What’s Next: Arts and Ageing Resources supporting International Day of Older Persons Friday 1st October



Artist works with ex-fisherman to revive lost practice of making fishing nets

What Next? tells the story of four artists who worked with older people on a project that broke the mould. Artist Colette Lewis and Cobh resident Kevin Jones collaborated to revive knitting techniques used by fishermen to make and mend their own fishing nets. Their story and the stories of three other artists and members of the community will be told through the Arts and Ageing Podcast series. The podcast will be followed by other offerings in the What Next? Programme, including Arts and Ageing Workshops and Arts and Ageing e-Publication, both providing a toolkit for those working with older people. All of these resources reflect on real life projects that go beyond the normal templates for working with older people.

What Next? is funded by The Arts Council Invitation to Collaboration Scheme – Continuation Phase. It is an outcome of Creative Enquiry – Arts and Older People, a project that creatively explored fresh approaches to arts engagement with older people in 2019, initiated by Cork City Council and funded by The Arts Council Invitation to Collaboration Scheme. Three artist-residencies were hosted by three organisations: Cork Midsummer Festival, MusicAlive and SIRIUS with the support of Cork City and County Councils, Age & Opportunity and the HSE.
Dancer and choreographer Helga Deasy and musician and choir leader Susan McManamon worked with MusicAlive on two artist residencies at Nazareth House, a nursing home in Mallow, and at Mayfield Men’s Shed. Visual artist Marie Brett worked with Cork Midsummer Festival on a project called Cultural Lore – the idea was that knowledge can be lost from our collective consciousness as technological advances replace more traditional manual methods. Working with SIRIUS in Cobh, the focus of visual artist Colette Lewis’s enquiry was to consider ways of connecting with older people that are more accessible and innovative within a regional context.

‘What Next?’ was a question posed by arts and culture consultant Terre Duffy in the publication that accompanied Creative Enquiry – Arts and Older People. “This was not the first ambitious project with a solid oversight partnership, curious host organisations, skilled and experienced artists, utilising a tried and tested person-centred collaborative model for engagement with older people. However, what this Creative Enquiry has demonstrated yet again is the value of engagement with the arts for older people. Unless there is commitment to deliver on the recommendations and learnings, there is a risk of this becoming another great case study for another great enquiry in a few more years.” What Next? answers this call and provides practical outcomes that go beyond presenting case studies.

While working in Cobh, Colette Lewis’s interest was to research local place-based knowledge. Colette brought together a new community of locals through her ‘Local Know-How’ project to share sustainable methods of living that are now in danger of being lost. “Not too long ago, we all lived sustainably, and the people that know how to do that are still with us,” she says. “The most interesting part of the project was the opportunity to get to meet a range of different people that have been living in Cobh for many years. I learned a lot about the place itself. A way into the community is always to talk to the people. Talk to the people, not the ‘experts’ that are put out in the foreground as the people that know about place but the regular everyday person who has lived in a place.”

Kevin Jones, who has lived in Cobh all of his life, was interested in fishing from a very young age. He went out with the local fisherman when he was young to learn how they made and mended their nets. “Right through my life I was always involved in fishing. Even though I had a full-time job in the dockyard, I had a boat and made a net so I could fish. Fish was very common and popular in our house, especially with children. There were a lot of mouths to feed. It was a hobby and a way of rearing my children,” he says. Colette worked with Kevin to revive knitting techniques used by fishermen to make and mend their own nets. Kevin shared these skills with other Cobh residents and repurposed the techniques to make shopping bags in a bid to reduce waste. Kevin says, “Colette came along and asked me would I demonstrate netting. This was the only time I showed people how to net, except when I showed lads on the boat, but it died out long ago.”

As part of What Next?, an Arts and Ageing Podcast produced by journalist Ellie O’Byrne will be released on Monday 4 October, kicking off with two episodes, Local Know-How with Colette Lewis, parts one and two, including Kevin Jones’ contributions as an ex-fisherman from Cobh. This will be followed by Cultural Lore with Marie Brett, part one on 11 October and part two on 18 October. The final episodes will include Freedom to Fly with Helga Deasy and Susan McManamon part one on Monday 1 November, part two on 8 November, and part three on 15 November. The final concluding episode to be released on 21 November will feature a critical reflection by Ellie.

Workshops on planning and delivering arts programming in relation to older people will take place in November, each delivered by representatives of the partner organisations. On Tuesday 9 November Kevin O’ Shanahan, Creative Director of MusicAlive, will deliver a workshop with artists Helga Deasy and Susan McManamon; on Wednesday 10 November Miguel Amado, Director of SIRIUS, will deliver a workshop with artist Colette Lewis; and on Thursday 11 November Allyson O’Sullivan, Festival Manager at Cork Midsummer Festival, will deliver a workshop with Marie Brett. These will be followed by one-to-one mentor sessions for registered participants with Miguel Amado and the artists. Free, but booking essential; bookings to be announced at a later date.

Finally in December the Arts and Ageing e-Publication will be published. This digital publication will be freely available and will include a summary of learnings and findings as well as recommendations. Further details to be announced at a later date.

What Next? Arts and Ageing Resources is a programme funded by The Arts Council Invitation to Collaboration Scheme – Continuation Phase and initiated by Cork City Council, produced with Age & Opportunity, Cork County Council, Cork Midsummer Festival, Music Alive and SIRIUS, and supported by the HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare – Cork South Community Work Department. It is an outcome of the Creative Enquiry – Arts and Older People initiative.

Creative Enquiry – Arts and Older People was an investigative collaborative venture that creatively explored fresh approaches to arts engagement with older people. The focus of the project was three artist-residency and older-people-engagement projects, hosted by three organisations: the city-based Cork Midsummer Festival; MusicAlive, a Cork County wide organisation; and SIRIUS, an arts centre located in Cobh.

Marie Brett is a visual artist based in Cork County. Her production is located in both gallery settings and off-site spaces, often involving participatory methodologies. Recent achievements include work purchased for the National Collection; a piece commissioned by Cork Midsummer Festival; a piece premiered by the Irish Museum of Modern Art; and a virtual piece commissioned by Cork Midsummer Festival with SIRIUS. She is a graduate of Goldsmiths, University of London, with MA and BA degrees. www.mariebrett.ie

Helga Deasy (Ireland/Germany) is a dance artist, choreographer and teacher based in County Cork. She has received numerous awards and presented her work in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US. Since completing a specialist training with Rosetta Life (2012), she has worked extensively in dance and health. She holds an MA Creative Practice, a PgDip in Community Dance, a Specialist Diploma in Choreology and a Degree in Social Work with a focus on music and movement. www.helgadeasydance.com

Colette Lewis is a visual artist based in Cork. Her practice has a specific focus on the creative and regenerative capacity of place-based forms of knowledge and community-centred approaches to critically reimagine more just and equitable forms of future sustainability in urban and rural places. In 2021 she was selected as the inaugural Platform 31 Scheme artist in the Cork City Council area initiated by the Association of Local Authority Arts Offices. She has received numerous funding awards for her practice and her work has been exhibited and screened widely in Ireland, UK and France. www.colettelewis.ie

Susan McManamon is a musician and choir director who collaborates with other musicians and artists in a wide variety of contexts and endeavours, exploring the positive impact that music can have on our wellbeing. She completed her MA in Ethnomusicology at University College Cork. She is a pianist with the Vespertine Quintet.

Cork Midsummer Festival is an annual multi-disciplinary arts festival that uses the city as its backdrop and inspiration. It provides high-quality arts events, both national and international, for audiences of all ages. Its programme provides opportunities for significant public participation and engagement, supports the development of emerging artists across all art forms, and provides a unique platform for work by local and national artists.


SIRIUS is an arts centre based in Cobh, County Cork that approaches art through the lens of society. It creates focused, artist-driven projects and collaborative, community-oriented projects. It facilitates the production and presentation of, and public engagement with, art and knowledge, and offers professional development opportunities to artists through commissions and residencies. It operates across all art forms – visual, performing, live, film, sound, vocal, written and born-digital – programming a mix of exhibitions, performances, events and activities, both on site and online. It plays a civic role locally and beyond. www.siriusartscentre.ie

MusicAlive provides access to high quality, participative-based programmes in mental health and older age community and health care contexts. While music is at the heart of their work, they also collaborate with artists from a wide variety of other art forms, including film, movement, creative writing and the visual arts. www.musicalive.ie

Age & Opportunity is the national organisation that provides a range of opportunities for older people who want to get more involved in arts and culture, sport and physical activity, civic engagement and personal development. Their aim is to inspire people aged 50+ to live a dynamic life in which they are more active, more visible, more creative and more connected. www.ageandopportunity.ie

Cork City Council Arts Office develops supports with partners for arts organisations and groups in the city. It values the arts, promoting and sharing this sense of worth with the wider civic community and also endeavouring to ensure access to quality arts experiences for all the citizens in Cork. It develops and instigates a range of arts projects and directly manages a variety of events in Cork City throughout the year. The Creative Enquiry – Arts and Older People initiative has been key to the design of programming for and with this target group and provided a model for future developments. www.corkcity.ie

HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare is responsible for the provision of health and personal social services for everyone living in the counties of Cork and Kerry through the use of public funds. The HSE manages services through a structure designed to put patients and clients at the centre of the organisation. www.hse.ie

Cork County Council Library and Arts Service supports artists, organisations and voluntary groups to engage with creativity across Cork County. It supports the development and delivery of innovative projects, events and initiatives that stimulate and enable creativity in every community. Cork County Council aims to deliver a diverse and inclusive service which is embedded in the many communities in Cork County through strategic partnerships and sustainable collaborations.