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A visit from WHO!

We had the wonderful honour of welcoming Christopher Bailey to Skibbereen on Monday 4th March. Mr. Bailey is the Arts and Health Lead at the World Health Organisation. As part of Creative Brain Week 2024, he embarked on a nationwide tour of some of Ireland’s arts and health programmes.

Travelling first to West Cork, and then on to Newcastle West, and Galway, Mr. Bailey met with a number of groups doing extraordinary things in local communities. We were delighted that the Arts for Health Partnership Programme was included in the line-up. Our pioneering arts and health programme has been delivering its programming with older people, artists, and healthcare professionals for over eighteen years. Christopher’s visit was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the continued efforts of everyone involved. 


Starting the Day at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre

Christopher Bailey first met our Arts for an Active Mind group, who have been meeting weekly on Monday mornings since 2002. The sessions are facilitated by Paul Cialis, and open to anyone over the age of 55 as long as there is room at the table. 

Afterwards Christopher enjoyed a delicious lunch and interesting conversation with the Arts for Health steering group and Creative Carers participants Robin and Sally. He was then introduced to Uillinn Director Ann Davoren, and Uillinn Chairperson Aisling Roche, as well as Sharon O’Sullivan, Claire Hurley, and Naomi O’Donovan (HSE Health Promotion and Improvement). 

Later in the afternoon, Christopher met with representatives from local arts and health organisations, advocates, artists, and participants. They explained the wealth of services on offer in West Cork. Insights were shared by Kevin Shanahan (49 North Street), Sarah Cairns (In The Picture), Sharon O’Mahony (Skibbereen Library), Lorna Harte (Creative Carers), Tara O’Donoghue (Cultural Companions), and Michelle Reid (Cork International Film Festival). 

Uillinn Programme Manager, Justine Foster, welcomed Christopher saying,  ‘It is a pleasure and a privilege to have such an esteemed guest to witness the arts and health work in West Cork. Together in our small part of Ireland we have built a wide network over many rural miles that supports people from birth to end of life, in healthcare settings and in community and social care – we have built a proud legacy of knowledge and expertise nurtured over the last few decades to help maintain our wellbeing and address our geographically specific health concerns.’ 


Arts for Health Artwork

Examples of artwork created as part of the Arts for Health programme were on display at Uillinn.

This included  Blanket Stitch, a collection of embroidery works created by participants in Bantry Day Care Centre, Castletownbere and Dunmanway Community Hospitals, with Bénédicte Coleman.

Beyond the Darkness, a research project conducted by Sarah Ruttle with participants at Schull Community Hospital exploring new creative approaches for working with people with visual impairments, was also exhibited.


Visiting the Community Healthcare Settings

We travelled to Skibbereen Day Care Centre and Community Hospital to meet participants on the programme and to see where some of the work takes place. 

The HSE Staff choir with Liz Clark opened the afternoon with a beautiful musical presentation. This included the launch of “Authenticity,” a song co-written by LGBTQI+ HSE staff as part of the Love Letters project.

Christopher was presented with an incredible hand-made tapestry, and Justine received a bunch of gorgeous flowers for all the hard work she’s put into the programme.

At the Community Hospital, Director of Nursing Joan Browne welcomed Christopher, and explained the impact and influence of the Arts for Health programme at their setting. Following this, Elizabeth Rose Murray and Sarah Ruttle launched A Life Lived, a collaborative project with participants at Skibbereen and Schull Community Hospitals, and St Joseph’s Unit, Bantry General Hospital. 

There was a lovely atmosphere of sharing as one resident recited an original poem that puts a visionary slant on “Dear ol’ Skibbereen”. Inspired, Christopher sang “On the Street Where You Live.” The afternoon concluded with more music, tea, and chats!

Christopher Bailey ended his visit to West Cork with a lovely dinner joined by Justine Foster and members of the Arts for Health artist team. It was a fantastic evening full of laughter and insightful discussions. We learned a lot from Christopher, and are still processing all of his wise words! 


Creative Brain Week 2024

Mr. Bailey’s tour of some of Ireland’s grassroots arts and health partnership programmes concluded with a presentation at Trinity College Dublin on Friday 7th March, and another the following day at the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar.

Creative Brain Week is a Global Brain Health Institute innovation of Trinity College Dublin. It is presented in association with the World Health Organisation, Jameel Arts & Health Lab, with support from Creative Ireland and the Atlantic Institute. Now entering its third year, Creative Brain Week has rapidly achieved local and international significance in its examination of how brain science and creativity collide. This annual week of events explores and promotes the relationships between creativity and the brain in areas including social development, technology, the arts, entrepreneurship, brain health and physical health.

Christopher Bailey says; ‘As part of Creative Brain Week, I want to see what the experience of locally seeded Irish projects suggests to the rest of the world and I believe that Ireland is a world leader in this field. I am really keen to visit these projects. meet their supporters, learn how they started and understand what sustains them, particularly in these uncertain times.’

You can find out more about Creative Brain Week here.


Photos by Anne Minihane and Arts for Health.