Cork Cultural Companions co-ordinator, Barbara Quinn writes for Culture about an exciting new Age and Opportunity project aiming to 'give people aged over 55 opportunities to connect and engage with Cork's vibrant local arts and cultural scene'. 

Staying culturally engaged can be challenging for older people in normal circumstances, but the ongoing pandemic has put a temporary stop to the delivery of live physical events for us all to attend, no matter what age.

However, Cork Cultural Companions sets out to minimise cultural disconnection and social isolation among our older population. The initiative aims to help older people interested in arts and culture connect with like-minded people in their area. It aspires to reignite a love of the arts, culture and heritage in people who may have previously engaged in cultural events and activities but currently do not, for whatever reason, and give people aged over 55 opportunities to connect and engage with Cork's vibrant local arts and cultural scene at physical and online events.

An initiative of Age and Opportunity, the programme particularly aims to address the issue of social isolation among older people by providing volunteer companions for encouragement and support at live events when they return. We’re also looking for volunteers to act as 'Meet and Greeters’ at live events when venues open again.

Ultimately, we plan to create local networks of people interested in culture and the arts who can accompany each other to events when they return, and experience them together online for now, and make new long-lasting, socially enriching friendships.

Since we can't currently meet in person, we have adapted our approach this year to ensure we still provide opportunities for older people to connect with the arts and culture virtually.

Having postponed our original launch last April, we’re now excited to roll out a varied series of online events and activities, run in conjunction with cultural venues and organisations around Cork, until live events resume.

We’re currently seeking participants for the first of our online events, Tea and Ballet, run in association with the Firkin Crane. Delivered by former principal ballerina with London Ballet Theatre, Patricia Crosbie, over a 6 week series of one-hour meetings, participants will get together to explore some world-famous classical ballets. The first series will focus on the ballet Giselle. The aim of the programme is two-fold; to break down any perceived barrier to understanding or appreciating ballet and therefore increase numbers attending ballet and dance performances in venues in future, and to help participants retain and increase mobility.

Another event being planned is Theatre in the Community, which will see a one-person theatre show being brought to five 'cultural companion' hubs in the county. The performance will be staged outdoors and will see social distancing guidelines adhered to. Other planned activities include mobile movie Screenings, a Clay Modelling Workshop and Exhibition, and a ‘Culture on Call’ service.

Anyone aged over 55 can sign up to Cork Cultural Companions for free, to get connected with like-minded people and kept up to date with what’s happening culturally locally, and when live events start happening again, members will have the opportunity to attend events with new friends in the network.

I would encourage everyone interested to get involved. If you’d like to register for Cork Cultural Companions, or request further information on membership, please contact me on 0851300335, email culture@muintircork.com, or see the Cork Cultural Connections page on muintircork.com here.