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The Bealtaine Festival takes place each May throughout Ireland and involves thousands of participants in every art form. The ancient festival of Bealtaine or Beltane (held on May 1), marked the midway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, and heralded the start of summer. For the last 20 years Ireland has marked the occasion with a national celebration of creativity as we age.

Not to be held back by the current restrictions, Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, together with Age and Opportunity and Cork County Council Arts and Library Services, are bringing our exhibition to you at home. This Bealtaine exhibition celebrates the creativity of our community hospital residents who create artwork all year round through the Arts for Health Partnership Programme, West Cork.

Exhibition 2020

We are very happy once again to be associated with the annual Bealtaine exhibition and Art Trail created by clients of Uillinn’s Arts for Health programme and facilitated by such skilled and empathetic arts practitioners. Traditionally these works enhanced the walls and spaces of branch libraries in West Cork where library users and other members of the public could appreciate the creativity and imagination of the community hospital residents. This year’s online version is no less varied or creative than previous years and hopefully what it loses in physical access, it gains in the wider audience which can be reached on its online path. Michael Plaice, Senior Executive Librarian at Cork County Council, West Cork.

Art Without Objects

Bénédicte Coleman

By Artist Bénédicte Coleman,  ‘This project, Art without Objects had reached the conclusion of its first phase and was progressing into phase 2 when Covid hit, so as it stands, it represents a fairly coherent body of work by the residents of Castletownbere Community Hospital. The aim of the project is to explore the possibilities of working without a subject: participants initially found this idea quite challenging, but soon ‘got into it’, and couldn’t wait to get started every week, revelling in colour and form, and unhampered by self-imposed criteria regarding artistic ability.

Participants’ confidence in their own decision-making has grown apace and individual styles have blossomed, while a strong collaborative trend has developed with people working together on the same piece, or continuing a painting/drawing which someone else started (with their permission of course), with a work often being picked up time and again over the weeks before it is declared finished.

The culmination of phase one is the sculpture made using cut-out shapes from the participants’ own paintings. The group were amazed to see their work literally jumping off the flat surface and they enjoy the complete freedom of interpretation which the abstract theme lends itself to. The group inspires itself from the work of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Calder, Jackie Shatz, William Crozier, Michael Sheehan and many more.

Staff and participants alike have been delighted by the colour and originality in the work, which stays on the walls and windowsills of the day room between sessions. To quote one staff member: “I love going in there and seeing all that colour and creativity – the shapes, the imagination – beautiful! No matter what way my day is going it always makes me feel better.” We hope you enjoy the exhibition (I have included work by each of the 15 or so participants) and we look forward to continuing with our work in the future.’

Coil and Drift

Sharon Dipity and Sarah Ruttle

Fused Glass

Michael Greenlaw

Coil and Drift is a series of sculptures made by residents at Clonakilty Community Hospital with artists Sharon Dipity and Sarah Ruttle using copper and aluminium wire, drift wood and logs. Together they experimented to explore what form the material could take, making connections between the wood and metal, and seeking balance and harmony in both the composition and the object. This mindful and considered series of actions challenged the makers in decision making and conceptual thinking, and required fine motor skills and dexterity.

The project took place over six weeks between July and November and was exhibited in the hospital from December 2019 to January 2020.

Fused Glass is an Installation by residents at Clonakilty Community Hospital working with visual artist Michael Greenlaw on a five-week project during December 2019 and January 2020. Michael introduced the residents to a glass fusing technique, offering a wide variety of types of glass to choose from. Most participants chose an abstract formation of colour and texture to create their own images. Michael took each tile to be fired in his home studio before returning to the hospital for installation on site. For the season that was in it, residents also made a Christmas tree shaped, fused glass, hanging decoration to take away or give as a gift. Artists Sarah Ruttle and Tess Leak and A/Director of Nursing, Mary Nolan also participated.

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin

Sarah Ruttle

‘Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin’ (there is no hearth like your own) was a project designed by artist Sarah Ruttle working with staff at several of the community hospitals with the intention of making a meaningful creative connection with participants at different stages of dementia. Over four months participants created an interactive textile sculpture resembling an old time radio with moveable parts and inbuilt sound technology.

The old time radio was a focal point for entertainment in most homes in the 40’s and 50’s, listening while working in the home or gathered in the evening with the family. This project was as much about the conversation, as the process of making and the finished piece. Purposfully incorporating many of the senses from texture and colour in the making to the music and storytelling of the broadcast programmes. Sarah describes, ‘We began first by looking at antique household objects before choosing the Radio. One participant shared ‘I was reared with my ear to the radio’ and that decided it. Using large scale group drawing we sketched some ideas as we talked, followed by introducing different materials with different textures. This project brought new connections between participants as well as really special moments of lucidity for one participant responding with a rare verbal engagement. Cutting old leather and unravelling an old Aran jumper to use in our making while we talked seemed to draw more connections for and from participants.’ 

It’s About Time

Sharon Dipity

It’s About Time is part of a year-long project initiated by artist Sharon Dipity working with residents at Skibbereen Community Hospital and examining various ways of measuring, both now and in the past. The measurement of time is one of the main topics; ‘we discussed sayings around time and made drawings for different times of the day, annual events and everyday occasions’ says Sharon. ‘These pencil crayon drawings are printed onto clock faces with working mechanisms and will be installed in the hospital later this year.’


Anne Harrington Rees

Ornithology is the title of three, 1.5 metre long, organic cotton printed panels by Dunmanway Day Care Centre participants and artist Anne Harrington Rees, ‘The panels which are installed in the Day Centre‘ she says, ‘came about through explorative sessions making line drawings, reciting poetry, sharing old sayings, singing songs and some colour work.’

An invitation to


Drawing with Stories │ Video Art session

A once-off pre-recorded session with Arts for Health artist Sarah Ruttle, who takes the viewer a journey into her own background to find inspiration while sharing techniques for drawing and inviting the particpation in the hospitals and at home.

Bright Fire │ Online Interactive Activity

Inspired by the origin of the word Bealtaine, which is said to derive from Old Irish, meaning ‘bright fire’, artist Kate McElroy invites the public to respond to the theme of LIGHT to mark our participation in Bealtaine 2020

To take part, simply take a digital photograph on your phone which captures your interpretation of the theme LIGHT. We would love to see your results and if you’re happy to share please send them to us at or tag us in a post #uillinnbealtaine

Kate will also share a short YouTube video showing three ways that you can edit your photograph using simple editing tools to adjust colour, add a filter and add text.


Film Screening │ The Sea, Is grá geal mo chroí

The Sea, Is grá geal mo chroí

This project was a collaboration between filmmaker Aoise Tutty Jackson, artist Sarah Ruttle and residents of Clonakilty Community Hospital. The artists endeavoured to include the participant’s hand and voice in every aspect of the decision-making process throughout the development of the work. The resulting film is a poetic reflection on life on the West Cork coast – adventure, neutrality, caution and fear – as remembered by the residents of Clonakilty Community Hospital.

The film was first screened at the hospital in February 2020 and an online launch took place on 9 April.

Residents of Clonakilty Community Hospital working with Aoise Tutty Jackson and Sarah Ruttle
Editor: Aoise Tutty Jackson
Music: Fiona Kelleher