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Artist – Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley

Museum of Song Postal Project

Bantry, Castletownbere, Dunmanway, Skibbereen Community Hospitals & Drimoleague Singing Festival

The image shows the contents of the song collecting postal project. Included are a letter, image of a bird, a poem, and information about the artists. An envelope shows that it is addressed to Jerry.

The Museum of Song Postal Project was a song collecting project, delivered via the postal service, in Spring 2020. The project connected artists with older residents of West Cork community hospitals who were at risk of being socially isolated during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Co-created by artists Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley, The Museum of Song sparked conversations and stories around songs and singing. It provided a much-needed space for creativity and reflection during the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Beginning in April 2020, Tess and Sharon adapted their original song collecting project to be delivered through the postal service. First, the artists sent out fortnightly packages to residents in the community hospitals, as well as community members in Drimoleague. The parcels contained an introductory letter, song lyrics, poem, and a postcard following different themes including ‘Songs of Our Mothers and Fathers’, ‘Songs of Spring’, ‘Flower Songs’, ‘Songs of the Land’, ‘The Most Beautiful Voice’, and ‘Songs of Leaving and Returning’.

The postal package contained a stamped addressed envelope, and a response sheet, for participants to share their thoughts on the songs, or offer their favourite songs relating to the theme. In addition, Tess and Sharon held online conversations with participants in the community hospitals. This was a wonderful opportunity for connection in a time of isolation.

Live Music

Taking inspiration from Italian opera singers performing from their balconies, the artists invited Camilla Grieshel to introduce a live music element to the project. Camilla, accompanied by Tess, performed a number of songs from the growing collection at each healthcare setting. A celebratory moment at the culmination of the 6 week project in June 2020.

The Songbook

The artists gathered over 150 songs from participants in Castletownbere, Dunmanway, Skibbereen, and Schull Community Hospitals, and from older members of the community in Drimoleague. The songs were brought together in a Museum of Song Songbook. Find the PDF version of the songbook here.

The launch of the songbook in February 2021 coincided with the continuation and expansion of the song collecting project to include new participants in Castletownbere community hospital, the community of Drimoleague, and the Four Valleys, Bantry. With thanks to Creative Ireland,  the song collecting project reached the West Cork Islands; Sherkin, Bere, Whiddy, Oileáin Chléire, Long, Dursey, and Heir.

Something New for the Museum of Song

Arts for Health musician, Liz Clark, recorded a selection of the collected songs in three video episodes. Staff at the community hospitals shared these with participants, who enjoyed watching them and thinking about to the project. Each episode explores a different theme. Here is a link to episode 1: ‘Songs of Our Mothers and Fathers’ .

The Museum of Song came to life as part of Drimoleague Singing Festival. Tess and Sharon created a temporary physical museum showcasing the wonders of their song collecting project.

You can read more about the Museum of Song Postal Project in the series of weekly web posts documenting its progress. Linked below:

Week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6

Final Week of the Project

Museum of Song Songbook

The in-person Museum of Song, Drimoleague Singing Festival featured The Museum of Song Postal Project as a case study on their website.


April 2020 – September 2021.


‘When initially faced with the closure of hospitals to all but essential staff, the artists were keen to find a way to continue to connect and maintain the relationships built over many months. With the support of the hospital management and staff, we were able to find ways to engage with the participants who were already challenged by isolation. It seems more important than ever to keep a wider community connect and engage the mind in creativity, to help maintain well-being.’ – Justine Foster, Arts for Health Partnership Programme Manager

‘The Museum of Song Postal Project lent itself so well to these unprecedented times. It was meaningful because it helped us keep connected and gave us a routine. Because of the nature of the project it could include anyone who chose to partake, at any level of involvement, without putting pressure on me/the staff to take over the art session. Residents had nothing for four months, no family, friends, priests, outings or community, and for each day that the news brought fear and dread this project brought us connection and into our own community.’ – Sarah Cairns, Activities Coordinator, St. Joseph’s Unit, Bantry General Hospital.

‘We had a beautiful session with Camilla and Tess. The residents were thrilled with the occasion. They emerged into the sunlight uncertain and very quiet you could hear a pin drop. When the music started and Camilla sang that first beautiful haunting song I looked at their faces and they were so focused on her, there was a sense of a new beginning almost. When she began singing all the voices began to join in and so it went. They did not want the afternoon to end. A very emotional experience for those of us who were fortunate to have been in attendance.’ – Róisín Walsh, Director of Nursing at Schull Community Hospital.

This project was supported by Creative Ireland and Arts for Health Partnership Programme.