during a tea reception yesterday, Monday the 5th of August, in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour.

The award is a new initiative, presented to ex-pats and locals who are outstanding advocates for the people and city of Belfast.

Click here for the Open Arts FLickr Gallery

kate Ingram receives Belfast Ambassador Award from Belfast Mayor Mairtin O’Muilleoir.

Open Arts Community Choir and Luminous Soul dancers to perform at WPFG Ceremonies

Our Luminous Soul Dancers are in rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony of the World Police and Fire Games in the Kings Hall this Thursday, 1st of August.The Open Arts Community Choir will perform at the closing ceremony on the 10th of August, which is not open to the general public.

The World Police and Fire Games is a biennial event for serving and retired police, fire, prison and border security officers.

WPFG is the third largest international multi-sport event in the world and will be the largest ever sporting event to take place in Northern Ireland. In 2013 there will be 56 sports held at 41 venues across Northern Ireland. Over 7,000 competitors from over 60 countries are expected to take part.

The Opening Ceremony tickets have all now been allocated but if you would like to watch it will be streamed live from 6.30pm on Thursday night on

Open Arts Community Choir competed in the International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales.

OACC pic Bangor2013Open Arts took every member of its 30-strong Open Arts Community Choir to Wales this July to compete in one of the world’s most renowned choral competitions, the International Musical Eisteddfod.
The choir visited the Eisteddfod Cultural Festival several years ago as a community performance group. This year they were invited back this year as competitors in the Eisteddfod Choral Competition. To compete, a group must meet a very high standard and pass a rigorous selection process.

Open Arts Musical Director Beverley Whyte, who will conduct the choir at the Eisteddfod, said, “The standard of singing at OACC is very high at the minute. We are able to communicate a lot of emotion, energy and humour in our songs.”

The 30 choir members travelled by coach and ferry to Wales for 5 days, along with some family members and support workers. The non-disabled and disabled members work together as a team to overcome any accessibility problems.

The choir competed on Thursday the 11th of July in the Folk Song Choir category and again in the Chamber Choirs competition on Friday the 12th of July. They also give a public performance on Saturday the 13th of July on the S4C stage at 12.45 pm.

“The experience of competing at such high levels helps us to raise our game,” said Whyte. “Plus listening to other great choirs always gives us inspiration for future projects and new repertoire.”

The competition was televised on S4C (Sky) on the three performance days, and garnered national and international attention for the choir.

If you would like more information on the choir please visit the choir

Time Transformed: Reflections on the Ulster Museum

Poetry Collection Launch in the Ulster Museum

In the tradition of one of the most famous poems in the English language – John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn – the participants of Open Arts Creative Writing groups have written Time Transformed, a collection of poems inspired by reflection on historical objects. The collection was launched at a special event on the 26th of June in the Ulster Museum, with local celebrity Nuala McKeever, who introduced and read selected poems from the booklet.

Continue reading

Time Transformed

Time Transformed: Reflections on the Ulster Museum

In the tradition of one of the most famous poems in the English language – John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn – the participants of Open Arts Creative Writing groups have written Time Transformed, a collection of poems inspired by reflection on historical artefacts.

The participants in the Time Transformed project wrote the poems in a series of creative writing workshops with tutor Ruth Carr following visits to the Ulster Museum. Open Arts led the Time Transformed project in a successful collaboration with the National Museums of Northern Ireland (NMNI) and Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (NIAMH).

During the museum visits the museum staff introduced the Open Arts group to a variety of exhibits, explaining their history, their importance and how the museum acquired them. For many of the participants, the project gave them their first ever opportunity to visit the museum. The works produced are a fascinating insight into the minds of participants and also into the historical artefacts they are based on.

Continue reading

Several Stories High

Picture 3

Picture 4












Tall Tales and Open Arts

“The highlight of your life was goin’ down to Bangor for the day on the Co Down Railway. And you stuck your head out the windee and you finished up pockmarked with the soot out o’ the engine. Those memories cling til ye. They stick til ye”

These memories could only come from Belfast. The city’s stories and the unique way in which they’re told are the inspiration for Open Arts’ world premiere performance ofSeveral Stories High. This major multi-disciplinary performance will be held in Stranmillis College Drama Theatre on Friday 21st of June. It will include disabled and non-disabled participants, in keeping with Open Arts’ ethos of promoting the inclusion of disabled people in the arts.

Continue reading

Ripe and Ready


RIPE AND READY is a free drama, music and dance opportunity for 15 lucky people who are over 50.
Intensive workshops over a two-week period in March will immerse you in the three art forms.

Click HERE for more information.

Sensorama sculpture project in collaboration with Northern Visions

There’s an exciting opportunity for people with a disability to work with an internationally renowned sculptor to create a 3 dimensional piece which will emphasise the fun side of disability – think stair-lifts and fairground rides! The finished sculpture will stand in the entrance to the Ulster Museum, viewed by 8,000 people a week, so it’s your chance to make a statement. Workshops will take place in March but book your place now to enhance your experience and increase your skills in 3D visual arts. Contact Kate or ring 02890240765

Bass Singers required for the Open Arts Community Choir

The OACC has been selected to compete in the International Eisteddfod in Wales this July, and urgently need more Basses!
Auditions will be held in January / February 2013 from 6.30pm-9.30pm in Divis Community Centre, Ardmoulin Place, Belfast. Auditions are very informal, in front of two of the choir’s Musical Directors. Singers should prepare a verse and chorus of a song of their own choice, after which they will be asked to sing some simple pitch-related exercises.
Successful Basses will be expected to attend Monday night rehearsals in Belfast, and learn a number of songs in a variety of styles and languages. Singers are not expected to be able to read music as Practice CDs and lyrics sheets are provided*
* Please let Open Arts know if you have any particular needs prior to the audition, e.g lyrics in Braille or large print.
The OACC is an award winning, dynamic, inclusive choir based in Belfast. They demonstrate how people from different cultural backgrounds, with and without disabilities, come together through the medium of song to be positive ambassadors for Northern Ireland. Having reached the final stages of the BBC’s “Last Choir Standing” in 2008 and RTÉ’s “An Cór” in 2010, they are dedicated to providing high quality, multi-genre performances throughout the UK and Ireland, and have just returned from the Milwaukee Irish Fest!
Please email to register your interest, or phone Beverley Whyte, Musical Director, on 07867 808485.

Workshops Resume for New Term

Open Arts workshops at the Crescent Arts Centre resume on the week beginning 14th January. If you are lucky enough to attend the Morton Art Group then you start on Monday 7th, but go home afterwards, as the drama doesn’t start until 14th. Big Choir also runs on 7th January at Divis Community Centre. All welcome to go along and sing from 7.15 to 9.15

Open Arts recruiting Chief Executive Officer

Open Arts, Northern Ireland’s participative arts organisation for disabled people, seeks a dynamic Chief Executive Officer with artistic background, to support Open Arts Board in enabling people with disabilities to take a full part in creative arts activities. The successful candidate will have managerial experience, including fund-raising and budgeting, and a wide-ranging knowledge of the arts and of disability. Further details and an application form are available electronically from or by post, Open Arts, Crescent Arts Centre, 2-4 University Rd. Belfast BT7 1NH and must be returned by 4p.m. on Friday 25th January. Interviews will take place on Tuesday 12th February. Applications are welcome from all sections of the community regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.

Several Stories High

Open Arts is about to start a new project funded by Belfast City Council under the Creative Legacies Programme. This is a city-wide project which will involve people in reminiscing about the street they once lived in and the street they live in now. These memories will be used by a composer to create a piece of music specific to Belfast, incorporating Open Arts’ Community Choir and Open Arts’ very own gamelan. The recorded reminiscences will not be lost; they will be added to the appopritate streets on the sound map of Belfast which has been established by Sarc (Sonic Arts Research Centre.) if you are a member of a group who would like to record your memories why not ring Una on 02890240765.

Time Transformed

This exciting creative writing project is funded by Belfast City Council’s Development and Outreach Porgramme. 2 groups, from Beacon, our partner organisation, are using the Ulster Museum as inspiration for their writing. Museum staff present the participants with artefacts and talk them through their history and provenance. Then the writers set to and produce written work on associated themes. Peter the Polar Bear is a favourite. 2 new groups will start writing next term and the project will end with a celebration, exhibition and printed booklet in June 2013.

Threads Project connects with the Ulster Museum


What is normal? … We are here … This-abled.”
On 3 December 2011, the Ulster Museum and Open Arts will celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities through a showcase of new artwork, creative writing, and performance! Over the past few months, different groups of people with disabilities have been busy creating new work to share with Belfast. The Threads Project inspired each member of 2 visual arts groups to explore and reflect in order to identify events and experiences which had a lasting effect, changed their direction or shaped their daily lives. The Creative Writing Group similarly searched out threads, which are woven into the fabric of their life stories. The devised performance, This-Abled, will take you on a journey as it challenges stereotypes and asks the audience to consider again how “together we can make a better world for all,” the international theme for 2011. The writing and visual work will be on display in the museum as well. This-Abled is wheelchair accessible and suitable for the whole family. Show times are 2:15, 3:15, and 4:15. Art and written work is on display for the whole of the following week.






Music maestros please




Open Arts Classes Resume

Open Arts Crescent-based classes resume in the week beginning 12th September.  Please note, this is a week later than the Crescent classes start, to suit some of our participants.   If you attend the Friday art class, this is the only class to begin earlier.  It starts on Friday 9th September. We are looking forward to seeing all our regulars again and meeting new participants.

Latest News Luminous Soul

Luminous Soul Dance Development  Day in The Playhouse, Derry

Saturday 1st Oct from 1 – 6 pm with Caroline Bowditch and Naomi Murray from Scottish Dance Theatre.

This is the last opportunity to audition to get involved in this wonderful project.

If you are interested in attending please go to Luminous Soul page for a Registration Form or phone Una McCann on 02890240765.


Residential 3 will be taking place in the MarketPlace Theatre Armagh from Sunday the 13th to Friday 18th November.  We are very excited to have Mark Brew to facilitate this week for us alongside 2 other very experienced dancers and choreographers- Nadia Adame and Lorraine Jamieson.  We will have a performance of work on Friday the 18th at 3pm in the Market Place.  All are welcome and it is free of charge.


Belfast Continuation Classes will run from 23rd Sept 2011 until 28th Oct 2011, facilitated by Jennifer Jordan.

Northwest Continuation Classes dates are to be confirmed.


Congratulations to our Belfast Luminous Souls who gave a wonderful performance at the Belfast City Hall for the LTUK Open Weekend on the 23 July 2011.  Our DVD of the performance following Candoco’s residential was also shown on the big screen for all of Belfast to see.  This movie will be available for you to see soon.


New from the Open Arts’ young people’s team, workshops in music-making with the gamelan and in drama skills.  Both are designed to help you prepare for the great Open Arts Summer Scheme coming to you for a week on August 1st.Workshops take place every Tuesday from 24th May to 28th June. For further details contact Kate or Bev.

Going On a Bear Hunt

Open Arts integrated group of young people with and without disabilities and from all backgrounds went to the Opera House on Friday 29th April, when others were watching a certain wedding.  We were ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’.  We arrived in good time and filed in to the best seats in the house.  The actors turned up, entering through the auditorium and we were transported, with father, baby, brother, sister and dog, to a land of grass, water, mud, caves and finally bears. The music carried us away as successfully as the simple props and we all had the chance to participate, though the artists probably weren’t as keen on the water sport as the young people were.  After the show we were off on a hunt of our own to the Shakespeare Rooms where we were surprised by a visit from the cast.  The baby, a large puppet with an almost bald wooden head, was a great success and everyone who wanted had the chance to make him walk, turn his head or wave.  When the cast had gone we started on a workshop and we soon perfected the singing of the Bear Hunt song, among other tunes.  We also had a discussion about plans for a piece of musical theatre of our own.  It has to be scary.  We’ve set the date for the Summer Scheme so keep the week of Monday  August 1st to Friday August 5th free.


Current Workshops

All open Arts workshops have resumed.  If you want to join VIP Art then Friday 13th 10.30 -12.30 at the Crescent Arts Centre is your last chance this term. Work will be starting on a clay project.  If you want to join drama then you need to attend on Friday 13th, 11 -12 a.m. or Monday 16th 11-12 a.m  or 2- 4 p.m. All  these workshops take place at the Crescent Arts Centre.  The creative writing deadline is Tuesday 17th May 11- 12 Crescent Arts Centre.  Otherwise join us in September.

Love Arts Day in Stranmillis College

At 10.00 am (or a little before) 20 excited children and their adults turned up at the music department of Stranmillis College to enjoy a day of arts activitiy.  The gamelan had pride of place in its own room and the recital room was ready for drama.  First everyone had to offer suggestions on what to do in the Summer. There were pictures which people signed up to: walking in the hills and museums (particularly the DS museum which we’ll have to build first) were very popular, though the circus also received a large number of votes and Disney-Land and the USA featured in many suggestions.

Then it was down to work to create physical and musical stories. The younger group (blueberries) started with a word story and suddenly there were five red clowns building a skyscraper in the desert because the tents they had been living in had no toilets and also were full of clippy bugs.

The older ones created Rankar, a frightening monster, half elephant and half dinosaur; some humming birds, an evil peacock, a giant mouse, who was good, a storm, a waterfall and some quiet water.  Their story began musically with the different instruments of the gamelan providing the inspiration.

The blueberries’ story developed musically as a lion appeared to help the clowns, because clippy bugs can fly and the skyscraper couldn’t  keep them out. Then the lion got very thirsty from eating the clippy bugs because they are very salty, so a dolphin and a water snake and a camel appeared from the oasis to give him water.  The clowns were so grateful to the animals that they build them a restaurant  ‘The Animal’s Rest’ at the base of the skyscraper and they all lived happily ever after.

The raspberries story was dramatised as it emerged that poor Rankar had no heart, because all his race was destroyed by the an evil mouse, which is why he hated the good giant mouse.  The humming birds led Rankar to the healing waterfall, and his heart was restored, then they pretended to be a peacock and induced the evil peacock to visit the waterfall where he was reformed.  The storm broke and the good mouse, wafted it over the quiet water with his stinking cheese breath until all was calm. And they all lived happily ever after.

Both stories were interpreted musically and dramatically.  Each group acted out their story for the other group and then in the gamelan room they performed it musically for one another and a few parents who had arrived early.

Before we knew it the day was over and everyone went home well satisfied.  Now we just have to plan the summer scheme and here’s a hint.  We’re unlikely to be going to the USA!

Many thanks to all the staff of  Stranmillis College for their on-going  support

Belfast Dance Day with Croi Glan- a great success!

A big thank you to Croi Glan for an excellent Dance Development Day on Wed 16th Feb. We had a great day’s dancing in the Crescent Arts Centre and have selected 4 new bodies to join our team of trainees. Congratulations to the new folk! Photos to follow!
Next up – a showing of work by the Belfast Luminous Souls on 4th March at 4pm in Studio at the Crescent.

Love Arts Day 15th February

If you’re 5 to 11 years old, then come to our Love Arts Day on February 15th in Stranmillis College from 10.00 to 3.30 p.m. It’s completely inclusive, so we provide support workers. There’s music, story making and drama. You need to book though, so get your mum, dad or guardian to ring Kate on 02890240765

Latest News from the Luminous Soul Dance Project

Luminous Soul Dance Development  Day in The Playhouse, Derry

Saturday 1st Oct with Caroline Bowditch and Naomi Murray from Scottish Dance Theatre.

This is the last opportunity to audition to get involved in this wonderful project.

If you are interested in attending please go to Luminous Soul page for a Registration Form or phone Una McCann on 02890240765.


Residential 3 will be taking place in the MarketPlace Theatre Armagh from Sunday the 13th to Friday 18th November.  We are very excited to have Mark Brew to facilitate this week for us alongside 2 other very experienced dancers and choreographers- Nadia Adame and Lorraine Jamieson.  We will have a performance of work on Friday the 18th at 3pm in the Market Place.  All are welcome and it is free of charge.


Belfast Continuation Classes will run from 23rd Sept 2011 until 28th Oct 2011, facilitated by Jennifer Jordan.

Northwest Continuation Classes dates are to be confirmed.


Congratulations to our Belfast Luminous Souls who gave a wonderful performance at the Belfast City Hall for the LTUK Open Weekend on the 23 July 2011.  Our DVD of the performance following Candoco’s residential was also shown on the big screen for all of Belfast to see.  This movie will be available for you to see soon.

Open Arts Community Choir Triumphs at Liverpool DADA Fest

The Open Arts Community Choir (OACC) was on the move again, when it travelled to Liverpool on Saturday 20th November. After a very early start the choir arrived at the hotel, just in time for breakfast, and then it was time to rehearse for the afternoon gig.  This took place in the Bluecoat Arts Centre, in front of the bed made famous by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The gig was a great success; the choice of songs was much appreciated by an audience of all ages and we nearly recruited 2 new members – only the Irish sea proved to be a bit of an obstacle! From here we were driven to the Palm House, an unbelievably beautiful Victorian glass house in Sefton Park,  which makes a superb venue.  The accoustics are brilliant.  We had our sound check and then a lovely supper.  The hot tea and coffee were much appreciated, as the heating seemed to have broken down and we all felt sorry for the tropical vegetation while we shivered in its shade. Things soon warmed up however, when the various different choirs started singing and finally it was the turn of OACC.  We gave an hour-long performance which showed off our entertainment value to the full, with our varied repertoire to suit all tastes.  We even sang an encore for added value.  The audience was ecstatic. Next morning it was back to rehearsing (this time Christmas songs and carols) before we caught the plane back to Belfast.  We had a very busy trip, but we enjoyed every minute of it.  Thank you DADA, for inviting us.  We hope to see you all again in 2 years time.



Board Members Needed

Open Arts is on the look out for new board members.  If you consider yourself to have a disability; if you’re passionate about the arts and have a few other skills – we are particularly interested in people with PR, marketing, fund-raising or HR experience – please contact Kate who will forward an induction pack to you.

Drama-Rama at Mencap Christmas Party

Sunday 5th December, a date to remember! It was Mencap’s Christmas Party and a variety of talented people converged on the Culloden Hotel, Cultra, to share their love of performance with friends and family. It was a great show and Mount Oriel Day Centre’s participants, who attend Open Arts Friday Dramarama sessions, were there to start the whole thing off with the Oriel 12 Days of Christmas.  Suffice to say it involved six stinking socks, five gravy rings and a mince pie and sherry!  The stinking socks were especially popular with the audience and the group left the stage to ringing applause.

Drama Rama sessions are now finished for 2010

They resume on 21st January 2011

Luminous Soul Residential at Crescent Arts Centre

The 17th to 22nd October were very special dates for the Luminous Soul Dancers. They took part in their first residential and it was non-stop dance all week. The group met on Sunday and stayed 5 nights in Days Hotel, ready to start at 10 a.m. on Monday18th. They were joined by Sally, Miriam and Julie from Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company in Shropshire. The dance training focussed on working as a group of dancers and improvisation was a key element in the skills learned. It was good to have a great deal of help from our newly recruited dance-support workers who all have a background in dance but were undertaking the role of support worker for the first time ever. A couple of activities were organised for the evenings, including a talk about Arts and Disability organisations and the support they can provide. There was also a visit to a the Waterfront Hall for a performance of ‘Afterlight’ by the Russell Maliphant Company. Ryan  kindly audio-described this for Katie. The week was rounded off on Friday afternoon with a sharing of the work that had been done. Everyone who watched was amazed at the quality of work produced after only one week. Blue Eyed Soul was very keen to take some of our aspiring dancers back to England with them. Our first ever dance residential was a rip-roaring success.

N.B. The next residential will take place from 6th to 10th May 2011 at Corrymeela.  Can’t wait!






If you would like to join the programme, the next

Dance Development Day

 takes place in Belfast on 9th February 2011

with Croí Glan Dance Company from Cork.

Contact unaopenarts@gmail for an application form

Summer Scheme is rocking!

The Drama BeginsBeach ArtHere's the musicHere’s a flavour of the fun that’s happening now, on Newcastle beach and in the Crescent Arts Centre. An inclusive group of children from all sorts of backgrounds, aged 5 to 11 are creating art music and drama and will share their creations with any one in Newcastle at 12.15 p.m. on Thursday. The happening takes place just outside the Newcastle Tourist Information Centre and on the nearby beach!

Luminous Soul – Belfast can do!

Luminous Soul is a dance project for disabled people who would like the opportunity to train to be professional dancers/ dance teachers.

Candoco Dance Company ‘push boundaries of contemporary dance beyond usual expectations and broaden people’s perception of what dance is and who can dance’.

In November 2009, as the launch of the Luminous Soul dance project, 2 dance facilitators from Candoco Dance Company in London worked with disabled people at the All Souls Church Hall, Elmwood Ave, Belfast. Since then we have worked with nearly 60 disabled people in Omagh, Derry and Ballymena and with the help of our international tutors, have selected 12 disabled people who we believe have the potential to work towards becoming professional dancers. Participants who are selected are then invited to attend five day long residentials (free of charge). The first of these residentials is happening in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on the 17th to the 22nd of October. The week will be facilitated by the Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company.

For information about how to take part in Luminous Soul, click here.

Coming soon:
Newry Dance Development Day
Newry Sports Centre, Wed 8th September 2010 (10.30 – 15.30)
Facilitated by Marc Brew

Registration forms available now!

four dancers striking a pose together

two dancers, one reaching high, one reaching low

many dancers, all bending to one side

Continue reading

Disabled people in Newry are invited to dance with Luminous Soul

Marc BrewThe international choreographer and award winning dancer Marc Brew is coming to Newry Sports Centre on 8th September 2010 to work with disabled people in the area who have an interest in dance. As a wheelchair user, Marc will guide the participants through a day of contemporary dance (10.30 – 15.30). Please ring Una if you would like more information on 02890240765. There is no cost but please complete a registration form.

Open Arts Community Choir Beat the Best in Bangor!

bangor international choral festival logo

The Open Arts Community Choir took part in the Bangor International Choral Festival last Saturday, 24 April 2010, with choirs competing from Wales, Scotland, Bath, Northern Ireland and the Philippines.

The choir from the University of Santo Tomas in the Phillipines were a hit at the Bangor Choral Festival

The stars of the evening were the amazing Philippino choir from the University of Santo Tomas; all talented university music students who are doing a 4-month tour of Europe. They came first in almost every category in the Bangor festival with their incredible sound and technically demanding songs. Nevertheless, they were relegated to 2nd place on Saturday night when the Open Arts Community Choir won the Light Entertainment category with “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel, “Stairway to Paradise” by George Gershwin, and a beautiful arrangement of “Danny Boy”! The adjudicators awarded the Open Arts Community Choir the top mark of 90+ (Outstanding), with the comment, “I admire your ability to sing with the lightest of vocal tone and yet maintain dynamic and musical control. This was a stunning performance.”

Well done again Open Arts!!

The Open Arts Community Choir that walked away with first prize

Change of Address for Open Arts

The Crescent Arts Centre refurbishment is finally finished and so Open Arts has moved back to its old home.

Open Arts
Crescent Arts Centre
2-4 University Rd
BT7 1 NH
New permanent phone number: 02890 240765

For more information on the Crescent Arts centre click here.

The Crescent Arts Centre, home of the Open Arts office

David Hill, chair of the Crescent : “Everything is accessible now which is something that was a problem with the old building. Only the ground floor – indeed parts of it – were accessible from a disabled point of view. So really I’m glad that we’ve got to the stage where we’ve got full access throughout the building. That’s important.”

Liz Doonan: “The fact that we have a lift now and access to all of the floors for disabled people and people who can’t make stairs, that’s very good and we were lost without that. Before, I mean, Beverly who runs the Open Arts choir – I hadn’t realised, but she had never actually seen the top floor in this building.”

For a video and interview about the refurbishment click here.

A Little Taste of Summer in February

febnot summerscheme 142visit New York........see Lady Gaga.....perform a play........

painting would be good......go to the park.......

On Tuesday 16th February we had a feedback session in which we invited our summer scheme attenders to come to the Ulster Hall and enjoy working with music and visual arts. This was an end in itself, but we also wanted ideas on what to do in 2010’s Summer Scheme. We learned some songs, we made masks and plaques to hang on the wall and we were given all sorts of exciting ideas. Some of the suggestions for what to do were a little impractical (a trip to New York City or the Jungle) and some were much more do-able, like a musical or a visit to the park. The Zoo seemed to be a favourite place to visit. Some of the ideas appear here as pictures drawn by our eager beavers. Now all we have to do is go away and create a timetable which accommodates all those ideas and hope that Children in Need, who very kindly funded last year’s Summer Scheme, will support this one.