Bealtaine Festival

May belongs to the Bealtaine festival, celebrating creativity as we age. 

Each year, Age & Opportunity invites local authorities, arts centres, libraries, Active Retirement groups, care settings, community groups, clubs and associations from every part of the country to run Bealtaine events that celebrate creativity as we age. You can still register your Bealtaine 2017 event via our online form: 

Bealtaine depends on the thousands of events run by you our partner organisations and arts offices around the country and we very much look forward to hearing about your exciting plans for the 2017 festival.  


Plan your Bealtaine Festival?

Find a Bealtaine event near you by searching our events by county.  You can also search by artform, event type or date.  Plan your Bealtaine today at   


Bealtaine 2017 Programme

Browse or download our 2017 programme of events below.


Theme: All Together Now! Collectivism, civic engagement and protest!

“Until my middle forties, I inwardly considered myself to be 27. Approaching 50, I had to ratchet up this private sense of my own age to thirtysomething. And even then I understood what the writer VS Pritchett meant in an essay on being 80 where he says, “I know one thing for certain: I was far, far younger in my thirties than I had been in my twenties, because my heart was fuller at 30, my energies knew their direction.”

Brian Leyden, Bealtaine 2016 writer-in-residence (‘An Ageless pleasure: a Bealtaine diary’ Irish Times, Weds, June 22nd 2016).

By 2030, 1 in 5 of us will be over 65. Although in our minds we will probably always remain somewhere between 21 and 37 years old, one day most of us will be part of the over 65 group with (hopefully) the fuller hearts on which Brian muses.

Will we be old then? Or just older? Will we be pensioners? Will we be the “elderly”, “senior citizens” “silver surfers”?

Whether growing old gracefully, or disgracefully, Age & Opportunity want to ensure that everyone has the chance to grow old creatively…. Altogether (and) Now!

For the last two years and as part of the Decade of Centenaries, Bealtaine has looked at themes of nationhood and citizenship. 2017 marks the final year of this core thematic and with this theme, we wish to explore the concept of ‘people power’, the collective, civic engagement (and yes protest!), as well as the empathy that accompanies these human activities.

While we live in a democracy where the ‘people decide’, we hear ourselves say ‘the people have spoken but what have they said?’ In 2017, therefore, we want to get down to the business of collectivism and civic engagement and related to that, how people collectively empathise. We also want to consider the ‘decide, announce, defend’ style of democracy beloved of our own political leadership.

2017 Programme Structure

The 2017 programme, All Together Now! celebrates ‘collective action’ and includes a diverse range of performances, commissions, residencies and projects including: a dynamic public conversation on activism and social justice with a renowned panel of activists; a gathering of poets and major sporting heroes to discuss their philosophy, energy and connections between poetry and sport with Listowel writers week; visual arts residencies in Kilkenny and Wexford with artists Vivienne Dick, Kathy Prendergast and others and a special artist in residence in a care setting specialising in caring for older people with dementia; the Bealtaine Book Club; a major visual arts commission in the Northwest of Ireland with Sligo and Mayo County Councils; a choral performances of Paula Meehan’s poetry set to music; professional development events for artists; and a critical seminar building on the themes of choice, participation and respect in relation to how we live in older age drawing on current trends in collaborative art/architectural and planning initiatives.

The History of Bealtaine

The Bealtaine festival was established in Ireland in 1996.

An estimated 120,000 people now take part in the Bealtaine festival, making it one of Ireland’s biggest arts festivals. From dance to cinema, painting to theatre, Bealtaine showcases the talents and creativity of both first-time and professional older artists.

It is a chance for people to make new and challenging work, a chance to communicate traditions between the generations. It is a chance for the novice to discover a talent until then unseen and a chance for a long-dormant skill to find a new outlet.

Bealtaine is an Age & Opportunity initiative part-funded by the Arts Council and delivered by hundreds of organisations around the country.

Bealtaine festival

Bealtaine Festival

Bealtaine 2017 is on it's way! Registration for Bealtaine events is still open on our website, and you can find out more about our theme and the 2017 Programme by...

Creative Exchanges

Creative Exchanges

Book now for our 2019 Creative Exchanges courses. This is a course for anyone leading creative activities with older people in care...