Gamelan Gala at the Spectrum Centre


Our Gamelan has found a summer home in the Spectrum Centre in Belfast.

The Gamelan will begin its public residency on the 2nd of June, working in partnership with the Spectrum Centre to provide workshops and classes for community groups in the Shankill and North Belfast area.

The workshops will build up to our big event this year, The Gamelan Gala, an integrated performance involving the Open Arts Gamelan, our Luminous Soul dancers and Open Arts Monday Players drama group on the 14th of June.

The multi-disciplinary performance is inspired by the Indonesian version of the Ramayana, in that it explores human values, the spiritual struggle between light and dark, good and evil. It will be an emotional journey from intrigue, threat to resolution and a return to safety and peace.

The Monday Players will perform physical theatre tableaus along with the Open Arts Luminous Soul dancers and the Gamelan will provide the music for the performances.

Our Visual Art groups are currently researching Indonesian art and stenciling the Gamelan boxes with beautiful designs that will be used as stage props for the Gamelan Gala. They are also creating Mandalas and art inspired by traditional Indonesian art and designs.


Our Creative Writing groups are currently researching Indonesian stories as inspiration for their own writing. They are producing pieces for drama and songs. Printed poems and stories may be displayed in the Spectrum Centre and there may be a live reading or

recorded spoken word played.

Sponsor Andrea Hope on her Marathon Walk for Open Arts


Open Arts’ amazing Gamelan player, Community Choir singer and Luminous Soul dancer, Andrea Hope , is taking on the Belfast Marathon 8 mile walk with her guide dog Zeta Vale Hope to raise money for our organization.

Andrea said: “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Open Arts. They gave me the confidence to do a music degree and I’ve always been encouraged to try new things and to improve the artistic skills I already have. You can support me and Open Arts by texting a wee donation. It doesn’t matter how much, every little can go a long way.”

“I know that so long as I’m involved with Open Arts so many doors will continue to open. I’ve already had some amazing experiences with Open Arts, and I’ve achieved so much as well, and it’s all because of the wonderful guys who work for Open Arts. This is a fantastic way to say thanks and to give something back. We’re all one big happy family at Open Arts.
Thank you all very much. All the support you give will be much appreciated.”

Text OART21 (with no spaces) followed by your donation choice, remembering to put the £ (pound sign) before your figure e.g. £1, £2, etc to 70070.
So to donate £5: text ‘OART21 £5′ to 70070.

Please join and share Andrea’s facebook event page:



Check out our new video about Luminous Soul

Click the link below to see the Luminous Soul Dancers in action. Open Arts CEO Eileen Branagh and Luminous Soul dancer Katy Megahy talk about their successful pitch as part of The Funding Network event in November which secured development funding for Luminous Soul. The Funding Network event was organized with local partners: Community Foundation NI, Giving NI, and Belfast City Council. Open Arts’ sponsor for the event was The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.

JAM with Open Arts

IMG_3648JAMDIN is Back!
Join the loudest, most fun jam session in Belfast. JAMDIN is an interactive and inclusive music-making session held one Saturday morning per month in the Crescent Arts Centre, led by two experienced Open Arts community musicians.

It is for everyone, people with and without disabilities, who love jamming with musical instruments and drumbeats. You can bring your own instrument or use one of ours. You don’t need to know anything about music. You only need to be prepared to have fun and make some noise!

At JAMDIN you can get into:
-Drumming with Boomwhackers, drumsticks, and other percussion instruments.
-Singing and writing songs.
-Melodic experimentation with tuned percussion
-Jamming with whatever instruments people bring along.

The Details:

Where? The Crescent Arts Centre, University Road, Belfast
When? JAMDIN is held one Saturday per month from 10.30am-12pm, beginning February 2014.
Who can come? Anyone aged 16 or over with a love of music, regardless of disability or previous musical experience
How much does it cost? £0! Nothing! JAMDIN is free!
If you would like to jam with Open Arts, get in touch with Bev Whyte at Or phone 02890 240765 to register your interest.

Luminous Soul Light Up CityDance14

Open-Arts-Several-Stories-High_210613-800004On Saturday the 22nd of February, Open Art’s Luminous Soul will perform among some of the best local contemporary dance groups at CityDance14: Contemporary Dance Showcase.

The night will be a real treat for dance fans, with 9 different dance groups performing their innovative and creative contemporary routines at the showcase in the Crescent Arts Centre.

The Luminous Soul piece, In the Shadows, was inspired by the Light & Shadow sculptures of Japanese artist Kumi Yamashita and the poem Luminous Soul by John McGuckin. The dancers will explore their own shadows and how things are never quite what they first seem. It is directed by Sheena Kelly and choreographed by the dancers themselves, to the music of Paper Tigers by Helios.

Luminous Soul are contemporary dancers who have a disability.  Over the last 5 years they have moved from strength to strength working with some of the UK and Northern Ireland’s finest choreographers.  Their performances have been highly praised and they have been featured at 2013 World Police and Fire Games, 2012 Paralympic Flame Festival, and the Milk Cup NI Welcoming ceremony. Open Arts’ Luminous Soul is a unique, contemporary dance project that provides high-quality dance training and development, enabling disabled people to become professional dancers.


Where: Crescent Arts Centre

Saturday 22nd of February

Time: 8pm
The Line-up:
Elderflowers Dance Theatre Company – Ave Maria
Flor Rodríguez Chávez – Lo Que No Entiendo – I Do Not Understand
Jayne Smyth, Helen Hall, Jade Rogers & Kirstie Toman – Endeavour
Maeve McGreevy & Eleonora Ramsby Herrera  - Lighten Up
Oona Doherty – NOW
Gary Rowntree Dance – Laboured Episode
Sheena Kelly – Lapsed
Open Arts’ Luminous Soul – In the Shadows
Bridget Madden Dance – Mnemosyne
Tickets: £5 Visit for more information. 


Opportunity to host the beautiful Open Arts gamelan


The Open Arts Javanese Gamelan is now available for residencies in Belfast!
Since the Open Arts Gamelan arrived in Belfast from Java in 1995, it has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, and for the last 3 years has resided in the Music Department at Stranmillis University College, running Gamelan music sessions with community groups of all ages and abilities.

However, from January 2014, it will be released to travel again…!

Not sure what a Gamelan is??
A Gamelan is an amazing orchestra of percussion instruments from Indonesia, comprising gongs, metallophones and drums of various shapes and sizes, and can be played by up to 20 people at any one time.

As well as being stunningly beautiful, the Gamelan has an other-worldly, vibrant & sonorous sound, and can be played by anyone, regardless of age, disability or previous musical experience.It is therefore the perfect tool for bringing school or community groups together, and for corporate team-building days.

Please follow the link below to get a flavour of some of our recent Gamelan projects and performances.

If you are interested in hosting a Gamelan residency – for a minimum of 6 weeks in a secure and accessible room of about 375 sq ft or 15 x 25ft

- please contact Bev Whyte, Musical Director for Open Arts, on 02890 240765

or email

Please feel free to forward this information to any other groups whom you think may be interested

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Open Arts is 21


21 – Open Arts Comes of Age
Usually on your 21st birthday you are given the proverbial ‘key to the door.’ But Open Arts has turned this tradition on its head by opening its doors to the public with an interactive showcase exhibition that highlights its extensive work in enabling disabled people’s participation in the arts over the past 21 years.

The exhibition launch and birthday party was held on Monday 28th of October in the Crescent Arts Centre. It included performances by Open Arts Luminous Soul dancers, Gamelan musicians, members of the Open Arts Community Choir and readings by the Open Arts creative writers. The Open Arts staff shared out a 21st birthday cake with all of the invited guests.

Open Arts has worked steadily away in the background since 1992 providing a huge array of opportunities for disabled people in the arts. This exhibition is a chance for Open Arts to flaunt its scope and impact.

“It is amazing how much work Open Arts has done over the years” said Eileen Branagh, the new CEO of the organization. “We have involved people with disabilities in world class shows from the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony to the Last Choir Standing TV show, to the World Police and Fire Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies this year.”

But these high profile special performances are only the tip of the iceberg. Open Arts runs an extensive programme of classes in creative writing, dance, choir, gamelan, visual arts and drama for hundreds of disabled people every year in Belfast and all over Northern Ireland. On top of this, they organise major events and performances.

The showcase exhibition ran until Saturday 2nd November. It also included daily hour long workshops activities for exhibition visitors to get fully immersed in the work that Open Arts does. In true Open Arts fashion, these were open to anyone who wanted to join in.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said, “The Arts Council are delighted to support Open Arts as they celebrate their 21st anniversary of supporting and enabling thousands of disabled people from across Northern Ireland to participate in the arts,” she said. “This goal is unachievable without Open Arts and the other organisations working in Northern Ireland to make the arts genuinely open to all. That is the reason why Open Arts is one of the Arts Council’s core clients and the reason why we’ve been a keen and enthusiastic funder of Open Arts for as long as anyone can remember.”

Open Arts is 21

Open Arts presents 21
An exhibition highlighting 21 years of commitment to valuing creativity, furthering artistic excellence and promoting the rights and employment of disabled people within the arts.
Monday 28 October to Saturday 2 November
at the Crescent Arts Centre Gallery
2 – 4 University Road, Belfast
Free public activities each day, check Updated public activities Open Arts 21 launch invite Exhibition week details




Open Arts Gamelan at Culture Night Belfast Launch

Our Gamelan was selected by Culture Night Organizer, Adam Turkington, to perform at the Culture Night Belfast Launch Ceremony in August. On Culture Night itself, the Gamelan played in the Art College for several hours.


Kate Ingram on the gamelan gongs

Click the link to watch a video of the Open Arts Gamelan Players performing at the launch event.

Open Arts is currently recruiting new Gamelan players, with rehearsals starting on Wednesday 25 September at 4.30pm. Please email Bev Whyte, Musical Director, for more info, or to register your interest.

Morton Community Centre Mural

Morton Community Centre Mural, with Craig Blakely and Marylouise McCord (Lou Lou).

Morton Community Centre Mural, with Craig Blakely and Marylouise McCord (Lou Lou).

For Morton Community Centre’s celebration of 25 years of bringing people together,
the Open Arts Morton Monday Visual Arts Group worked with artist Ash Reynolds and other centre user groups to create a beautiful mural for permanent display in the centre.

with Craig Blakely and Marylouise Mccord Lou Lou.