Laois Bealtaine Festival

Programme for Laois Bealtaine Festival  2022 announced. link here to full programmeLaois Co Co Bealtaine 2022 8pp A5 Brochure (V3)

For the month of May the Arts Office, Laois County Council invites people of an older age to join in some of the wonderful events that are happening in Laois for the Bealtaine Festival 2022.  In celebration of Creativity the theme for 2022 is ‘And catch the heart off guard’.

In Trust. In Gratitude. In Hope at Laois Arthouse Stradbally – 10 Years at Laois Arthouse Exhibition – guided tours throughout May – Active Age Groups are welcomed to visit this wonderful exhibition featuring the work of 64 artists providing their unique insight to Laois born poet Pat Boran’s specially commissioned poem ‘The Window Seat’ with a stunning series of artworks in a variety of themes. Opening times Tues-Fri 1pm-4pm or by appointment – Booking essential: T: 057 8664033 or E:

Thursday 5th, 12th   May Laois Arthouse Stradbally , 2pm-4pm – Join us for a fun introduction to Felt making with textile artist Maria McGarry. Learn the technique of laying fibers of merino wool to create felt using soapy water and gentle rolling. Participants will create their own designed stained glass inspired piece.  Booking essential:  T: 057 8664033 email: Free event.  Writing Your Story – Join renowned local writer Pauline Clooney – Wednesday 4th, 11th 18th, 25th at Laois Arthouse Stradbally from 11am-1pm for a course for creative non-fiction writing (Memoir/biography/autobiography). If you have a story you want to record for posterity or an interest in something or someone specific that you would like to write about, then this may be the course you are looking for. Through prompted written exercises, instruction in the art of writing and the sharing of your work you will be encouraged and guided through the processes involved in writing about fact in a creative manner. Course consists of four 2-hour sessions. Booking essential:  T: 057 8664033 email: Free event


As part of Bealtaine, Laois Arts Office in partnership with the Dunamaise Arts Centre are launching a new Creativity in Older Age programme in collaboration with Laois Housing, Age Friendly Laois and Healthy Ireland Laois. The creative programme will consist of engagement with older people living within social housing schemes in Laois and older people with early stages of dementia Laois. In addition, the Arts Office will engage with older artists in the county to understand their professional support requirements. All information at and Creative Ireland Laois social media channels.

The Creativity in Older Age programme is supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme in partnership with Laois County Council.


Also at the DUNAMAISE ARTS CENTRE  Bealtaine events include: – Thursday 5 May, 7pm. FILM: Sunshine on Leith. A fundraising event to screen the film based on the sensational stage hit of the same name, featuring music by pop-folk band The Proclaimers that the award-winning Portlaoise Musical Society bring to the Dunamaise stage for its Irish premiere this November. Friday 6 May, 8pm. THEATRE: Sorry for your Loss. An unmissable night of fun and craic that will have you killed with laughter. The adult comedy show that gives uncle Paddy the send-off he always wanted. If it’s laughter you’re after then this is the wake for you!   Saturday 7 May, 2pm.  MUSIC: Tell Me This Now. Mountrath Youth Theatre and Mountrath Golden Years Club come together for an afternoon of storytelling to see what we can all learn from each other.  Friday 13 May, 8pm. THEATRE: Shirley Valentine. Treat yourself to an evening of laughter and triumph, as Norma Sheahan, one of Ireland’s leading dramatic actors, breathes new life into Willy Russell’s effervescent and iconic character Shirley Valentine.  Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 May, 8pm. (7.30pm & Sat. matinee 2.30pm) THEATRE: Waiting for Gateaux. The Irish-premiere of this riotous, laugh-a-minute comedy about friendship, frostbite and French fries! Starring Mary Byrne (X-Factor) and Eilís O’Carroll (Mrs. Brown’s Boys) Wednesday 25 May, 11am and 8pm. FREE  CINEMA: Military Wives. A 2019 British comedy drama film inspired by the true story of the Military Wives Choirs, a network of 75 choirs in British military bases across the United Kingdom and overseas.  Friday 27 May, 8pm. MUSIC: Declan Nerney in concert with Louise Morrissey and John Hogan. Join Irish country music artist Declan Nerney with his super live band and special guests Louise Morrissey and John Hogan for a nostalgic night of music, song and laughter.

At wide ranging programme of events also taking place at Laois Libraries as well as lifestyle and  wellbeing events run by Laois Sports Partnership full programme available on  and more info later.

For more information contact:  Muireann Ni Chonaill, Arts Officer, Bridie Keenan, Assistant Arts Officer. T:  057 8664033 E:





2021 Laois County Council Arts and Library Sections partnered with the Dunamaise Arts Centre and Music Generation Laois to present a selection of safe and creative projects during the month of May to celebrate the Laois Bealtaine Festival for older people.  The month of May offered glimpses of new beginnings in nature and also hope for our communities, as we tentatively emerged from Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. With safety in mind, the 2021 Laois programme followed the national theme of Bealtaine At Home with most events online.

The Arts Office presented Getting Hitched an online comic play sharing memories, storytelling, sing-song, poetry and great fun. It is presented by Carnation Theatre, who are no strangers to Laois.  Missing going to a wedding? an  interactive play delivered via the zoom platform on Tuesday, 4th of May at 11.30 am

Caring and Sharing Art – Artists in residence at the Arthouse Stradbally are responding to this theme to create a piece of artwork to hang in three of the Hospitals for older people in Laois;  St Vincents Hospital Mountmellick, Abbeyleix District Hospital and St Brigids’ Hospital Shaen and the final work will be selected by a panel from each of the Hospitals.  In early May all the artwork including the selected pieces created went on exhibition online in a show titled “A Road Less Travelled” in memory of those who were lost to us during this tragic journey through the pandemic.  P

Music Generation Laois: Musical Memories Bandwagon Tour, Thursday 6 May and Friday 7 May 2021  Nuala Kelly and Band, along with special guests Mountmellick Men’s Shed Singers, toured St Vincent’s Community Nursing Unit, Mountmellick, Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit and St Brigid’s Hospital Shaen – all aboard The Bandwagon, a mobile music vehicle created by Laois School of Music, as part of Bealtaine Festival 2021.

A curated Bealtaine Film Collection is a package of six specially selected films, made available to Dunamaise customers though distributor, access>CINEMA, via the Irish Film Institute’s digital screening platform.  The selection includes a mixture of new and recent film titles across a variety of genres, chosen with an older audience in mind. Dunamaise offers a discount of 15% when films are booked through them.  Films include Let Him Go starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as a retired sheriff and his wife who, following the death of their adult son, must set out to find their only grandson who has gone missing. The Mole Agent, is an Oscar-nominated documentary, following an 83-year-old man who goes undercover as a new resident and mole inside a care home, investigating the wellbeing of residents. Talking About Trees follows four retired Sudanese filmmakers, idealists and friends for over 45 years, who are reunited after a long period of distance and exile, as they attempt to bring back cinema to the people of their homeland.

‘Always Human’ is an ongoing arts project with older people, led by Cabrini Cahill. The recent chapter, ‘Forever Young’ – A Souvenir in Writing, will conclude during Bealtaine. Creative Writing tutor Denise Dunne will gather the poetry and prose, created in recent weeks by older people in their homes, and Dunamaise will share these online, and in the  publication of a booklet for the participants and the wider community. You can request a Creative Writing Pack from Dunamaise on 057 8663355 or to take part, and Denise can support and assist you via phone or email, in your creative writing drawing on life memories. ‘Forever Young’ was part-funded by the KEEP WELL Campaign, brought to you with thanks to Healthy Ireland, an initiative of the Government of Ireland with funding from the Healthy Ireland Fund and the Sláintecare Fund delivered by Pobal.

Dunamaise partnering with participants of Cuisle Centre art workshops, on at-home creative engagement packs for over 55s, as part of Bealtaine Festival.  Created together by theatre artist Louise White and visual artist Clare Henderson, the packs contain materials for a remote dry-point workshop, as well as story-telling objects, prompts, and reflective exercises, designed to help participants create sketches, which Clare will turn into beautiful framed prints to return to participants to celebrate their achievements at the end of the project.

Keep in touch with Dunamaise on social media or for further announcements about brilliant new theatre productions and more, as they are announced throughout May. Box Office (reduced /flexible hours as staff work remotely) 057 8663355 or

The Laois Libraries are delighted to welcome the renowned John MacKenna for a series of talks on music on Tuesday, 4th, 11th, 18th & 25th May at 7.00pm.  The talks will last 90 minutes and the series will begin with the music and poetry of Leonard Cohen. John collaborated with Cohen, a friend of his for over 30 years, on “Between your Love and Mine”, using Leonard’s words and music to create a requiem. Other artists that will be covered in the series are Mary Chapin Carpenter, Paul Simon and Gretchen Peters. Email the Laois Libraries at to book a place.

In other good news this May,  Creative Ireland have awarded funding for two programmes in the county through the programme entitled Creativity in Older Age. Laois Arts Office and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) will partner to deliver Talking Art a well-considered, inspiring and compelling online arts engagement initiative for older people who are living at home, cocooning and potentially in isolation as well as residential care in Laois. A programme pack will be published and this will include five artworks from the IMMA Collection and five selected artworks the Laois Collection. Laois Arts Office and IMMA will work to create a juxtaposition of artworks, perspectives, aesthetics, genres and meaningful engagement with older people – to take them on a journey of discovery, interest and delight. Training will be provided for professional artists living in the county to deliver the Talking Art Programme.

Music Generation Laois, Offaly and Westmeath will collaborate to present Musical Memories and the Ukulele Ceili. These are intergenerational music projects run by Music Generation Laois and Music Generation Offaly-Westmeath respectively. With the funding from  the Creativity in Older Age programme  they will partner together, and expand both projects across the region, maximising resources and building upon our learning and successes, to access new communities and new participants, using music as a tool to combat the isolation that older people are experiencing as a result of Covid-19.

Welcoming the Bealtaine Festival and the Creativity in Older Age awards for the county, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council said “Laois County Council is very happy to announce the Bealtaine Festival and the Creativity in Older Age programmes. There is a varied programme to meet all tastes.  I am also very happy to announce the two Creativity in Older Age projects today. I wish all the artists, audience and participants in the Bealtaine and the Creativity in Older Age projects every success.”

Arts Officer and Creative Ireland Laois Coordinator Muireann Ní Chonaill said “we hope the older people in our county enjoy the Bealtaine programme on offer. We are very happy that Laois has been awarded funding for the two Creativity in Older Age projects and we look forward to rolling them out over the coming months.”

For further information please contact

Muireann Ní Chonaill Arts Officer Laois County Council. Email

Photos by Michael Scully

Pictured at the launch of the Bealtaine Programme 2021 at Áras an Chontae, Laois County Council





In 2019 throughout the month of May, events took place around Laois, in celebration of Creativity during the Bealtaine Festival. At Laois Arthouse Stradbally the Launch of ‘Fiesta’ too place. An exhibition by the Stradbally Active Retirement Group, opened throughout the month of May including a selection of paintings, including still life and landscapes the group have developed over the year. A series of “Reconnect” Pottery Workshops ran  over three weeks with ceramic artist Cathy Whelan. To explore the therapeutic nature of clay through simple techniques and mindful movements, participants created a unique piece of work. St Josephs Mountmellick Embroidery Group exhibited this age old craft at an open afternoon at Laois Shopping Centre, where the public were invited to take part or view how the work is made, to encourage new members to join.

A series of writing workshops with Jean O’Brien held at Laois Arthouse gave people a chance to explore their own stories, in a lively and friendly atmosphere whether through, prose or poetry or a mixture of both. Sharing work by other writers, writing their our own pieces and sharing them on the last week.

“Musical Memories” musicians from Laois School of Music and Music Generation Laois will give a series of performances at Shaen Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital Mountmellick and Abbeyleix Hospital for residents and day care visitors. Family members were encouraged to attend and share the musical memories with their loved ones.  Denise Boyle (Fiddle) Nuala Kelly (Vocals/Guitar) and Mary Wisely (Piano Accordian).

Other community events included the Launch a new collection (E.P.) of songs by Ballylinan songwriter Paul Hickey along with his band ‘Soakin’ Rope’. In a concert that also featured Lugacurren traditional group ‘Ol, Ceol agus Craic.

An Afternoon of entertainment including Bingo, Music, Song and Dance and afternoon tea Organised by the Borris-in-Ossory Social Services Committee.  Line Dancing in Ballyfin for fun  There was a warm welcome to all who have Line Dancing on their “to do list”. Hospitality, fun and gentle exercise guaranteed.     A performance by the Sing for Joy Choir  – This vibrant community choir, offered a céad Míle fáilte to come and enjoy songs to welcome Summer.