This Is Not My Beautiful House - Seminar, Dublin

Friday 20th May, The Lab Studios, Foley Street, Dublin 1, 9.30 am – 5.00pm (lunch is included). Age & Opportunity is working to create a society where we have more choices than compromises as we age. This Is Not My Beautiful House is a seminar which will consider how creativity, creatively charged communities and the arts can contribute to better ways of living as we get older.  The seminar will specifically address the need to radically rethink traditional notions of ‘community’ and agency in shaping residential and community design that enhances human dignity and growth.  


This special event, which will be chaired by writer and psychoanalytic practitioner Dr. Medb Ruane, will feature a keynote from writer and researcher Francois Matarasso, as well as presentations and workshops from architect and Director of the Netwell centre Rodd Bond, consultants Susan Jones and Esther Salamon, representatives from the Nimble Spaces project, researcher and writer Ann Leahy, artists Marie Brett, Rhona Byrne and Rionach Ni Neill, and representatives from housing initiatives. As places are extremely limited booking is essential.

The seminar will also feature an intervention by artist Rhona Byrne responding to the seminar theme.

Over the course of a day, the seminar will be structured around two themes:

  • how can creative approaches to community design generate more dynamic, inclusive and socially engaged communities?
  • how can the arts impact on the culture of residential care settings and on the well-being of those who live and work in those communities?

With thanks to Dublin City Council for supporting this seminar through the LAB

More information and booking contact us at Bealtaine at Age and Opportunity: E: | T: 01 853 5180| W:


Rodd Bond is an architect with a unique blend of experience in the development and application of technology applied to environments and processes that support people’s health and wellness. Rodd graduated with distinction from the school of architecture at Brookes College, Oxford in 1982, where his major study, focused on evaluation frameworks applied to the design of primary care facilities in the UK. Recently, Rodd has pursued an action research agenda that has culminated in the formation of the Netwell Centre in DkIT, which he now directs.  Based in the School of Health and Science the Netwell Centre hosts the Nestling Project – a collaborative initiative between the local authority, the HSE and DkIT.  The Nestling Project is a demonstration project examining the fusion of social networks, environments and technologies that support ageing-in-place. Rodd has managed Dundalk’s participation in the WHO Age-Friendly Cities Project and is now managing Louth’s Age-Friendly County initiative. 

Rhona Byrne lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. Rhona makes sculptural objects and spatial environments combining sculpture, performance and processes of participation that explore a negotiation of object, place and social practice. Recent projects and exhibitions include, Huddle Tests solo show at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios; Huddlewear, Facebook AIR program residency/commission; Mobile Monuments, Fingal County Council 1916 public art commission; On that Note, Heart of Glass, Liverpool; Moving Thresholds, National Gallery of Ireland; Ridge, Verksmi∂jan, Hjalteyri, Iceland; Sensory hub, Cowper Care home commission, Dublin;  Its All up in the Air, Norfolk and Norwich Arts Festival, Uk; Bolthole, Open Studio, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, IMMA.

Carolann Courtney is the Arts and Health Specialist for County Kildare supported by Kildare County Council Arts and Library Service. Her role considers not just the health element of the individual in terms of sickness and/or absence thereof, but that of the individual’s complete well-being. She has interpreted this as a means to examine the impact that art, culture, community, societal structures and the environment has on the mental and physical well-being of the individual. She uses her position as Arts and Wellbeing coordinator to explore the accessibility of the arts in the county and to investigate how service providers (both statutory and non, community and volunteer) develop a programme of inclusiveness. The Arts and Health programme in Co. Kildare includes Visual Arts, Choral Work, Dance and Movement, Theatre, Film and Radio to ensure everyone can access and participate in the artwork of their choosing. Courtney is a strategic partner with the HSE, KCC and Riverbank Arts Centre on delivering the arts and well-being programme for the county.

Marie Brett is an award winning visual artist working in photography, sound, film and sculptural form. Her work recurrently questions culturally shunned and difficult topics, often exploring ideas of loss, crisis and human suffering. Her practice is informed by research collaborations. Brett studied visual art at Goldsmiths, London University, receiving a BA (1stclass) plus a MA (distinction). She also holds a PGCE, University Middlesex and studied Community Development at UCC and Group Empowerment at CIT. She has writing published in Ireland and Finland and is the 2016 artist in residence at University College Dublin, College of Social Sciences and Law.The artist’s work is held in several public collections, nationally and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include: E.gress: IMMA, The Model; Amulet: The Lab, Galway Arts Centre, Shadow Traders: Triskel, Cork. Her short film 2 Roads was selected for Cork Film Festival. Brett also stages collaborative events in unusual sites like Vacant Space: Lonehort Fort, Bere Island and Black Strand, Skagastrond Fish Factory, Iceland.

Susan Jones was the Director of a-n The Artists Information Company until 2014. She is now working as a writer, researcher and consultant on contemporary visual arts, contributing a specialist knowledge of how artist-led and socially-engaged practices contribute to the arts ecology and generate innovation and cultural value. In 2015, she was awarded an MBE for her services to the arts.


Ann Leahy worked in Age & Opportunity for many years in roles that included Assistant CEO with responsibility for the organisation’s arts work. She contributed to the development of a range of the organisation’s programmes including the Bealtaine festival and Creative Exchanges. She carried out a study into the impacts of arts participation on quality of life of older people living in residential care settings as part of an M.A. in social justice and public policy obtained in 2011. More recently she has worked as a researcher on social policy and in this capacity has authored a series of reports on the impacts of the financial crisis in Europe. She received a Hume Scholarship from Maynooth University where she is currently a PhD candidate in sociology researching disability and ageing. She writes poetry and amongst the awards received is a Patrick Kavanagh award for her first collection.

Francois Matarasso is a freelance writer, researcher and consultant with a 35 year career in socially-engaged arts practice. Between 1979 and 1994, he worked in visual arts, theatre and as a producer, with people in housing estates, hospitals, care centres and prisons. As Francois’ interest in the ideas behind this work grew, he became involved with research and its implications. From 1994 to 2003 he undertook a series of studies of arts and culture, often with Comedia, including Use or Ornament? and ending with Only Connect.  Since 2004, he has concentrated on writing, supported by freelance work. Over the years he has worked with all sorts of organisations including public bodies, foundations and universities, but above all with arts organisations whose values he shares. He has also served on the boards of cultural groups and institutions. Francois’ work has been widely published and he has been asked to work or speak in many countries. In 2010, he began working on a series of creative projects that explore new ways of understanding people’s culture.

Tom Meskell has been involved in arts in health work since 1998. Initially he undertook a 3 month residency with GRACE (grass roots arts and community effort) in Vermont USA and was later part of the Mayo County Council arts and health networking and mentoring programme. Tom developed an arts in care settings residency with Offaly County Council which through mentoring, developed into Anam Beo. Anam Beo has continued to develop and survive to this day. Tom has maintained a workshop at the Sacred Heart Hospital since 2009 where he works one day a week. This workshop is currently thriving and in 2014 was awarded the Waterford healing arts trust documentation award. In addition, film-maker Roisin Loughrey made a short film about the residency called ‘the room’ which was nominated for a human rights film award. Tom approaches arts in health work in the context of an artist working with artists, I endeavour to assist participants in realising their own creative voice.

Rionach Ni Neill is a dance artist, based in the Conamara Gaeltacht. She curates the Corp_Real |Galway Dance Days Festival, a platform for multi-disciplinary engagement with dance and social issues, in her role as Galway Dance Artist in Residence (2010-2016). She is the dance curator at Firkin Crane, Cork, responsible for artistic programming and development. She holds a PhD in Geography from UCD (1994), and has guest lectured in Germany, Sweden & Ireland. She performed for many Irish choreographers, including  Fearghus Ó Conchúir, Finola Cronin, and Rex Levitates (now Liz Roche Dance), and was a member of Tanztheater Bremen, 2002-06 under the artistic direction of Urs Dietrich, and as artistic director of Ciotóg, has choreographed over 11 works, performed internationally. Ríonach founded the Macushla Dance Club in 2007, which provides access to dance training for older people and nurtures creative exchange between older people and the professional dance community. It has collaborated in many professional dance theatre, film & music works. The Area, co-directed by Ní Néill & Joe Lee, has won 3 international awards, and screened worldwide. Ríonach has focused in the past three years on dance for people living with dementia, and living with psychiatric illness. She is the dance lecturer on the Geragogic (Arts Faciitation for Older People) course at the Bundesakademie für Kulturelle Bildung, Wolfenbüttel.

Maurice O’Connell is the Coordinator of the Active Ageing Partnership, a collaboration of three NGOs aiming to advance the civic engagement of older people, their human rights and to influence government policy.  He is a member of the Irish Dementia Strategy Monitoring Group, was CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland from 1998 to 2013, and a non-executive director and past chair of Alzheimer Europe 2000 - 2014. Maurice is also a former Chairman of the Disability Federation of Ireland and is a co-founder and non-executive director of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland. He is chair of the Anvers Housing Association for people with acquired brain injury and a board member of Age Friendly Ireland.  Maurice Chairs Age Friendly Cities and Counties NGO Forum, is on the oversight board of TILDA (longitudinal study of ageing in Ireland) and HaPAI (Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative). He is a Life Coach and holds a Masters in Psychology.

Blaithin Quinn is an architect & visual artist based in Ireland. After graduating as an architect from UCD in 1995, she worked in private practice while completing a first class honours Degree in Visual Arts Practice in 2010 and later a Masters in Visual Arts Education in 2013. This has informed her approach to practice, which is collaborative, interdisciplinary and site-specific. Blaithin is an active practitioner in the area of public engagement with architecture.

Dr. Medb Ruane is a writer and psychoanalytic practitioner based in Dublin. She is a member of the Mental Health Tribunals, editor of Lacunae, the International Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis and has published and broadcast widely on culture, politics and psychoanalysis. Medb has also worked as a columnist for The Sunday Times, The Irish Times and The Irish Independent and written critically on art and artists.  

Esther Salamon is an arts consultant with considerable experience of creating and managing a variety of arts projects across voluntary, public and private sectors. She has undertaken major research and feasibility studies and consultancies for universities, local authorities, and national and regional arts bodies. During her 15 years as Co-Director of Newcastle-based charity Helix Arts, she initiated projects in northern England that placed artists (from across disciplines) into health, community and criminal justice settings across voluntary, public and private sectors.

Nimble Spaces: Independent curators Rosie Lynch and Hollie Kearns are based at Callan Workhouse Union, Co. Kilkenny where they are involved with a group transforming a semi-derelict wing of Callan Workhouse into a shared space for art, design and community activity centered around a research library and studios. They are dedicated to supporting and commissioning projects that highlight the urgency of our current social and political environment through an understanding of our cultural and built heritage. Current and recent projects at Callan Workhouse Union include Workhouse Guild (2016) a programme of art/craft collaborations and commissioned new work; Workhouse Union (2015) a series of commissioned new work to critically examine the history and legacy of Callan Workhouse and institutionalism and Workhouse Assembly (2013) a twelve-day active research workshop. Over the past four years they have been working with Camphill Community Callan on Nimble Spaces an innovative housing project developing long term collaborations between artists, architects and adults with a disability, considering ‘home’ and shared living. The first phase of the project culminated in May 2015 with Ways to Live Together: New Cultures of Housing, an international conference held at VISUAL, Carlow, exploring participative design, spatial justice, social housing and co-housing. The project has now entered into a participatory design and build phase, with four co-housing inclusive neighbourhoods in the initial phase of development in the Callan area. In 2014, Rosie and Hollie developed Forecast, in collaboration with Kilkenny Leader Partnership and Kilkenny County Council Forward Planning Department, a project looking anew at five rural towns in Co.Kilkenny. They are involved in producing Courtyard Screen, a make-and-build project led by London based architects Studio Weave, to develop a community gathering space which marks the third phase in a community-led process to re-imagine Bridge Street in Callan as a public space with a civic future. They were co- founders with Tara Kennedy and Jo Anne Butler of Commonage (2010 – 2014), which provided critical platform for contemporary art and architecture practice in the public realm. Other recent curatorial projects further afield include Time Machine (2015), a research event exploring temporality as part of Im/Plants residency at National Sculpture Factory, Cork,  and The Pattern Exchange (2015), a group show at TBG+S, Dublin.