Good practices

Bealtaine Festival

Bealtaine Festival

Age & Opportunity are 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. Age & Opportunity’s aim is to inspire people aged 50+ to live a dynamic life in which they can be more active, more visible, more creative, more confident and more connected. 

Bealtaine is Age & Opportunity’s flagship Festival which showcases the work of communities all over Ireland who come together each year to celebrate their own and others’ creativity. Age & Opportunity seek to enhance the diversity and scale of the festival ’offer’ in terms of events, artists and participants. The festival programmes workshops and discussions, with the latter being an opportunity to reinforce the Bealtaine community through generating discussion and spotlighting key socio-political issues relating to ageing. 

The strategic aims for Bealtaine are to create access to and representation in the arts for older people, while also targeting disadvantaged and hard to reach communities. Importantly, this underlines a common commitment and understanding between Bealtaine organisers around Ireland.

Year(s): Since 1988 – 34 years

Target group(s): Older people particularly those isolated as a result of the pandemic

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A series of programmed events delivered online due to Covid-19 aimed to achieve their strategic objectives.

Type of product

Paper-based material Online resource Video clips / Films

Brief description of the outcomes

With Covid-19 restrictions still in place the unprecedented online delivery model of the 2020 Bealtaine Festival was employed again in 2021. 38 initiatives comprising 92 events were curated by Age & Opportunity and there were a further 294 visible events curated by 202 organisers including 144 nursing homes.  There were 1,948 attendances at events curated by Age & Opportunity.  Many of these curated events remained available after the Festival and by end of August 2021 there were 8,697 additional online views recorded. With people in care settings cut off even more than other older people during Covid-19, Bealtaine 2021 included a new initiative specifically focused on nursing homes.  As referenced above, 144 nursing homes organised an arts event or activity for residents.  Conservatively estimating that 20 people were reached in each nursing home, this represents an additional in-person audience beyond the online engagement of approximately 2,880.  This brings the total audience for visible events in Bealtaine 2021 to over 11,000.

Bealtaine 2021 comprised the Age & Opportunity curated online Festival of 92 events and the partner Festival of 294 events hosted by other organisers.  Age & Opportunity used online analytics to report on engagements at the events it organised throughout the Festival and to the end of August 2021.  There were 10,645 views at the 92 in-house events to end August 2021 and, as events remain online, this number will increase by year end

52% of respondents were attending Bealtaine events for the first time and, as a positive consequence of online delivery, the Festival attracted an international audience with 22 audience members responding to the survey from outside Ireland 

Overall audience research demonstrates that the Festival achieved these stated outcomes.  As in previous years’ audiences report that they feel more artistic/creative (74%), more confident (55%), more connected to their communities (80%) and more likely to engage with the arts again (83%). Furthermore, results indicate that Bealtaine 2021 contributed to the overall aims of Age & Opportunity, with audiences reporting that participating in the Festival makes them feel more visible (58%), more positive about ageing (65%) and an increased sense of well-being/happiness.

Age & Opportunity measured satisfaction levels with the Festival using the Net Promoter Score which is based on a question about recommending to a friend.  The 2020 NPS of 60 is higher than the 2020 NPS of 54 and considerably higher than the “hugely impressive” baseline 2018 and 2019 NPS of 48.  Findings from the audience surveys showed that NPS is higher than the norm when online audiences were creative (78) or engaged (58) rather than passive (42).

Impact on target groups / Transferability potential

 The self-completion survey was shared with online audiences by means of an invitation following delivery of most events and follow-up e-mail invitations to those who had registered for events and supplied an e-mail address. A total sample of c. 192 to 195 was achieved for the majority of questions. Participants could opt out of questions if they wished. The sample size per question therefore varies slightly. Base sizes are shown per question.

The overall Net Promoter Score of 60 is extremely high and indicates that audiences were very satisfied with the online Festival.

When we compare audiences new to Bealtaine with those who have attended events in previous years it is clear that new attendees feel definitely more creative and more likely to engage in the arts again and somewhat more visible.  Previous attendees feel significantly more positive about ageing and somewhat more connected to other people.  They also report a greater feeling in relation to improving brain health and it might be interesting to include this as a motivator for attendance in future surveys.

Outcomes for audiences and societal impacts were delivered strongly by all types of organisation and event indicating that the relationship between Bealtaine and its organisers remains robust even in these challenging times for the arts. Over three quarters of respondents of all ages felt more connected to other people as a result of participation even though they were connecting online in most cases.  As in 2020 this should be considered a noteworthy outcome for those impacted by Covid-19 but also for those for whom restricted access to in-person arts events is a constant reality.

The following quotes highlight the positive impact the festival had on participants:

‘One positive thing to come out of the pandemic is that I can attend online things that I would never be able to travel to.’

‘Brilliant effort by the team to allow so many people to participate in so many events and yet keep everyone safe.’

‘It is the next best thing to being there at events in person. Great to feel that there is still a world out there waiting to be explored again. Great sense of connection.’

Promoter of the initiative: Age & Opportunity

Country: Ireland

Languages available: English

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