Organisations, Partnerships

Kabosh hosts gardening and arts therapy project to support older people in the community

6th June, 2024

Kabosh has been running an exciting project in three care homes in Belfast to engage isolated older people in the arts, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery Arts and Older People Programme. The project entitled, The Occasional Gardener, is an multi artform and gardening therapy project, which involved older people living in three Macklin Group care homes including, Arlington on the Ormeau Road, Our Lady’s in West Belfast, and Park Mannor Oaks in Dunmurry.

An older leady in a pink cardigan sitting beside Carol Moore, both smiling.
Pictured are project participant, Annie Velenti with The Occasional Gardener Project Co-Ordinator, Carol Moore.

Over the course of seven weeks participants engaged in a range of music, movement, craft, and gardening activities designed to stimulate the senses, promote well-being, and enhance connections to the world around them. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland visited one of the workshops taking place at Arlington Care Home in Belfast’s Ormeau Road, watch the video below.

Now in its third year, the project has proved extremely successful in directly improving the health and wellbeing of residents who may experience social isolation, exclusion, disability, and underlying physical and mental health conditions. It has been funded for those three years through the Arts Council NI’s National Lottery Arts and Older People Programme, a pioneering initiative funded by The National Lottery and Public Health Agency, which aims to tackle loneliness as-well as promote positive mental health and wellbeing among older people, through engagement with the arts.

Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Development Officer: Programmes Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said, “Thanks to The National Lottery players and the Public Health Agency, we’re delighted to support Kabosh with The Occasional Gardener. Research has proven that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as aid in relieving stress. The Arts and Older People Programme is committed to providing meaningful opportunities for older people to take part in arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. The arts have a vital role to play in helping our older people find their voice, bring people together and promote positive physical and mental health - funding from The National Lottery has been a game changer in helping us achieve that.”

Three people sitting beside one another smiling with a wellington boot on a table filled with flowers.
Pictured are project participant Annie Velenti, Lorraine Calderwood, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and The Occasional Gardener Project Co-Ordinator, Carol Moore.

The Occasional Gardener project is manged by Kabosh and delivered by lead artist Carol Moore alongside a team of experienced facilitators who each take responsibility for activities across different art forms including, Anna O’Kane (craft & visual art), Kat Regan (music & song), and Neil Keery (movement & dance). Activities are designed in partnership with staff from each home to ensure that residents can fully engage and receive a rewarding sense of satisfaction and achievement.

The Occasional Gardener Project Co-Ordinator, Carol Moore, said, “I designed The Occasional Gardener because I saw the benefits of maintaining good mental health when working in my own garden. Kabosh partnered with Macklin Care Homes and for three years we have delivered quality engagement in art, gardening, singing and movement with residents in care homes. It has been a great success and has had major wellbeing benefits for all involved.”

Paula McFetridge, Artistic Director of Kabosh, added, “The Occasional Gardener is a gorgeous opportunity for Kabosh to bring added colour and joy into the day to day lives of care home residents. Led by project co-ordinator Carol Moore, our artists deliver a mix of music, movement, drama, craft, and gardening activities in three Macklin Group homes across Belfast. By engaging in natural and creative workshop sessions, participants are empowered to reconnect with themselves and the world around them. Delivering this project is also an enriching and rewarding experience for our artists. Every week they see the positive impact of creativity in action, reinforcing the important role that creative practice plays in daily life.”

The National Lottery Arts and Older People Programme was established by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2010 and is now a cross-governmental partnership with funding also from the Public Health Agency. The programme has been designed to challenge perceptions of what it means to be an older person, empower participants, and give older people a voice. To date the programme has provided over £2m funding to community organisations and voluntary groups across Northern Ireland in the delivery of over 272 arts projects to hundreds of older people.

To find out more about Arts Council of Northern Ireland funding programmes visit

About the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead funding and development agency for the Arts providing support to arts projects throughout the region, through its Treasury and The National Lottery funds. Arts Council funding enables artists and arts organisations to increase access to the arts across society and deliver great art that is within everyone’s reach.

To date, National Lottery players have helped to raise £48 billion for Good Causes, with more than 685,000 individual awards made across the UK. With hundreds of lottery grants in every postcode district, most people will have benefited from a National Lottery-funded project at some point.

A group of older people sitting around a large table planting plants into boxes.
A group of Arlington Care Home residents taking part in a workshop as part of The Occasional Gardener.