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Arts for Health Partnership Programme

An Introduction to Social Prescribing Creative Engagement in County Cork

Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre & online

An Introduction to Social Prescribing Creative Engagement in County Cork is a three day hybrid training programme, developed and delivered by Arts for Health Partnership Programme, as part of Cork County Council’s new initiative Arts and Chats.

Arts and Chats is a pilot project designed and delivered by Cork County Council that offered people experiencing social isolation the chance to discover new activities and meet new people.

Supported by Creative Ireland, Cork County Council brought together social prescribing link workers in Adrigole, Mallow, Middleton, and Ballincollig, with artists/creative facilitators on their panel to implement the project across their network of county libraries. Read more about Arts and Chats here.

Arts for Health Partnership Programme joined the new initiative to support the artists, and with them build a learning programme to discover more about what social prescribing is, and provide a space to discuss the skills they might need to engage within this new context. Our learning programme began with a look at social prescribing models of practice nationally and globally, from the perspective of artists, healthcare professionals and academics. The programme then provided space for the artists to explore their own role in this context, discussing  inclusive approaches, facilitation techniques, and methods of practice. Their was also time built in for building peer networks within the skilled and experienced cohort of participants.

The training programme was delivered by a wide range of experts from a variety of fields, attempting to highlight diverse voices from healthcare, arts, and social prescribing backgrounds.

Day One

Taking place at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, day one focused on fostering conversation and connection, and establishing a base of knowledge from which we could grow. After learning more about each attendee’s artistic practice and motivation for participation, Rita Bevan (Cork & Kerry Regional Social Prescribing Coordinator) delivered a presentation and Q&A session entitled ‘What is Social Prescribing?’ Rita gave an overview of local and national social prescribing structures, what her own role entails, and some case study examples. Following this, Nicola Spendlove (Creative Communities Engagement Officer with Waterford City & County Council, Writer/Drama Facilitator) presented her findings from Waterford’s Creative Ireland and Social Prescribing pilot programme. In the afternoon, Nicola led an interactive practical session on workshop facilitation skills.

Day Two

Day two of our programme took place online. This alleviated travel concerns and allowed us to hear from professionals based further from West Cork. Based on the theme of Learning from Different Perspectives, we started the day by hearing from Professor David Robinson (Consultant Physician in
Geriatric Medicine, Clinical Associate Professor in Medical Gerontology, Trinity College Dublin, & Co-Chair of the All-Ireland Social Prescribing Network). Considering social prescribing from a healthcare angle, Prof Robinson explained how social prescribing ties into his work at St James’ Hospital, Dublin, and how he helped to create the Local Asset Mapping Project,  a community-generated online directory of services to improve health and wellbeing through social prescribing.

Later, Donna O’ Keeney (Inclusion Officer, Graffiti Theatre Company) spoke to the group about inclusivity in workshop spaces, and Miriam Cotton, a participant on the Arts for Health Creative Carers programme, shared valuable insights on the participant’s experience through an in conversation style discussion with Justine Foster (Uillinn Programme Manager).

To end the day, Emma Dwyer (Assistant Arts Officer, Cork County Council), answered the group’s questions around ‘What is expected of the artist/creative facilitator on this programme?’

Day Three

Back at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre for day three, the schedule of events focused on collaboration and creation. Sheelagh Broderick (Art & Wellbeing Officer, Health Promotion & Improvement, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, HSE), opened the day with a look at social prescribing services across the globe. Lisa Coughlan (Occupational Therapist) followed with a practical and informative session exploring different participant’s experience of the workshop space.

In the afternoon, Justin Grounds (Arts for Health Musician, Violinist, Composer, Music Producer) offered training participant’s the opportunity to step into the creative frame through an improvisational music workshop. Later, Wendy Bond and Jennifer Riney (West Cork Social Prescribing Link Workers) joined us to answer any questions on social prescribing that the group still had, and to facilitate smaller discussion circles. Wendy and Jennifer were joined by Justine Foster (Uillinn Programme Manager) to lead an afternoon of brainstorming and conversation focused on the development of social prescribing creative engagement workshops.

Eric Hennelly Flanagan (ECommerce & Digital Marketing Consultant) closed the day with a presentation on promoting your workshops to people who believe art is not for them, and ensuring accessibility when advertising and sharing work.

Online Networking Days

In an effort to cultivate continuous learning and peer connection, Arts for Health included two additional online networking sessions as part of the training programme delivery. Taking place in March and April, the sessions offered participants an opportunity to reconnect with each other, learn more about everyone’s distinct practice, discuss issues, share advice, and highlight what was working well within the project.


Fifteen artists/creative facilitators took part in the training programme. Eight participants delivered two creative engagement workshops each in County Cork libraries. The workshops were open to people referred through social prescribing link workers, as well as the general public.

It was a wonderful opportunity for the Arts for Health Partnership Programme to learn alongside the training participants about the structures, services, and benefits of social prescribing, and gain a deeper understanding of the role we can play alongside social prescribing services in Ireland.


The pilot project took place from October 2023 to May 2024.

Arts and Chats is a Cork County Council initiative, supported by Creative Ireland.

Arts for Health Partnership Programme developed and delivered An Introduction to Social Prescribing Creative Engagement in County Cork as part of Cork County Council’s Arts and Chats pilot project.