VOLTage – Celebrating an electric generation

The older generation is sometimes forgotten about in our society, but VOLTage shows that the older and wiser are still as electric as ever. Established in association with Bealtaine, the festival seeks to celebrate the creative activities of older people. Elaine Tubridy spoke to festival co-ordinator Liz Kelly about the upcoming inaugural festival. 

“We like to celebrate people’s lives all of their lives, from the moment they’re born until their lives end. We don’t really see a distinction, we celebrate life throughout life, that’s what we do in the arts,” says Liz Kelly.

Liz is co-ordinating the first ever VOLTage festival, which gives a platform to the many projects and creative activities that bring together artists and older people from Clare and throughout Ireland.

The festival was created in association with Bealtaine/Age and Opportunity, as well as Clare County of Culture.

Bealtaine is a festival that has been running in Ireland for over 20 years, seeking to celebrate the creativity of older generations.

“We put the proposal to them that it would be interesting to have three days of events that relate to our health and our life time all through our life time and a celebration of how we are creative all throughout our lives.

“We have a whole range of lovely interesting and stimulating discussions, events, music and theatre and all sorts of activities going on over the weekend from Thursday through to Saturday,” Liz said.

Although the festival showcases the creative minds of older people, Liz says people of all ages are more than welcome to attend.

She believes there is something to interest even the smallest of curious eyes and ears.

“There’s so much on over the weekend I think everyone will be interested in it really, I think the film in particular will interest an awful lot of people,” she said.

Artist Deirdre O’Mahony will screen her film, First Citizens Speak, showing one generation sharing their experience, knowledge and accumulated wisdom with present and future generations.

Every person interviewed in the film lives in Clare and is over 90 years old.

Liz is also particularly looking forward to Care, a play produced by Wilfredd Theatre.

Developed over a year spent in consultation with Irish hospices, the play fuses movement, live music and theatre, celebrating the people who help you live until you die and giving audiences an insight into the day-to-day world of hospice staff.

“I think they are making the most exciting theatre in Ireland at the moment. It’s actually a play that they wrote with people who work as nurses, doctors and physios and that so it’s a play about those people, inspired by those people who work and look after us when we’re ill and at our most vulnerable.

“It’s gorgeous. There’s live music, a bit of Elvis thrown in, there’s lots of movement, there’s lovely story telling in it, it’s a great, great story, a lovely play,” Liz says.

Liz points out that a lot of artists work in care homes and hospitals, providing therapy for patients and residents.

With this in mind, VOLTage will provide a Care Seminar, where contributing artists and facilitators will discuss how they have brought their artistic practice and experience to care and health communities.

“People forget that artists often do work in hospitals and day care centres and all sorts of contexts and often that can bring a lot to those places,” Liz said.

They will also look at the importance creativity can play in health and wellbeing on both a personal and community level.

Liz is excited to welcome prolific academic Catherine Marshall to the festival, who will discuss the challenges she saw as Head of Collections at Irish Museum of Modern Art and at the projects that have emanated from marginalised communities.

Catherine worked as a lecturer in the Art History Department at Trinity College for almost 10 years and has curated art exhibitions here in Ireland, Canada, the United States and even as far as China.

Seamie O’Dowd and Brian Leyden will take festival goers back to the days before online dating and the romance that is Tinder.

They will take to the stage in Old Flames, a warm-hearted look at romance and courtship, house-dances, dowries and matchmaking, school day love notes, radio memories, bereavement and retirement.

“Brian has written some great books about show dances and courting and showbands and all that, so it’s all about the story really of how people get together. It’s a series of love stories with Seamie O’Dowd playing along beside,” Liz says.

On Saturday evening, the ever popular Vladimir Jablokov will bring VOLTage to a close with One Night in Vienna where he will play some of the most beautiful classical melodies from the Romantic era of The Strauss Family.

Expect to hear The Blue Danube, The Voices of Spring, the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, the Radetzky March, the Merry Widow Waltz, Beer Barrel Polka and many more favourites.

In addition, the concert also features solo spots from a special guest Soprano and Tenor, Sean Costello.

The VOLTAGE festival will take place from Thursday, May 5 to Saturday, May 7.

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