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One Year On…

One year on from the first lockdown, Justine Foster who manages the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork, was invited to write a piece for /perspectives to share an arts managers perspective on the role and the changes that have taken place

She took a look back on spring 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic uprooted the programme’s long-held infrastructure and new pathways were needed to connect with participants and to support relationships with artists and healthcare partners.

Here is an except from the piece which you can read in full here 

………………… Eleven healthcare settings became five: one had a Covid outbreak and was under too much pressure to consider the arts programme, five day care centres were closed, and staff were redeployed for swabbing. Of the five remaining, only three had internet connection beyond the office.

Roots were laid bare and fragilities exposed as our usual way of connecting broke down. New pathways needed building at each level: the partnership, the artists, the healthcare professionals and the participants. At the peak of my concerns were the isolation of our older participants, the stress of our healthcare colleagues and the welfare of our artists.

To reconnect, I initiated APRIL 2020, a project that gave me the opportunity to speak with each person and work with them to creatively record experiences as they happened. Individuals from the community directly connected with Uillinn and the Arts for Health Programme were invited to explore their connections and detachments and their personal and professional lived experiences during this particularly challenging time. Artists, participants, staff and colleagues each recorded one day during the month of April in 2020. This record took many forms, each true to the moment experienced.

The Directors of Nursing in the care settings were amazed that Arts for Health was still around and were keen early on for something to happen. They feared more the impact of isolation for the residents than the additional workload that fell upon them in helping us to deliver. I witnessed nurses’ incredible responses to the Covid crisis, the caring skills at the heart of their work………………..