Projects and Programmes

In addition to our year round programmes Open Arts runs additional stand-alone participatory projects. The purpose of these projects is to engage more disabled people in the arts including children and young people. We continuously grow and develop artistic programmes to respond to changing needs and interests.

“Open Arts ‘does what it says on the tin.’ Other Arts programmes in which I have been involved do the term ‘arts’ a disservice in terms of people with varying abilities. The Open Arts programme is warm, inclusive and very professionally guided.”

In Tune

‘In Tune’ is our music project for children and young people who have either autism or who are blind or partially sighted. It started as a pilot project with one year funding from BBC Children in Need in 2015. The success of the first year, working with our partners Angel Eyes NI and Autism Initiatives NI led to securing 3-year funding for the project. In 2019 we were successful in securing another three years from BBC Children in Need. 

The project provides an opportunity for participants to gain skills in particular instruments and also experience the joy of playing group music. Participants have the chance to work with a high-quality team of musicians who have numerous specialties including Gamelan, flute, tin whistle, violin, guitar, percussion, keyboards, music technology and singing.

Our partners assist the project by recruiting participants from their client base, delivering specialist training for our musicians and supporting the children and young people during the sessions.

"In Tune is a great place for a child with different needs to mix with peers in a safe, encouraging and fun environment. It fosters the development of social skills and it models inclusion – all through the medium of music, movement and dance."

Song and Dance for Dementia

Working with three care homes Rose Court, Ballymena; Carrickfergus Manor and The Brook, Coleraine, Song and Dance for Dementia engages older people in care homes within the Northern Trust in singing and dance, promoting positive mental and physical health and emotional wellbeing through social interactions and creative activity The project also engages staff within the care homes as well as carers and family members who come to visit their loved ones.

"It was lovely to see residents enjoying and participating who don’t normally join in".
Link, Arts Council of Northern Ireland website
Link, HSC Public Health Agency website
Link, The Baring Foundation website

Other Projects or Programmes

Open Arts loves to bring our groups together and work on one large collaborative piece. Here are some of the projects we’ve worked on over the years.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

This was an ambitious performance with multiple art forms and involving a cast of 40 people, mostly disabled people. There has never been such a production of Shakespeare in Northern Ireland with such varied art forms (drama, dance, choral and gamelan) with the range of disabilities among the performers: physical, sensory, learning disabilities and mental health illness. It was first performed in April 2019, for two successive nights in the MAC Theatre, Belfast. 

You can watch hightlights of the show in the YouTube video below.

“Open Arts attitude towards inclusion and opening up the arts to everyone is obvious throughout the performance which, to quote Shakespeare, is “full of joy and mirth”, conjuring up the sleepy, dreamlike situation, stirring up fresh ironies (Oberon’s invisibility contrasted with the actor’s own sight problems), and adapting the script and action to take advantage of mobility aids and build them into the production rather than just try and work around them.”

Peer Arts

In 2019 we completed a project with Mae Murray Foundation as part of the ACNI Articulate funding programme and piloted Arts Awards with the young people, an accredited qualification from Trinity College, London. Young people worked across three art forms (music, dance and drama) and developed skills as peer educators for non-disabled young people. 

“The facilitators were so professional and had a brilliant approach with our members and siblings, hence great interaction. Everyone really enjoyed it and there was so much positive feedback from parents. As for myself and my colleague, we were overwhelmed!!”

The Spellbound Boy

In 2016 we produced an adaptation of Ravel’s Opera L’enfant et les sortilege. With a cast of over 50 of our weekly participants it brought together our Monday Players drama group, Luminous Soul dance, Open Arts Community Choir, gamelan performance group and participants from our creative writing class who recited their own poetry. Our visual art classes also worked on props and costumes for the show.

It was first performed in Belvoir Players Theatre, Belfast in November 2016 and again at The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast in March 2017.

You can watch the show highlights in the YouTube video below