Luminous Soul

with Open Arts Community Choir & special guest Donal Scullion

The performance will include a selection of group dances, duets and solos, performed to live choral music from Open Arts Community Choir including a special guest appearance from local singer/songwriter, Donal Scullion.

Originally performed during Bounce! Festival in Spetember 2017 this is another chance to experience the stunning dances with beautiful music.

Tickets are available from The Crescent Arts Centre through this link – TICKETS

Open Arts Community Choir by Candlelight with Special Guests

Date: Friday 1st December 2017

Time: 7.30pm

Venue: St Peter’s Cathedral, St Peter’s Square, Belfast BT12 4BU

An evening of festive songs performed by the Open Arts Community Choir & friends in the beautiful candlelit surroundings of St Peter’s Cathedral. Guest appearances from Donal Scullion, Bronagh Broderick, Jonny Mac, and Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band.

Link to tickets 

If you need to be accompanied by your carer/personal assistant, please get in touch with Open Arts on 028 90 240765.

Luminous Soul

with Open Arts Community Choir

Friday 29th September, 7:30pm

Crescent Arts Centre

Luminous Soul, accompanied by Open Arts Community Choir, will present a selection of work, which has been developed over the past year, including their most recent work in progress.

The performance will include a selection of group dances, duets and solos, performed to live choral music including a special guest appearance from local singer/songwriter, Donal Scullion.

The performance is being presented as part of the annual Bounce! Festival, which is organised by The ADF (Arts & Disability Forum)

Tickets are £8 and available from this link –  TICKETS

Exhibition in collaboration with The MAC

28th September – 17th October

40 members from our visual art groups took part in guided tours of ‘Lost in Narration’, a major exhibition guest curated by Manuela Pacella at the MAC. The exhibition brought together several multi-layered projects across a range of media by Italian artists Riccardo Giacconi, Invernomuto and Luca Trevisani.

The participants then responded to this work by creating their own exhibition which was inspired by ‘Lost in Narration’ in particular Luca Trevisani’s film ‘Sudan,’ which explores their own memories and recollections of their visit.

They have used a range of techniques to create the work including; blind folding and other drawing exercises, collage, collaborative creation of new images, experimenting with textural materials and printmaking.

More information on The MAC and our exhibition can be found at The MAC, Belfast

Open Arts Community Choir win triple gold at European Choir Games!

The Open Arts Community Choir has returned from representing Northern Ireland at the European Choir Games in Riga, Latvia with an impressive two gold medals, a gold diploma and a silver diploma.

The choir progressed through all three levels of competition at the European Choir Games – from the Open Competitions, through to the European Champions and finally the Grand Prix of Nations – competing against choirs from all over the world, including Canada, Russia and the USA.

In the Open Competitions the choir received a silver diploma in ‘Folklore A Capella’ and a gold diploma in ‘Adult – Mixed Voices’. In the European Champions competition they won a gold medal in ‘Adult Choirs – Mixed Voices and another gold medal in the same category in the Grand Prix of Nations.

Formed in 2000 by Open Arts, one of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic arts and disability organisations, the choir features 35 members from all over Northern Ireland who have a range of disabilities: physical disabilities, visual impairment and mental health issues.

Commenting on the choir’s tremendous success, Bev McGeown, Musical Director of Open Arts, said:

“Taking part in the European Choir Games was an incredible experience and a real honour for the Open Arts Community Choir. To represent the arts in Northern Ireland so successfully on a European stage will help us to make even more of a difference in challenging perspectives on disability, and bringing our message of inclusion to the rest of the world!”

During their visit to Latvia, the Open Arts Community Choir had several opportunities to perform, compete and network with other internationally renowned choirs. They also participated in a South African music workshop, and received a choral coaching session from conductor David Slater, who is Australia’s Ambassador to the World Choir Council.

Open Arts Community Choir to represent Northern Ireland at European Choir Games

The Open Arts Community Choir is set to represent Northern Ireland in the European Choir Games in Riga, Latvia, from 16 -20 July 2017.

Formed in 2000 by Open Arts, the choir features 35 members from all over Northern Ireland who have a range of disabilities: physical disabilities, visual impairment and mental health issues.

Commenting ahead of the competition, Bev McGeown, Musical Director of Open Arts, said:

“We are extremely proud and excited to be representing Northern Ireland at the European Choir Games, especially in Open Arts’ 25th anniversary year! Our participation in the event will give the choir increased visibility on a high profile European stage and will spread the choir’s message of inclusion, challenging the negative preconceptions about the artistic ability of disabled people.”

Open Arts is supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Head of Music, Ciaran Scullion, added:

“The Arts Council is delighted to see the Open Arts Community Choir represent Northern Ireland at the prestigious European Choir Games. Here they will have a valuable opportunity to showcase the arts from NI, take part in professional development and highlight the important message of inclusivity and creativity for all. Congratulations.”

During their visit to Latvia, the Open Arts Community Choir will have several opportunities to perform, compete and network with other internationally renowned choirs, plus the chance to have individual coaching and performance evaluations with well-known conductors and to compete in the prestigious European Champions Competition.

To help the choir on their way to Riga, a fundraising event was held in Rockmount Golf Club on Friday 23 June with support from overall event sponsor The Medicare Group and many others, who contributed to the Golf Classic.

Three in One

Exhibition in The Black Box

In 2017 Open Arts is celebrating 25 years of engaging disabled people in the arts. As part of our celebrations, we will exhibit ‘Three In One’ in The Green Room at The Black Box throughout the month of June.

We run 3 visual art groups for disabled people each week:
1 Monday Morton group work on crafts, textiles, individual pieces and group projects.
2 Acorn Arts, based in Divis Community Centre, for blind or visually impaired people.
3 Open Art, based in the Crescent Arts Centre. They each have their own specific interest and talents in particular media. They are facilitated to each work independently.

The groups have exhibited In Linen Hall Library, Ulster Hall, The Barge and Crescent Arts Centre over the past few years.
Our exhibitions are always varied and interesting as we have such a range of people involved in the producing the artwork.

The artwork will include individuals’ work from across our 3 visual arts groups encompassing an eclectic selection of various subjects such as landscape and still life using a wide range of media and techniques including: embroidery, fabric manipulation, watercolour, pastel, mixed media collage, action painting and stencilling.

Each of the groups has been working on the pieces that will be exhibited over the past 6 months. The exhibition will reflect the range of interests, materials & techniques across Open Art’s visual art groups and, indeed the scope and variety of all of Open Arts’ programme for disabled people.

OACC with Donal Scullion and The Spider Collective at Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Sunday 30th April, 7:30pm. 

First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street. 

The Spider Collective is a 10-piece ensemble, which performs the beautiful, epic arrangements of Donal Scullion’s songs using everything from strings to glockenspiels.

Open Arts Community Choir (OACC) is our critically acclaimed, inclusive choir.

This will be a theatrical musical experience and ambitious performance with both groups joining forces for the event.

Tickets £10/£8 available from this link Event Tickets

Tickets also available from: Visit Belfast on 028 90 246 609 or in person at Visit Belfast, 8 – 10 Donegal Square North (Opposite front of City Hall)

The Spellbound Boy (an adaption of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilège.)

Click this link for a preview video of The Spellbound Boy

After the success of our performance of The Spellbound Boy in November, we are going to do it again… not once but twice at the Crescent Arts Centre!

The performances will be on Sunday 19th March 3.00pm and 7.30pm (the 7:30pm performance will be audio described).

Tickets are £8 or £5 available from The Crescent Arts Centre website by clicking on this link Tickets for The Spellbound Boy, by telephone on 028 90242 338 or in person from the Crescent Arts Centre reception/box office. 

The Spellbound Boy is the story of a troubled boy, who after being told off by his Mum, goes into a fit of rage and destroys many things in his bedroom. His belongings then come to life to show him the disappointment and hurt that his destruction has caused.

What has caused this upset and anger? Can he put things right? Will he be forgiven…?

There is a magical array of spellbinding characters performed by a cast of 50 from Open Arts’ Community Choir, Luminous Soul dance, Monday Players drama and Gamelan ensemble. Open Arts’ creative writing group has added to the adapted libretto, musicians have added to the musical score and visual art groups have created props and costumes.

These performances of The Spellbound Boy are the first in a series of events in 2017, which will celebrate our 25th birthday! We are also the longest residing company in the Crescent Arts Centre so they are delighted to play host to this, our first event to mark our birthday celebrations!

Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom! engaged older people in a series of drama, storytelling, reminiscence and creative writing workshops with the aim of producing a book filled with the participants’ stories, memories and advice!

The Words of Wisdom book was launched on 28th April in The Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts.

An audio version of the book was also created and is available to stream from this link.

Words of Wisdom Audio Book

Participating groups:
Cruse Bereavement, Beyond Words, Derry
Inspire: Living Well, Living Longer, Dungannon
Mount Oriel Day Centre, Belfast
Orchardville TRC, Belfast

Supported by the Arts & Older People Programme.



A Christmas Concert with Open Arts Community Choir & Friends

An evening of sacred and secular Christmas songs performed by the Open Arts Community Choir, Ballyclare Victoria Flute Band and invited soloists, in the beautiful surroundings of St Peter’s Cathedral.
Tickets £5 + booking fee, available through the link below:

Christmas Concert Tickets


Open Arts presents
The Spellbound Boy – now sold out! 

(an adaption of Ravel’s opera, L’enfant et les sortilèges)
26th November, 7.30pm, Belvoir Player’s Studio

This is the story of a troubled boy, who after being told off by his Mum, goes into a fit of rage and destroys many things in his bedroom. His belongings then come to life to show him the disappointment and hurt that his destruction has caused.

What has caused this upset and anger? Can he put things right? Will he be forgiven…?

There is a magical array of spellbinding characters performed by a cast of 50 from Open Arts’ Community Choir, Luminous Soul dance, Monday Players drama and Gamelan ensemble. Open Arts’ creative writing group has added to the adapted libretto, musicians have added to the musical score and visual art groups have created props and costumes.


Bounce Festival

Luminous Soul took part in Bounce Festival and, as usual, they wowed the audience. They were part of a triple bill of performances at the Lyric Theatre on Sunday 28th August, which also featured groups from KIC (Kids in Control).

Open Arts at Belfast Carnival Village

On Saturday 25th June our Gamelan Players and Luminous Soul dancers performed as part of the Beat Carnival Village event in Ormeau Park. There was a new composition with Beat n Drum, lambeg and bodhrans players accompanied by Luminous Soul’s performance, which all received great feedback!



Luminous Soul wow conference delegates

Luminous Soul performed at a conference on 22nd June at Queen’s University organised in partnership between the University and the Public Health Agency.


Red Riding Hood and The Wolf

As part of Belfast Book Festival on 14th June, our creative writers accompanied by our Musical Director Bev McGeown performed Red Riding Hood and The Wolf (an alternative version), their adaption of the story. They also recited some of their individual work. It was a small audience but those that were there gave great feedback and for some of the group it was their first time reading their work publicly.


BBC Music Day

On the 3rd June Open Arts Community Choir performed as part of the televised programme for BBC Music day NI, which was filmed in Stormont Buildings.


Monday Players travel to Madrid

3 participants from our Monday Players drama group, along with support workers, and our CEO travelled to Madrid on 20th May for Una Mirada Diferente, inclusive theatre festival organised by Centro Dramático Nacional. They went to numerous shows over the course of the weekend as part of the festival and in other venues. Arts Council NI’s International Development Fund supported the trip.


Bangor International Choral Festival

Open Arts Community Choir competed in Bangor Choral festival in April and yet again won numerous prizes! They received 1st place in both Light Entertainment and Barbershop Ensemble and 2nd place in the Open Choral.


Larger than Life!

Our arts & older people project, Larger Than Life, was a great success. We worked with 5 groups in a series of drama & illustration workshops: Beyond Words (Cruse Bereavement Care), Holywood Men’s Shed, Newington Day Centre, The Wednesday Club, Hemsworth Court

The project ended with the launch of the ‘comic book’, Larger than Life on 28th April in The Duncairn Centre. It was really well attended by the participant groups and received amazing feedback from everyone involved. The project was supported by The Arts and Older People’s programme, which is jointly funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure, Public Health Agency and the Baring Foundation.


Natural Perceptions exhibition

On 3rd March we launched our Natural Perceptions exhibition in the Ulster Hall, which ran until the end of the month. It was a collaborative exhibition by all 3 of visual art groups.



Visit to Paragon Music in Glasgow

Our CEO, Musical Director and Project Coordinator visited Paragon Music in Glasgow to experience their Play On project, a fun, inclusive way to learn a musical instrument and meet new friends. Young people (6-20 yrs) with additional support needs can access this unique opportunity to learn a musical instrument, make up their own music in a group and play in performances.

There will be a return visit to Belfast in early 2016 by Ninian Perry, their Creative Director and other members of their project team. The purpose of the exchange to skills share with artists engaged in our ‘In Tune’ music project for ideas and future development of our youth music project.


Friday Art Group launches exhibition

Our Friday art group have launched their exhibition in The Pantry Kitchen Café, Crescent Arts Centre.  The exhibition will be in place until early 2016.


Creative Writers take part in LaVA project

Our creative writers along with participants from other Open Arts’ groups took part in the Community Arts Partnership, LaVA (Literature and Verbal Arts), Connections project. They have submitted their work for consideration for publication in the upcoming anthology.


In Tune music workshops begin

We have started the first of our music workshops in our ‘In Tune’ music project, which is a new and innovative programme for children/young people who have either autism or who are blind or visually impaired. In school half term week we had 2 days with children from Angel Eyes NI and a further two days with young people through Autism Initiatives.

See our Music section for more information on the project.


Luminous Soul Public Performances

Luminous Soul participated in DU Dance NI’s large scale Bel-Fest15 with performances in Ulster Museum. They also joined with hundreds of other dancers for the mass dance in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.


Luminous Soul at MeetShareDance

Luminous Soul participated in MeetShareDance international inclusive dance festival, which was held in University College Dublin with choreographers from USA, Greece, Ireland and Scotland.


Sky to Sea success!

On saturday 6th June over 50 Open Arts performers (singers, dancers, musicians and actors) took to the stage in front of an audience of nearly 200 in Stranmillis University College Theatre. 
Some of the words used by the audience to describe the performance included; “stunning, moving, evocative, ethereal, thought-provoking, a thing of beauty and emotional”. 
The set, which included large scale banners, was created by Open Arts’ three visual art groups and much of the content was inspired by the work of our creative writers. 
The whole project and end performance was an amazing, successful artistic collaboration with nearly 120 individuals across 5 art forms. 
Sky to Sea was supported by Belfast City Council’s Arts and Heritage project grant.
Open Arts wishes to thank and congratulate everyone involved!
Monday Players
Tim Leathem, Robert Nolan, Nicholas McAtamney, Darren Murphy, Tracey Chan, Mary Louise McCord, Chris Hutchins, Paul Carson, Stephanie Rush, Peter Duffy, Gareth Kilpatrick, Carley Palmer, Gerry McBride, Brona Murphy, Bryan Ryder
Drama facilitators: Jessica Samoy Plunkett, Orla McKeagney, Jennifer Goddard
Drama support worker: Andy Paton
Volunteers: Anna Kyle, Kevin Savage
Luminous Soul
Katy Megahey,  Andrea Hope, Mary Louise McCord, Cinzia Savonitti, Chris Hutchins, Julie Richmond
Dance facilitator: Helen Hall
Dance support workers:  Andy Paton, Jade Rodgers
Gamelan Orchestra
Andrea Hope, Caitriona Murtagh, Kate Ingram, Susan Agahi, Damian Mills, Delia Skan, John Caulfield, Carole McClenaghan, Andrew McClenaghan, Hannah Mains, Brian Wilson, Gearoid Breslin
Gamelan facilitators: Bev McGeown, Una McCann
Pianist:  Linda Beattie
Open Arts Community Choir
(CDs are available to buy in the foyer)
Katy Megahey, Andrea Hope, Catherine Pollitt, Wilma Bickerstaff, Hannah Harrison, Sarah-Jane Gibson, Jackie Fleming, Hannah Beattie, Jayde Moore, Hannah Mains, Catherine Hanna, Breege Corr, Margaret Mann, Emma Gibson, Frances McGonnell, Dee Brunt, Maria Svabova, Ann Tyler, Maighread Kennedy, Fiona Hamill, Jolene Flynn, Lesley Dickie, Giovanni Bennetti, Dave Cunningham, Gareth Smyth
Musical Directors: Bev McGeown, Alan Beattie, Anne McCambridge
Morton Art
Mary Louise McCord, Tim Leathem, Darren Murphy, Julie McCarthy, Claire Soutar
Art facilitators: Aisling Reynolds, Sheelagh Colclough
Volunteer: Matt Dundas
Acorn Arts
John Murphy, Desi Rooney, Jessica Thompson, Allison Brown, Rene Boyd, Jamie Coady, Torie Tennant, Ryan McCartney, Andrea Hope, Lisa McLaughlin, Katy Megahey, Audrey Mae Shaw, Etta Luney, Theresa Graham
Art facilitators: Claire McGoran, Richard Geddis
Volunteers: Kate Whyte, Margaret Simpson, Gary Linton, Rosemary Murphy
Friday Art
Bill Jordan, Michael Treliving, Deirdre Ward, Ian Henry, Peter Livingstone, Matthew Neeson, Robert Manderson, Sarah Cantillian
Art facilitators: Claire McGoran, Richard Geddis
Volunteers: Liz Main Morrison, Brian McCarthy
Creative Writers
Alison Black, Carley Palmer, Stephen Bradshaw, Sarah Cantillon, Andy Ward, Gareth Kilpatrick, Jim McClean
Creative writing facilitator: Ruth A Scott


Sky to Sea –  Our Showcase Event for 2015

Sky to Sea is inspired by water; it’s journey, unstoppable force and transformative powers. The performance has been built on individuals’ personal feelings and experiences of water, it is a multi-disciplinary performance, which will inspire and intrigue the audience.
Sky to Sea is a collaboration between all Open Arts’ groups: Gamelan Players, Monday Players, Luminous Soul, Open Arts Community Choir, with content inspired by work from our creative writing group and the set designed and created by our 3 visual art groups.
Stramillis University College Theatre, Saturday 6th June 2015
Doors will open at 18:15; show will start 18:45.
Tickets are free but should be reserved
Or by calling the Open Arts’ office on 028 90 240 765
Sky to Sea is funded by Belfast City Council’s Arts & Heritage project grant scheme.


High tea and poetry at City Hall to mark mental health awareness week

Councillor Arder Carson, Lord Mayor of Belfast this week welcomed representatives from Niamh and Open Arts into his parlour for an afternoon of tea and poetry inspired by the ornate grandeur of the City Hall to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

A group of talented amateur wordsmiths known as the Roving Writers Development Group who had taken to the streets of Belfast to seek inspiration for a new book of creative writings connected to iconic Belfast landmarks including; City Hall, Conway, Mill, St.George’s Market, Crumlin Road Goal, and the SS Nomadic, had the opportunity to regale the Lord Mayor with some of their finest writings over tea and scones.
Welcoming the delegation into City Hall, the Lord Mayor said: “I am delighted to receive this book of poetry and I congratulate all who are involved in bringing this project through from start to finish. They should all feel very proud of what has been achieved. My theme throughout my term is reaching out to communities and this publication is a great example of engagement and inclusivity.”
The project which was funded by Belfast City Council’s Arts and Heritage Project Grants scheme, enabled a group of aspiring writers with mental health conditions within a number of Beacon Wellbeing services in the Belfast area to visit these local heritage sites and put into words how they experienced the spaces.
Professor Peter McBride, chief executive of Niamh said: “Through our Beacon mental health services we support our service users to express their creativity and get engaged in a variety of activities and initiatives. This book, and the project behind it, has been a great experience for our service users. One of the poems in the collections composed in this City Hall refers to an individual’s journey through life and ends with the uplifting call of “Let’s start anew”. This sentence and the whole initiative demonstrates how engaging with the arts can be an excellent means of promoting both positive mental health and wellbeing as well as engaging people with their local community.”
The project culminated in the publication of the poetry collection. Roving Writers. The publication features selected work by the core creative writing participants and members of community groups who were also involved in the project.
Eileen Branagh, chief executive of Open Arts was keen to commend the artistic talent that had been uncovered through the project, she said: “Open Arts engages disabled people in the arts, we promote artistic excellence and encourage creative participation. The development group, in association with Beacon Wellbeing, gave us an opportunity to work with individuals over a 4 month period; really enabling them to hone their writing skills and the result is truly an inspiration.”
“The workshops with other older people, disability and community groups across the City also gave us the opportunity to introduce many people to creative writing for the first time whilst also, importantly, encouraging everyone to get to know, feel confident in and inspired by their City.”


OACC win Best Northern Irish Choir at Bangor International Choral Festival

The Open Arts Commuity Choir have wowed festival crowds in Bangor yet again.
They took home the first place prize for Mixed Voice Choir, in the Sacred Music Folk Song Class, second place in the Light Entertainment section and a special prize for the Best Northern Irish Choir, and Best Single Piece of the entire festival for their performance of Danny Boy.
The adjudicators’ remarks are glowing with praise:

“Tone was warm and beautifully expressive, and the unhurried flow captured the musical simplicity that is often over-looked.”“Excellent articulation and effective contrasts.  You really entered into this folk world – excellent solo/duet build-up – “may your legs be broken” – light, powerful, soothing, moving.  I loved it!“Beautiful textures.  You listen to each other intently – and it shows.  Excellent ensemble and blend.”“Beautiful light tone and exquisite balance between the voices.  You sing with clear stylistic grasp and musical intensity.”“Excellent articulation.  Your full sound was commanding.  Short, impactful and well done.  Well done!“An impressive dynamic range for a relatively moderate-sized choir.  You sang with lightness and buoyancy, and managed to express the style persuasively.  Disciplined and polished singing.  Thank you.”

• 1st Place
 Mixed Voice Choir
 Sacred Music
 Folk Song Class
• 2nd Place
 Light Entertainment 
Open Choral
• Special Prizes
 Best Northern Irish Choir 
and Best Single Piece of Entire Festival  for their performance of Danny Boy.See the OACC website for more info:


Launch of Roving Writers At City Hall

Our latest creative writing project, Roving Writers culminated in the publication of a beautifully illustrated book of poetry created by our Open Arts Creative Writers and members of community groups involved in the project. The groups visited Belfast’s most loved heritage sites for inspiration, including Belfast City Hall, Crumlin Road Gaol, Conway Mill, St. George’s Market and SS Nomadic. They then worked with Tutors Ruth Carr and Colin Dardis to and Open Arts support workers to create poems in a variety of styles.
Free copies of the Roving Writers book will be available soon at all of the heritage sites involved in the project, or can be requested by contacting the project manager, Una McCann, on Braille, Large-print and audiobook versions are also available on request.

The project resulted in far more poems than we had room for in the printed book. The poems we didn’t have room for or that were abridged in the book are published in full here:

CityDance: Contemporary Dance Showcase



Saturday 21st of February 2015 at 8.00pm

Crescent Arts Centre


Buy tickets here:

Open Arts’ Luminous Soul will be taking part in an evening of dance as part of the CityDance Festival 2015. The World Dance Showcase will include the premiere performance of Luminous Soul’s new performance piece, Conversations, choreographed by Helen Hall

Conversations is a piece inspired by eavesdropping on other people. Being partially sighted, Choreographer Helen Hall has always been intrigued by the sounds she hears around her, which often tends to be other people’s conversations. Snippets of conversations overheard; some happy, some sad, and some completely random, have been used to inspire movement.  The soundtrack includes a section of original music by Luminous Soul dancer Mary Louise McCord. Mary Louise created the piece, entitled ‘Muscle Man,’ with Drake Music.

The World Dance Showcase event on the 21st of February will also feature Gary Rowntree & Katy Skelton performing Two, Oona Doherty performing The Shake Out, Bridget Madden Irish Dance, Julia Lyn Waters Improvisational Dance, Sara McDonald Copacabana Show, Mayte Segura Contemporary and Elderflowers Like A Fine Wine Screening. For information on free dance classes in community centres across Belfast, please click here.

Director of Paros Chamber Choir to Work With OACC Director


As part of Open Arts’ award from Arts Council NI’s International Programme for Organisations, we will have Raffi Mikaelian, Director of the Paros Chamber Choir (world class inclusive Choir from Armenia) visiting from 19th – 25th February to work with Open Arts Community Choir and to share work with Bev McGeown, Open Arts’ Musical Director.
This is the second stage of the project, which began when Bev McGeown, along with two other Open Arts Community Choir representatives, travelled to the World Choir Games in Riga, 2014. They took part in master classes and experienced some of the most renowned Choirs from across the globe.
Paros Chamber Choir

The award-winning Paros Chamber Choir was founded in 1993 and performs a wide repertoire of music including songs by accomplished Armenian, Russian and American composers. The Paros Chamber Choir’s international performances have included Lebanon, Georgia, Great Britain, Italy, France and most recently their 2011 performances in Austria and Slovakia. Since its inception, the Paros Chamber Choir has participated in several international competitions and has truly become a lighthouse or beacon (Paros translated in Armenian) for The Armenian Nation.

Audiences find themselves inspired and overjoyed with the sounds of the Paros Chamber Choir. Despite the fact that most of the Choir’s members have a disability and sing from a seated position, working with Maestro Raffi Mikaelian, the group has developed into a world-class Chamber Choir.
For more information, visit:


New Gamelan and Music Room



Our Gamelan has found a new home in the Spectrum Centre.

Musical Director Bev McGeown is delighted with the new space for workshops as it is the first time in her career at Open Arts that she has had a dedicated music room for all of the Open Arts instruments.

The inclusive Gamelan Players will continue to practice  every Wednesday. If you are interested in becoming a Gamelan player, please get in touch with Bev McGeown, at Membership is open to disabled and non disabled people.

We also host special sessions with community groups, such as a recent one with Caring Breaks, a Northern Irish charity for family carers and those they love:

Caring Breaks ensures that every family carer of an adult with a learning disability in Northern Ireland has access to short breaks and every adult with a learning disability living at home with their family carer will be provided with support to enable them to participate in social and leisure activities of their choice.

Here are some photos of their recent session in our new music room. There is a video posted to the Caring Breaks Facebook page as well.

A campaign to save arts funding in Northern Ireland.

As you are no doubt aware, the arts and cultural sector in Northern Ireland faces a financially precarious future as a result of recent and forthcoming cuts to public investment.

The next eighteen months will be a turbulent period with difficult budgetary decisions to be made, a political impasse within the devolved assembly, looming uncertainty from the restructuring of local authorities and the 2015 general election. However, the overall Exchequer budget for the arts has been falling in actual and real terms for over a decade, and per capita spending on the arts is lower in Northern Ireland than in any other part of these islands. This despite stated Assembly priorities on education, community development, tourism and economic regeneration, all of which reference arts, culture and creativity. Investment in our sector deserves to be protected from further – and potentially devastating – cuts.

Since mid-September, arts organisations both large and small have engaged in public conversations about the funding situation. These meetings have resulted in a consensus: The best way we can ensure that our voices are heard in this debate is for the sector to adopt a collective, representative and professional voice. The key way put forward to achieve this was to follow the suit of similar sectors and secure the services of a professional lobbying organisation to help coordinate and advise us on an independent sustained lobbying and advocacy campaign on the single agenda of increased investment in the arts.



Gamelan Grooves



Funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Small Grants Programme

Open Arts are working in collaboration with the Junction Club to provide Gamelan and dance sessions to two different groups within the Junction club.

These workshops are running for 12 weeks and are taking place at Spectrum Centre and Inverary Community Centre. Bev McGeown and Damian Mills are facilitating the Gamelan. Helen Hall and Sheena Kelly are leading the dance sessions.

Both participant groups will come together for a sharing of their development and skills at the end of the 12 weeks. This will happen at a public venue and other members of the public will be invited along. Please check back in our news section and on the Facebook page for updates.

Roving Writers



Funded by Belfast City Council, Arts and Heritage Fund.

Roving Writers is the latest Open Arts Creative Writing project, that builds on the experience of our very popular and successful Time Transformed project of 2012-13.

The Open Arts Creative Writing participants have been taking part in visits and tours at Belfast City Hall, St George’s Market, SS Nomadic, Crumlin Road Gaol and Conway Mill, since October 2014. Using these Belfast City heritage sites as inspiration, they have been working to contribute writing that will be expertly presented  and published in a Roving Writers Book due to be launched on the 23rd of March this year.

A group of developing writers, previously involved with our Time Transformed project, are working alongside Ruth Carr and visiting the key areas.  Meanwhile Colin Dardis and Anna Kyle are working with community groups in these areas and giving taster sessions in creative writing.

Our Roving Writers book will be launched at 11am on Monday 23rd March at the City Hall.  Everyone who participated in the writing will be invited to attend and there will be numerous copies of the book for everyone involved.

A total of 3000 copies of the book will be produced. The book will then be available at tourist offices and spots around Belfast.

Exhibition Launch Success


The Open Arts exhibition launch at the Ulster Hall drew a great crowd on Thursday the 15th of January. The exhibition is a collaborative effort by Open Arts’ three visual arts groups who work in a range of mediums.

Click through the gallery below.

Open Arts Exhibition Launch

Thursday 15th of January
6.30 to 8pm
Ulster Hall,
34 Bedford Street Belfast.

On Thursday 15th of January, we will hold a collaborative exhibition from Open Arts’ three visual arts groups. Each group works in various mediums including printmaking, textiles, pastels, paint, ink, papier-mâché and collage.

The exhibition will run from Tuesday 6th January until Friday 30th January.

Please note that as the Ulster Hall exhibition space is in a working building, there may be times when the gallery space is closed to the public. If you are visiting us specifically to view the art work we would recommend that you call in advance to check opening hours, 028 90334400

Mandala created by our visual arts groups.

No More Cuts to the Arts


Support the Campaign


The draft budget for Northern Ireland 2015-16 is out now for public consultation. The document proposes a 10% cut to the budget for the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure. That translates as an 11.2% cut to direct public funding for the arts.

This is the biggest cut yet for the arts and culture sectors. It follows on the back of six successive cuts, including two this year alone, and would set the Arts Council’s budget back a decade to below 2005/06 levels.

Currently the NI government invests just 13p per head of population per week in direct funding for the arts. To put that into context, the annual arts budget would sustain the Health Service for less than one day. Yet this relatively tiny investment in the arts of 0.1% (1/1000th) of total government spending brings BIG returns for Northern Ireland.

Please click the following link for more information from the Arts Council NI’s website:

Infographic from the arts council

Three, Photo Gallery

Beautiful photos from our album launch have arrived.

Thank you to Paul Marshall Photography.

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.

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

Date: 13th November 2014
Time: 7.30-10pm
Cost: £8 general admission, £5 unwaged


Where: The Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts
Duncairn Avenue, Belfast
BT14 6BP