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This is an Invitation, ‘Got it?’

Guest Speaker Visual Artist Tom Meskell launches the exhibition

4.30 on 31st October – 6th November 2018, at Áras an Chontae, Tullamore.

Anam Beo believes in arts accessibility and that a picture combined with type may counteract information overload, allow focus and elegantly tell a story. With support from the Community Foundation for Ireland, artists Rowena Keaveny and Julie Spollen asked in an inclusive and creative manner…‘What is the best way to clearly communicate necessary information?’

A project about communication, health literacy and expression, it produced artwork and postcards that are informed by participants during creative workshops. Anam Beo, Arts, Health and Wellbeing Organisation have been interacting and communicating with people of different abilities since 2005 with over 13,472 workshop attendances in the growing demographic of the over 55’s.

Health Literacy; defined as the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate decisions regarding their health.

The Community Foundation for Ireland, Advocacy for Older People and Anam Beo project is about communication, expression and health literacy. We will be producing artwork for posters, postcards and information leaflets that have been informed by the participants during creative workshops. 

This is not the answer for the poor communication issues older people have to face, but highlights the need for greater care and thought towards how important health information is relayed to older people. An artistic perspective.

As a process driven project it allowed us, as facilitating artists to use our skills in the ongoing evaluation of older peoples health experiences. In both individual and group scenarios there was critical thinking and engagement in the visual communications potential outcomes. 


Staff were also involved in the discussion about the power of good communication and inclusiveness in decision making. During the visual art sessions where, print making, stencilling, graffitis, portraits, painting, collage, the written word, reminiscence, music choice, dance and movement with participants allowed important discussions, critical thinking and expression ; this project also facilitated the artwork ‘Notions’ as part of the Bealtaine 2018 National Arts Festival for Older People, ‘Be Out Guest’. Anam Beo both organised and curated ‘Solos & Notions’, an exhibit which Offaly Public Participation Network supported. 

I am really looking forward to the artistic development and final phase of this Health Literacy project and the launch at the end of October.

Julie Spollen July 2018


You’d notice that I’m more alive wouldn’t you? I’m more alive now & it’s only because of the introduction of those questions. I’ve something in my mind the whole time. I told Tina, my niece and she said,

‘That’s wonderful for you.’

I said, ‘Well it is, it’s like therapy, no it’s better than therapy.’ ”

John 2017


Projects are partnered with and supported by the Dublin Mid- leinster HSE for older people, Offaly County Council Arts Office, The National Lottery and Department of Health, The Irish Wheelchair Association, Birr Municipal Community Fund, The Creative Ireland Fund, The Public Participation Network and Community Facilities Grant. The Community Foundation of Ireland 2017/18.

Thank you! A great year of art and advocacy!


3 Riada/ IWA sessions Dance with Ailish Claffey

Riada and IWA short Dance with Ailish Claffey by Julie Spollen

40 SS2017@MRHT Sessions with Rowena Keaveny and Julie Spollen

Culture Night SS2017 Shorts by Rowena Keaveny and Julie Spollen

@Tullamore Arts Centre and Tullamore Library

21 Music and Reminiscence 2017@ Ofalia with Aisling Brennan

Ofalia House shorts by Aisling Brennan and Julie Spollen

30 Return to Sender 2017 sessions @ Clara with Rowena Keaveny

9 Painting and Journals sessions @ The IWA with Caroline Conway

1 Ferbanes ‘Amazing World of Wonder’ presentation @The IWA Caroline Conway &Tina Claffey 

31 Folklore/Music @ BCNU with Jackie Lynch collaborating with Aisling Brennan

20 Portraits and Posters @Riada House with Julie Spollen

Anam Beo Stop and Sit PP and short presentation by Julie Spollen at the Arts and Health Seminar at The Scott Building, Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore with Ann lawlor

Continued Professional Development with Michael Fortune and Aileen Lambert

Publications include, Midlands Arts and Culture Magasine Issue 27 , 2017 by Ciara Kelly, Midlands Arts and Culture Magasine Issue 28 , 2017 by Julie Spollen, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group Healthy Ireland Implementation Plan 2018-2020 by Chartered Physiotherapist Sinead Geraghty.

Anam Beo 2016, 136 art sessions, 244 participants and 1166 attendances at 8 locations!

‘And Breathe

Provided the opportunity for translating challenging aspects of experiencing a mental issue with a group rather than an individual isolating one, facilitating a new way in which to relate to that experience. It is hoped that this platform formulated into a positive mental health guide (funding permitting) will become a locally available community resource.‘Did I really do that?‘; ‘That’s not to bad at all now is it?’ & ‘ We should show these like that Vintage Week crowd.’ It challenged the participants perceptions of what they are capable of achieving. It highlighted people’s resilience and underutilised skills such as conveying a large amount of information in a very concise, accessible manner or supporting other members of the group enabling and expanding connections between both people and their experiences. There was a very collaborative atmosphere throughout the project with participants supporting each other throughout each element, ‘I didn’t know you could talk about something so serious but laugh so much while we’re doing it.’ ‘We’re all members of the same group making art.’ Arts participation in mental health settings and projects such as, ‘And Breathe’ provides the opportunity for people experiencing mental health issues to step away from that identity and through the development of a creative identity and expression uncover, build and explore previously unrecognised strengths.

Rowena Keaveny

Animations and Publications 

For many years I worked with David Boland in the Irish Wheelchair Association, impressed with his capacity to create. We discussed doing a publication of his poetry and self portraits. David is a prolific writer and painter who was been encouraged to catalogue some of his work and share it with a wider audience. His thoughts, pursuits in the arts and his keen interest in how a person is marked and moulded over time, are all reflected in his verses and drawings. It finally happened last year, he proudly and deservedly printed his first book! This process was also recorded and a short animated film produced entitled. 

Rowena’s long time creative companionship with John Beesley, a member of Clara Day Care Centre. They embarked on a project that turned into a deep exploration of what it means to be creative, to reflect on a life lived and the impact of that creativity being curtailed through health. They focussed on the image making process itself in a short animation, with voice recordings and what a creative process means to John, now in his 91st year. This was the opportunity to document his memories and experiences, as often there were areas he hadn’t explored in a long time. The poignant part being the realisation on John’s part that if he doesn’t record these memories now, like many, they could be lost. These are the gentle and important moments in an arts and health process. To have had the time over the past 10 years to really uncover new creative and assertive voices in people who felt that opportunity had already passed them by. There are no bells and whistles, just the quiet realisation that a difference has been made. 

Julie Spollen

The Irish Wheelchair Association and Riada House with Julie Spollen

To encourage an individual art practise in a large group environment. Participants at the Irish Wheelchair and Riada House worked on self portraits and face drawings to produce a large body of artwork which were then used in the 100 Years 100 Faces artwork and other works. It was an opportunity for the people involved to discuss the centenary year events and the way things were. Julie later went on to make a short film entitled “Pedestals”, a shared memory in the aftermath of the 1916 era and its effects on small communities. Representing our community, all group sessions shared in thoughts of an era where there was uncertainty. People really enjoyed getting their photograph taken and working on their portraits. It was an opportunity to exchange smartphone knowledge in a relaxed and fun manner, using a range of materials for different effects, encouraging self expression.

Music and Reminiscence at Ofalia House and Riada House with Aisling Brennan.

During these themed music sessions participants suggested songs to represent themselves or someone they knew. A selection of these songs were sung weekly and stories the songs were connected to or emoted were also told. Memory boxes with props relating to an aspect of the song were explored during sessions and memories of weddings, summer holidays, childhood toys etc were shared. Sound was also explored through percussion instruments. The sessions concluded with a group performance at the centre. Another aspect to the Music Pilot was an individual music session. While listening the participant often discussed the music itself. During individual sessions the individuals chose music they were interested in and listened to it with the musician on their personal i-pod. Personal aspects associated with the music were also discussed. One outcome was a short film of Peter Kane lilting, using his voice as his instrument.

“I rode a bike four times to Croke Park to the All Ireland.” Christy

“We’d see the dogs coming and we’d be gone flying over the ditch.” Nancy

“Biddy Mulligan the pride of the Coombe” Mary

“A German clock winder to Dublin once came” Ann

Arpileras Quilts at Birr Community Nursing Unit, BCNU with Jackie Lynch

Arpileras are brightly coloured traditional Chilean narrative quilts that depict everyday life. This media was chosen as a very suitable method of preserving participants collective memories based around ‘the Troubles’. Beginning with conversations and family memories regarding this important time in Irish history. Participants shared stories, information and skills to create detailed hand sewn 3D textile pictures. These illustrated the stories of their family members during this period. Four heirloom quilts were created as permanent memories representing family lore and mounted as traditional Arpileras are on burlap. Jackie produced a short informative documentary about the quilts explaining their backgrounds.The creators and their families were very proud of their achievements and delighted to see them displayed at the 100 Faces exhibition in Tullamore and featured on Offaly Matters tv programme. There were also open paint workshops, this was an organic process led experience allowing participants an unrestrained freedom of expression which were in contrast to the precise nature of the Arpileras workshops. 

Clara Day Care with Rowena Keaveny

In addition to the portrait aspect of the 100 Years 100 Faces centenary project Clara’s part of the project explored the role of the portrait and the question of visibility or not within communities. Through exploring the diverse changes inIreland’s social history that have occurred over the history of the state, using photography, sound recordings and film we sought to address specific questions: Why are some faces more visible that others? Is it the public or private self that is presented in order to protect our more vulnerable aspects? Who are portraits for and which aspects of the self are authentically represented and does this matter? The group were engaged with evaluating and processing just how much has changed within their lifetimes and also how those changes are impacting their daily lives now. These conversations and exchanges became, “Conversations with Clouds”, a 10 minute short film which documents the verydetailed discussions, exchanges and sometimes emotional expression about how Ireland’s social history has changed and evolved during the past 100 years both positive and negative. They reflected on how they are very often lonely and isolated in their daily lives today unlike former times, other outcomes include poster work and an individual proclomation. I think they get sick of me asking when that girl is coming back but I love it.”, I love doing something different. This is the thing, it’s like nothing else.”, We should do more of this it’s so good to be in company and doing something like with our minds and our hands. The banter isn’t bad either!”

The National Lottery Grant for Individual Arts Health and Wellbeing Projects at Birr Mental Health Centre,Clara Day Care, Irish Wheelchair Association and The National Learning Network.

Many thanks to the National Lottery Grants scheme and the Department of Health for making community based arts projects happen. These art projects focused on portraits, animation, storytelling and individual needs to express themselves in a safe environment.There were 28 sessions in total at the IWA Ballinagar with Julie Spollen, Birr Mental Health Centre and Clara Day Care with Rowena Keaveny and The National Learning Network Tullamore with Caroline Conway.

That went way too quickly, I was away in another world I forgot what was worrying me for those few minutes. Are you here next week?”, This has done me the world of good I was so stressed when I came in but I feel much better now.”

The 2016 Anam Beo Exhibition ‘100 Years 100 Faces’ is a collection of artworks from the art facilitators and participants of Anam Beo, Offaly’s Arts, Health and Wellbeing Programme. Aisling Brennan, Rowena Keaveny, Jackie Lynch and Julie Spollen have facilitated and curated this exhibit of portraits, quilts, collage, lilting, rhyming and reflections from the 2016 centenary year. 100 years have passed and a large artwork of 100 Faces will convey and express the memories and thoughts from stories heard and learned by the participants and facilitating artists. 100 Faces are representative of a time passed and the importance of individual thought amongst the many. For Anam Beo it is important to promote social inclusion today and the acceptance of the arts today is a means to encourage individual and community wellbeing, as part of a healing process. 100 Faces was created at different centres through different means and techniques, led by 4 facilitating artists. Depending on the reminiscence there were self portraits, fantastical or from a narrative.

The 100 Years 100 Faces artwork itself is based upon individuals amongst the community. It is an accumilation of portraits, old and new from Anam Beo participants. Rowena Keaveny and Julie Spollen together worked these faces into a colourful grid showing a diversity of talent and styles in the participants and facilitators approach to portraiture.

Open workshops with art facilitators with schools and local interest groups were greatly attended whilst also encouraging an open door at the Arts Centre recently opened fro Tullamore. This is an exciting time as now that there is a location and centre work can begin in all respects!

Special thanks to all the managers and staff at all the Care centres involved. This exhibition and project work was supported by Offaly County Council Arts Office and the Offaly County Council 2016 Centenary Fund, the Dublin Mid-Leinster HSE, Anam Beo and the Arts Council.

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Anam Beo Shorts film Premier at Birr Theatre

In August four short films premiered as part of Birr Vintage week and Arts Festival. ‘In Your Face’ David Boland, ‘I am not Nursing Home Material’ John Beesley, Music and Reminiscence’ at Ofalia House and Storyboards’ by Rowena Keaveny and Julie Spollen. All these shorts explore aspects to the Anam Beo programme and may be seen on our Youtube channel. These projects were funded by the National Lottery Grant Scheme through the Department of Health in 2015.

All Anam Beo footage and shorts can be found on our Anam Beo YOUTUBE channel.

In My Face by David Boland; with art facilitator Julie Spollen.

In My Face pdf David Boland

Not Nursing home Material by John Beesley; with art facilitator Rowena Keaveny.

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This project turned into a deep exploration of what it means to be creative, the impact of that creativity being curtailed and a life lived to the full despite it’s inevitable contact with grief particularly if that life is now in it’s 93rd year! The focus is on the image making process itself in a short animation, with voice recordings and what engaging in the creative process has meant to John. During the artists time with John, photograping, exploring and sitting with the work, there was a realisation on how John has developed his own unique dialogue with paint which uses his own personal historical narrative to engage the viewer. He describes it as, a ‘freeze frame’ process that forms the foundation of his work in which he will remember an event or place and will paint it exactly as he recalls it complete with the original emotional as well as geographical content. This was the opportunity to document the memories and experiences that the project was bringing up as there were area’s he hadn’t explored in a long time. Each memory led to another and then a different connection in a different direction. The poignant part being the realisation on John’s part that if he doesn’t record the things he wants now, they could be lost.

2015 Visual Arts Project at a new centre in Birr 2015; with artist Rowena Keaveny

2015 Music Pilot at Ofalia House 2015; with artist Aisling Brennan and accompanying footage by Ethan O’Brien.

2015 ‘STORYBOARDS’ a collaborative art project 2015; Art facilitators’ Jackie Lynch, Tina Hayes, Rowena Keaveny and Julie Spollen worked with 6 centres and 40 participants to produce a new artwork at Tullamore train station with an acommpanying dvd and book.

2014  Postcards


In 2011 Anam Beo held an exhibition at Arás an Chontae, Tullamore where President Michael D.Higgins spoke with knowledge and eloquence as our guest speaker. The show, ‘Connections’ was a fundraising exhibition that comprised of a uniform set of paintings and prints from participants in five care centres across Offaly and invited professional artists from across the country. Anam Beo used photographs documenting the event to create this resource publication. This publication is a not for profit project used to publicise and support the Anam Beo programme. It has been a useful resource to the care centres and is available to participants and their families on request. The project was part funded by Offaly Local Development Company.

Connections 2011 An Anam Beo Exhibition

‘S.E.E.K’ : Over three months twenty five participants and five members of staff at The Attic Therapy Centre illustrated, photographed, animated and recorded voice overs a 20min animated short film and booklet exploring both the ‘science’ and reality of living with Bipolar Disorder.

Through showing a mental health condition from an honest and ‘user friendly’ perspective the booklet and D.V.D are focused on empowering patients, families and carers to improve their knowledge and provide mutual support and information from other service users who have been through difficult times and have had positive outcomes.

The project also aimed to address the questions that someone newly diagnosed, their friends and family members may have in language that is both understandable and informative such as, ‘What is Bipolar Disorder?’, ‘ How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?’, ‘How is Bipolar Disorder treated?’, ‘What can I do to help my treatment?’ and ‘What can my family and friends do to help?”

“I am not alone, it helps to hear other peoples story.”

“I found it very user friendly and it gave me a better understanding of the condition.”

“The DVD really pulled at the heart strings and it was confirmation of the emotions I had which itself was a relief, that someone actually understood what it felt like to experience bipolar in a family member.”

‘S.E.E.K’ was facilitated by Rowena Keaveny and was supported by grants from The Community Foundation For Ireland, Lundbeck and Janssen.

The Attic Therapy Centre which opened in 1992 is a proactive therapy based community Mental Health Centre in Tullamore. The service is client focused with individual programmes being put in place for each client including art, art psychotherapy, mindfulness, yoga, self awareness/self esteem classes, drama and many others.

‘EQUALITY STREET’ : wasa 10 week animation project facilitated by Rowena Keaveny exploring equality and disability access. The project was supported by the Offaly Local Development Company.

2012 ‘LOOK AT ME I’M DANCING’: New media project funded by The Community Foundation For Ireland’s, ‘Grassroots Scheme’  with The Attic Therapy Centre and facilitated by Rowena Keaveny.


was a pilot project exploring print and printing techniques in the Renal Unit at The Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore. The project was led by Tina Hayes. This pilot was funded by the Community Foundation For Ireland which enabled Anam Beo to employ two artists for an 8 week pilot programme of 16 process and participant led art sessions with patients from the unit. As well as guidance from staff for the facilitating artists on how best to approach working within the hospital, the Renal Unit also provided support funding for art materials and framing of the art work. the finished prints were incorporated into a larger group work which is on permanent display in the Renal Unit. 

Renal Unit 4       Anam Beo Renal Unit



Anam Beo participants Sean Hennessy and Nancy Walsh artworks were selected to promote the annual Bealtaine is a national arts festival each May which celebrates creativity in older age . These artworks were displayed on large billboards nationwide.

Seans Billboard 07 004


In 2007 we worked in partnership with Irish Rail to exhibit images form the 2007 annual Anam Beo exhibition in Tullamore train station. Twelve images were selected, reproduced on a large scale and hung along the station platform. Tullamore train station is s busy stop on the East to West line from Dublin and an important window into Offaly. Such is the ongoing impact of these images, it inspired the Sunday Independent Editor to send journalist, Lucinda O’Sullivan to write a feature article on the project in The Sunday Independent where she remarked, Offaly’s groundbreaking arts programme for the elderly and disabled is a shining light to the rest of the country and must continue to flourish.

2006 ‘OUTSIDE + INSIDE’ : IRISH WHEELCHAIR ASSOCIATION, BALLINAGAR AND IMMA (Irish Museum Modern Art). Artist Julie Spollen undertook, ‘Outside / Inside’ a multi- media project between The Irish Wheelchair Association, Ballinagar in which she  facilitated  the members in their exploration of modern art as they selected an exhibition from the museums collection. The process also allowed the members to explore non-traditional arts materials to create their own works in response to their selected pieces. Offaly County Council hosted the selected works from the museums collection and IMMA in return hosted an exhibition of artworks by the IWA. Mary Cloake, Director of The Arts Council who opened the IWA’s work at IMMA commented on th ehonesty of the work and described the exhibition as, “world class”. This work is now on permanent display in The Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore.

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