Q&A with Bealtaine's Mamo McDonald

Edward O'Hare speaks to Mamo McDonald, organiser of Bealtaine, a festival celebrating creativity in older age.


How did you get involved in the campaign for the rights of older people?

Many years ago I was invited to participate in a national discussion on the rights of older people. That surprised me because I was only 59 and never considered myself old. I suppose that I was chosen because, through the Irish Countrywomen's Association, I had a profile. There would also be a link between my campaign for women's rights and older people's rights. Women are the forgotten gender. Older people are the forgotten generation.


What should the Government be doing for older people?

The Government gave half a million Euro to Go for Life, a programme to encourage physical activities for older people. This has given so many older people a huge lift, and totally transformed their lives. What we need now is similar financing for our arts programme, Arts in Care.


The Bealtaine festival has been running for 11 years. Why has it been such a success?

Bealtaine is popular because it encourages the development of new areas of life. Through Bealtaine, older people have become poets and painters. Bealtaine has taken away the myth that art is only for the elite.


What have been the highpoints of Bealtaine for you over the years?

The thing that impressed me most was when the three great institutions, the National Gallery, the Irish Film Institute and the Abbey theatre came to help us. This encouraged many other institutions to participate too. I remember the first day when all the representatives of all the arts institutions agreed to form a partnership.

More Over 800 events, including theatre, literature, dance, film, storytelling, music, painting, sculpture and photography will take place nationwide during Bealtaine Festival until 31 May. www.olderinireland.ie