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Founded on a principle of equal partnership between arts and health sectors, arts and health is a specific field of work that is characterised by clear artistic vision, goals and outcomes that seek to enhance individual and community health and well-being  (Arts and Health Policy and Strategy, 2010).

The Arts for Health programme lends itself to partnership by its very nature. The model reflects a sustainable approach to arts and health provision, demonstrating a proactive way to make best use of locally embedded resources and expertise.

This effective partnership comprises Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, Cork County Council, and Cork Education and Training Board. HSE is represented through Cork South Community Work Department, Nursing Directors of Community Hospitals and Day Care Centres, Community Services, West Cork and was initiated with the Health Promotion Department.


Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre is an arts facility that creates opportunities for the people of West Cork to have access to, and engagement with, local and global arts practice of excellence. West Cork Arts Centre envisions a regional hub of arts excellence, with equity of access to cultural engagements, where all are welcome.


Cork Kerry Community Healthcare is part of Health Service Executive (HSE), a large organisation of over 100,000 people, whose job is to run all of the public health services in Ireland. It manages services through a structure designed to put patients and clients at the centre of the organisation.


The Arts Office has responsibility for all aspects of Cork County Council’s service delivery in the Arts within the Cork County Administrative Area. The Arts Office is a section of the County Library and Arts Service and operates under the Directorate of Corporate, Community and Economic Development.


Cork Education and Training Board is a driving force of education and training in Cork, providing high quality services which are innovative, responsive and inclusive. Through Cork ETB there is a pathway for every learner.

The management structure and inter-agency partnership exists to implement, develop and promote the Arts for Health programme in line with the policy objectives of partner organisations. In addition to all agencies serving our communities, commonality lies in goals that support  strategic partnerships, commitment to research and development and sustainable programming.

Each partner independently describes their vision, rationale and guiding strategies for participation in the Arts for Health Partnership Programme:

Mapping Project at Clonakilty DCC with artist Julia Pallone 2010

“Everyone should have the opportunity to freely exercise their own imagination and not just passively consume ‘Art’.
‘Art’ as a verb and not a noun. “

Holly Marland, Royal Northern College of Music

“We are not just ‘passing time’. This is valuing time passed, taking time, and creating times.”

Marielle MacLeman, Artist

“If the arts hadn’t been invented we would now do so as a front line health service.”

Alan Yates, Chief Executive – Mersey Care NHS Trust

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre

Central to the work of Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre is our commitment to public access to and engagement with the arts. Uillinn is committed to developing and implementing an artistic programme that places public engagement, the right to cultural expression and social inclusion at its centre. 

The Arts for Health Programme Strategy is aligned with Uillinn West Cork Art Centre’s strategic objectives and serve as an example of programming and engagement which:

  • Inspires and ignites
  • Excels as a regional hub
  • Strengthen the core with a programme that has been strategically invested in
  • Shines a light on the exceptional artists and work involved 

Outlined in Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre 2022-2025 Strategy is our commitment to strengthen community and partnership. To reflect and celebrate our people and particular place, resonating with their lives and interests, and broadening and deepening our reach.  Increase our reach to older people on the mainland, peninsulas, and islands through the Arts for Health Programme.

Grow partnerships and collaborations that support our ambition and potential, our strategic priorities and our organisational resilience. Continue to strengthen our significant partnership with HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, seeking to build resilience and develop the work of Arts for Health Partnership. Play an active role in Arts and Health Coordinators Ireland (AHCI) advocating for the progression of Arts for Health in Ireland seeking Integration of Arts and Health into national policy and build relationships on a statutory and governmental level to develop new channels of support for Uillinn’s work.

We plan to embed environmental awareness and sustainability in all aspects of our work, from our physical infrastructure and operations to our artistic programming, critical thinking and in our business partnerships. (Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre Strategic Plan 2020 – 2025)

Our work is supported by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon who are committed to “creating opportunities for increased engagement in the arts by particular communities through investing in artists and arts organisations with a commitment to high-quality collaborative, community focused arts practice” (The Arts Council, Making Great Art Work, 2015). Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre supports the right to participate in the artistic and cultural life of our country in whatever way we may choose, regardless of our age. Learning at Uillinn is a dialogical practice; through the arts and the work of artists our programmes foster a spirit of public enquiry and curiosity. They enhance understanding, meaning-making, expression, experimentation, and risk-taking.

The form of participation will be different for each individual. For some, it will be an opportunity to engage directly with an art form: to learn techniques, explore ideas and create new work. For others, it will be an opportunity to engage with the work of others: to watch, listen, enjoy, and be challenged by new perspectives and modes of expression. For some, the honing of artistic skills and the satisfaction that is derived from finished work will be the most important elements of the experience, while for others, it will be the personal journey undertaken during the creative process, with no product at all. Whatever mode of participation is chosen, the arts experience on offer should be meaningful and of the highest possible quality. 

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre supports a responsive approach, enabling a ‘conversation’ between artists and participants; a learning community where the artworks, the artist and the participants all contribute to the project and to the learning. 

We are championing accessibility and promoting the right for everyone, of all ages, to enjoy and participate in arts and culture based on the principles of dignity, independence, inclusion, and equal opportunity. We ask ourselves: who else needs to be in the room and what do we intend to do to ensure that they are? We want to create equality of opportunity in practice and, importantly, in action. 

We are aiming to ensure that our artists, artistic programme and audiences reflect the contemporary society in which they are situated and this moment in time. We are asking ourselves what our communities will need as they re-emerge from lockdown and re-integrate into society, into a post-Covid-19 context. The pandemic has given rise to a heightened awareness of the value of interconnection and of the local; of supporting each other’s well-being, both mental and physical.

Furthermore, Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre adopts the statement that “it aims to promote health and wellbeing by improving quality of life and cultural access in healthcare settings (The Arts Council, Arts and Health Policy and Strategy, 2010).

Health Service Executive (HSE)

Cork South Community Work Department 

Cork South Community Work Department develops innovative programmes which respond to the many factors that determine the health of individuals and communities. We support a variety of Arts and Health programmes across different age groups and care groups within the health services and the health-related community and voluntary sector. 

We operate from a community development model and perspective and are committed to the development of an Arts and Health agenda that will effectively contribute to the promotion of individual and community health and wellbeing. Cork South Community Work Department actively develops relevant partnerships with other statutory, community and voluntary services to enhance the resources available for projects, to develop projects and to ensure the most effective outcomes for participants / service users.

Arts for Health Partnership Programme, West Cork has provided and continues to provide an evolving model of excellence in relation to the development of a managed arts programme working with older people in hospital and day care settings, and has the potential to expand into the community, working with older people at home as well as with carers.

The HSE Health Promotion Strategic Framework introduces a model that illustrates the main structural elements of health promotion for the HSE. This work takes place in three settings; Health Service, Community and Education. The Arts for Health Partnership Programme West Cork provides services consistent with this model in which: 

  1. Health Services are reoriented through community participation, mobilisation and the provision of socially inclusive services.
  2. Supportive environments for health are created using multi-strand approaches to promote and enhance health through lifestyle, behavioural and social-environmental approaches and through full engagement in collaborative partnerships.

This approach supports the ethical principles set out in Healthy Ireland, A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025. The principles of equity, fairness, proportionality, openness and accountability, solidarity and sustainability are evident in the strategy. It also responds to the 2013 National Positive Ageing Strategy: Positive Ageing – Starts Now!, which seeks to promote the development of opportunities for engagement and participation of people of all ages in a range of activities including the arts. Furthermore, the work of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme, West Cork is congruent with the Healthy Ireland framework for actions with its emphasis on partnership and cross-sectoral working, empowering people, and communities, through research, evidence, monitoring, reporting and evaluation. This strategic approach ensures that an active meaningful and meaning-making life can be enjoyed through to older age across the eleven settings in which the programme operates.

HSE West Cork Day Care Centres

The vision of the Healthy Ireland 2013-2025, “where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential, where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society and is everyone’s responsibility” (Healthy Ireland, A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013 – 2015).

In keeping with this vision, participation in the Arts for Health Partnership Programme is a core component of Day Care Centre social care activity in the five West Cork centres. For service users it empowers people to reach their potential, learn new skills and enables clients, at all levels of dependency, to participate in an activity which enhances their cognitive, emotional and social wellbeing and produces positive mental and physical outcomes across the client spectrum. In keeping with the Arts for Health Strategy, the Arts for Health programme promotes participation and cross-sectoral work.

HSE Community Hospitals

Community Hospitals in Schull, Dunmanway, Castletownbere and Skibbereen provide services which include continuing care, convalescent care, respite care and palliative care. Other services, including activity programmes, are an integral part of the operating philosophy of a community hospital complex. 

There are over 119,000 people over the age of 65 in the Cork and Kerry region, i.e. 15% of the national over 65 population. (CSO, 2022) Nationally, this is expected to increase by 24.6% by 2051. In the same period the number of people over 80 is expected to increase by 270% (The Irish Times, 2019). Ageing on this scale is unprecedented in Irish history. At the same time the number of dependent older people is expected to rise. There are 194 patients cared for in the five community hospitals in West Cork. Bantry General Hospital provides for extra patients in long term care. The Arts for Health Partnership Programme has become part and parcel of the activities in long stay units throughout. Working with the arts recognises and values the creativity of older people, enhances the self-worth and dignity of the participants as well as being a pleasurable experience. Arts for Health helps us in our vision for the older adult of “improving the health and quality of life of the individuals and communities we serve” as set out in Ageing with Confidence: a strategy for the people of Cork and Kerry. Arts for Health is an essential element in the social care needs of older adults in residential care and is an integral part of our activities programme which helps us to meet the National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland as set out by the Health Information & Quality Authority (HIQA). Involvement in arts and cultured activities makes a difference to the quality of life of our residents. Arts for Health is a large contributor to this. The programme stimulates our residents to express themselves through the medium of art, poetry, and music. This is a new opportunity for most of our residents. The existence of an arts programme in community hospitals fulfils the requirement to meet HIQA standards.

Cork County Education and Training Board (CETB)

As a driving force in education and training in Cork we value the partnership approach that the Arts for Health model offers. It allows us to promote arts and health as a valuable lifelong learning tool. In line with our vision of providing high quality services which are innovative, responsive and inclusive, Cork ETB rolled out a QQI Level 5 Arts for Healthcare professionals programme in 2015 and proposed similar programmes going forward.

The programme encompasses ideologies outlined in the Learning for Life: White Paper on Adult Education, “the role of adult education in enabling individual members of the society to grow in self-confidence, social awareness and to take an active role in shaping the overall direction of society – culturally and socially.”

Learning for Life; White Paper on Adult Education, Department of Education and Science, 2000, enshrined the following concept: lifelong learning, social inclusion, equality and justice, active citizenship and partnership. The Arts for Health Partnership Programme encompasses all of these concepts and more. Education through partnership and the involvement of the community (hospitals and day care centres), West Cork Arts Centre, Cork County Council, HSE and the artists in this programme is evidence of strong and effective collaboration. Arts for Health supports CETB’s Arts strategy reinforcing commitment to arts education. The core objective of this strategy is to provide structure and direction for a quality and valued provision of arts education across CETB in City and County Cork.

Cork County Council’s Arts Office

The Cork County Development Plan 2022-2028 articulates the importance of dynamic, attractive, and resilient town centres, of a built environment and cultural life of the highest standard, and of the potential of marine leisure-oriented towns and their role in tourism. The Plan also emphasises the arts’ critical role in placemaking, social inclusion, employment generation, and quality of life and the need to address facilities gaps to effectively support those functions.

Cork County Council Arts Plan 2020-2025 sets out the following themes: Improving public access to and participation in the arts; supporting the professional creative of interpretative artist; celebrating cultural heritage and diversity; wellbeing and lifelong learning and placemaking; cultural and creative industries and economic development; the environment; the creative digital world; looking outwards and thinking outside the box.

Cork County Councils rationale and guiding strategies for partner participation in the Arts for Health Programme 2023-2028: