Chuck Feeney (1931-2023)

10th October, 2023

Irish-American philanthropist who contributed to development of older people’s arts programme in Northern Ireland

Tributes from around the world are being paid to Chuck Feeney, Irish-American philanthropist, who died yesterday (9th October) at the age of 92. Mr Feeney donated more than £6.5bn to various causes across five continents through his private foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies. His foundation, which he created in 1984, donated £465m over four decades to causes in Northern Ireland.

One focus of investment in Northern Ireland was on the needs of older people. In 2009, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland applied to the Atlantic Philanthropies ‘Ageing Programme’ for support in establishing an arts-based programme which could bring lasting improvements to the lives of our older citizens. By 2010, thanks to our partnership with the foundation, we were distributing the first grants to arts, community and voluntary groups through our new, three-year, £700,000 ‘Arts and Older People Programme’. Atlantic Philanthropies supported this programme throughout those formative early years, and we became the first Arts Council on these islands to tackle isolation and loneliness with dedicated arts initiatives. We pioneered and discovered new ways to promote active ageing, challenge attitudes, and strengthen the voice of older people in society, through the widest possible range of creative activities, from intergenerational storytelling to stilt walking!

The Arts and Older People Programme is still going strong, now with the support of the Public Health Agency, the National Lottery and, until very recently, The Baring Foundation. It has delivered 200 projects, reaching more than 29,000 older people living across Northern Ireland.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, along with the many thousands of older people who have subsequently enjoyed the many social, health and wellbeing benefits associated with participating in the arts, are deeply indebted to Chuck Feeney and The Atlantic Philanthropies for their generous support in setting up this transformative arts programme.