Opera director Kate Guelke presented with award to help vulnerable people in NI rebuild their lives through the arts

16th April, 2024

Kate Guelke, opera and theatre director of Spark Opera, a Northern Irish community opera company, has been presented with the Anne O’Donoghue Award, a £5000 National Lottery funding award by Community Arts Partnership and Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The career development award is presented in memory of Anne O’Donoghue who was a Director of Play Resource Warehouse in North Belfast and one of the NI arts sector’s leading lights, who sadly passed away in 2014.

Picture of Kate Guelke smiling.  She is wearing black framed glasses and leaning against a brick wall outdoors.
Anne O'Donoghue Award recipient 2024, Kate Guelke.

Kate Guelke will use the Anne O’Donoghue Award to train with Streetwise Opera, an opera company that enables people who’ve experienced homelessness to find inspiration and empowerment while they rebuild their lives and identities. The company run programmes of singing and creative workshops in London, Manchester and Nottingham, that inspires and empowers people who are recovering from homelessness, giving them the confidence to rebuild their lives. Kate will also train with Pimlico Opera in Surrey who work mainly in prisons and primary schools. Kate will use her training with Pimlico Opera and Streetwise Opera to develop new key skills which she will bring back to NI to benefit the vulnerable groups of people she plans to work with in the future.

Watch the video with Kate below.

Kate Guelke, commented, 

“The Anne O’Donoghue Award means so much - it gives me the freedom and resources to receive on the ground training from Streetwise Opera and Pimlico Opera, taking my learnings to Northern Ireland. There is an exciting precedent in the UK for creating inclusive, inspiring opera projects with people vulnerable to homelessness and people intersecting with the criminal justice system respectively. This is work I have wanted to do for years and - thanks to the Anne O'Donoghue Award - I can pursue it, co-creating and devising programmes with outstanding local partners the Welcome Organisation and Hydebank College.”

The Anne O’Donoghue award was established under the Arts Council’s existing Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) as part of the Council’s continuing commitment to support artists and create a sustainable arts sector. Community Arts Partnership administer the award on behalf of the Arts Council.

Conor Shields, CEO, Community Arts Partnership, said, 

“The panel believed that Kate Guelke displayed in her application an exemplary blend of personal leadership and management development through accessing high quality mentoring. She also plans to develop longer term impacts within her personal practice through the award, whilst also developing learning for others in the field of socially engaged practice here, which all the panellists felt very positive to support. Kate has an excellent track record and connects so many practices across so many organisations in her project management. We are delighted to see her receive this prestigious award."

Lizzie Devlin, Development Officer, Community Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, 

“Anne contributed a huge amount to the life and legacy of the arts in Northern Ireland and we are delighted to make this award available in her memory to an artist in support of their career, thanks to the National Lottery players. A warm congratulations to Kate Guelke whom I know will benefit greatly from this award. This National Lottery funding is a game changer in enabling Kate to train with leading arts organisations to develop essential skills in using the arts as a tool to engage with vulnerable people, helping to improve their lives.”

Anne O’Donoghue’s legacy is significant, joining the Play Resource Warehouse in 1984 where she remained as a committed director for thirty years, championing community arts practice. With this commitment in mind, the Anne O’Donoghue Award was established by the Arts Council to support an individual working in community arts by building their professional capacity through continuing professional development. The award is hosted and managed by Community Arts Partnership, the lead agency for community arts in N Ireland.

For information on all Arts Council NI funding opportunities visit

Awardee Kate leaning on a wall with Lizzie Devlin from the Arts Council and Conor Shields from Community Arts Partnership standing in the background outdoors.
Pictured (L-R) is Anne O’Donoghue Award recipient Kate Guelke with Lizzie Devlin, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Conor Shields, Chief Executive of Community Arts Partnership.