Inspired by writer Iris Murdoch’s quote, People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us!
Artist Tess Leak set out to create a joyful, multi-disciplinary ‘floristry project’ in Castletownbere Community Hospital, where participants would help to create displays of seasonal garden flowers for their families and the hospital environment in a repurposed activity space where the old morgue once was.
Each week throughout the spring and summer, Tess would bring in armfuls of garden flowers from The Glebe Gardens in Baltimore and greenery harvested from the hospital grounds. In group conversation, Tess began to incorporate poetry-making and music into the sessions. It wasn’t long before the conversation reached other hospitals that Tess was working in. The project grew to include participation from Clonakilty and Bantry Hospitals, with participants sharing poems about their favourite flowers.
Musician Liz Clark joined in a number of the sessions adding flower-themed songs into the mix. To bring this eclectic mix together it was decided that Tess would work with designer Orlagh O’Brien to make a limited-edition book of the collection of writings.
This project really seemed to change the environment of the hospital during the sessions, with nearly all the senses enlivened. Staff helped with the distribution of flowers and joined in the singing of songs. Participants were able to choose where to show their floral creations on site and many gifted them to family and other visitors. In Castletownbere Community Hospital, the men in particular engaged with the process of working with the flowers and greenery.
Tess: How would you describe the smell of Roses to someone from on another planet?
Vincent: It takes your heart away