Projects and Events

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.

You can find more information about our past projects here.

“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.”

Weaving Threads Performance

Date: Sunday 9th October 2022

Time: 2:00pm

Followed by a post-show discussion with the performers, hosted by Isolde ÓBrolcháin Carmody

Location: The Crescent Arts Centre

Weaving Threads is a multi-artform performance that brings together Open Arts’ participants who have developed their own artistic practice through support from DDASF grants, distributed by University of Atypical.

Featuring Andrew Ward (poetry), Cinzia Savonitti (dance), Mary Lou McCord (music with support from Drake Music NI) and facilitated by Helen Hall and Linda Fearon. This work in progress explores their individual practice and the threads of connections between.

In this, our 30th anniversary and the 10th Anniversary of Bounce, the performance celebrates the connection between Open Arts participatory programme and individual development supported through University of Atypical.

Mary Lou McCord, participates in drama, visual arts and is a dancer with Luminous Soul and has performed across Northern Ireland in both drama and dance. Mary Lou has also been a musician with Drake Music NI since 1993 and has performed across Europe. In 2020 Mary Lou was awarded a University of Atypical grant to compose, record and edit her own musical compositions.

Cinzia Savonitti, originally from Italy, came to Belfast as an EVS volunteer with the Crescent Arts Centre, which is when she discovered Open Arts and Luminous Soul dance company. Highlights of her dance career include performing at Echo Echo Festival, portraying Hermia in Open Arts production of Midsummer Night’s Dream and participating in MeetShareDance Festivals. In 2021 Cinzia received a University of Atypical grant to develop her own dance work exploring disability and language.

Andrew Ward, has been a member of Open Arts creative writing group since 2012 and more recently, has joined the Open Arts drama group. He has regularly taken part in Purely Poetry, poetry slams and has attended numerous other writing groups. Andrew has a keen interest in illustration. In 2020 Andrew was awarded a University of Atypical grant to explore his childhood, through poetry, in light of his diagnosis of autism in later life.

Linda Fearon, is a founding member of Luminous Soul dance company and has performed across Northern Ireland with the company. Linda has participated in MeetShareDance festivals in Portugal and Belfast. Linda has trained with numerous dancers and choreographers including Marc Brew, Caroline Bowditch and Claire Cunningham and has danced with companies including Maiden Voyage Dance, Echo Echo Dance and Pony Dance.

Helen Hall, is the choreographer for Luminous Soul. Helen also creates and produces her own work which has been performed in many festivals. She was commissioned by University of Atypical in 2021 to produce, ‘Collecting Moments’; showcased at Bounce. In 2017, she received an Unlimited commission to create, ‘Inside The Speaker’. This has been included in many festivals; most recently, The Belfast Children’s Festival 2020. As well as creating her own performance work, she regularly collaborates with many Belfast based arts organisations to devise and deliver performance-based projects

Take Away Theatre

Take Away Theatre is a free interactive, fun performance that happens at home for disabled people and their families. It is suitable for anyone 5+ years and all abilities!

The performance engages families to co-create a drama based on our unique Takeaway Theatre menu! Two of our takeaway delivery performers ‘Ron, Stephanie, Lucy or Barry’ will lead on the fun and frolics!

It lasts for a maximum of 75 minutes and can happen indoors or outdoors.

To ensure each performance is tailored to the participant, each family will receive a call from a performer before the visit to make sure that access needs are met, to discuss where they would like it to happen and any covid precautions. We are  recruiting disabled people and their families from August 2022 – June 2023 to stage Take Away Theatre in their homes. To book a free place or for more information please email

"As a family it was a heart warming and fun experience. I recommend every family should do this. We could never go to a theatre with Oisín but now, why would we want to when we can actually plot and participate in our own play at home with the expertise and guidance of the amazing performers from Take Away Theatre – Open Arts... Just amazing!"
Emily Gallagher

Words Out

‘Words Out’ is an eclectic anthology of creative work by Open Arts participants including our core writing group. The anthology also features a range of visual material from our art groups and gathers together many of the voices that have sounded from within the unique Open Arts programme, in celebration of our 30th year.

You can pick up a free copy from the Crescent Arts Centre on University Road, the University of Atypical on Royal Avenue and the Linen Hall Library across from Belfast City Hall.

To listen to the AUDIO BOOK click HERE

Andrew Ward, a member of the Open Arts Creative Writing group whose work features in the book said:

“Open Arts is my creative and social lifeline and being part of the organisation has helped me enormously over the past couple of years. As well as the great support I receive in the writing class and opportunities to be part of projects like ‘Words Out’, the Open Arts team has also helped me to access my own funding. I now have mentors who are helping me to create my own work that explores my feelings about my diagnosis of autism later in life.”

Picture of seven people.

Living in a Box

Living in a Box is a unique film collage reflecting on creativity and connection during lockdown by Open Arts participants. In their individual boxes on screen but still together: laughing, supporting and encouraging each other. The film showcases the importance of individuals’ artistic expression and shared creative experience through the most difficult of times. You can watch the film in it’s entirety from the YouTube clip below.

The film is also available with AUDIO DESCRIPTION. Click HERE

In addition to our feature film we created a standalone website that showcases the work created by all of our participants throughout this project.

You can visit the Living in a Box website HERE

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."

Reminiscence in Song

In this project, artists engaged groups of older people from Abbeyfield Belfast Society houses in reminiscence and song writing workshops. These led to the creation of a piece of creative writing and two new songs “When I was a child” and “Happy Landings”. You can listen to these two songs in the videos below.