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Artist – Tess Leak

Stories from the Well Field

Bantry General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Ward Care of the Elderly

Stories from the Well-Field aimed to create and perform an interactive work incorporating puppetry, poetry and music with participants in Bantry General Hospital. The outcome was an interactive performance set in a  ‘Well-Field’ during a raucous Village Fair with a Company of players made up of artists, musicians, staff and hospital residents bringing to life poems about enduring childhood friendships.

The lead artist on this project Tess Leak was compelled by the idea that puppetry can give form to invisible forces such as complex emotions and recognised it’s non-verbal potential for people with cognitive differences such as dementia.

Participants collaborated with Tess Leak in weekly workshop as part of Arts for Health, to create a collection of glove puppets (with assistance from prop-maker Jan Leak) during the autumn of 2018. The puppets were based on characters from poems co-created with Tess about enduring childhood friendships, as well as signifying birds and animals local to the surrounding area.

Tess brought together a team of artists puppeteer Eoin Lynch and composer Justin Grounds who were supported by two mentors during the development process: Sarah Cairns, Activities Co-ordinator for St. Joseph’s ward and lead national trainer in Dementia Care and Bob Karper, Creative Practitioner at ‘Ladder to the Moon’ which develops creative climates in care settings in the UK. The project advisor was Justine Foster, Arts For Health Programme Manager.

The Premiere of Stories from the Well-Field took place in St. Joseph’s ward in January 2019 to a full-capacity audience of patients, staff, friends and family. The next day the sold-out show was performed in Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre with members of the audience ‘standing in’ for and performing the poems of the company members unable to leave the hospital.

For more information on this project you can go to

News article with video link:


The work was developed throughout 2018. The Premiere of Stories from the Well-Field took place in St. Joseph’s ward in January 2019 and a tour of four other Community Hospital Skibbereen, Castletownbere, Clonakilty and Dunamanway took place during May 2019



Rarely have I been so moved by a performance of any kind. Tess Leak’s project is steeped in dignity, respect and kindness. Stories from the Well-Field validates the lives of the participants in such a meaningful way. It was an experience I won’t forget.

Audience member, Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre, January 2019

“I have been employed as a sound-recordist on award-winning films and documentaries but have never been quite so moved by anything I have ever worked on. […] enlightening, thought-provoking, emotional and above all humbling. I felt I was a better person for having taken part and witnessed it”.   Quote from crew

“I am still thinking about our show”.Company member, during our debriefing, a week after the performance.

Credits: The film of the performance on the ward was made by Sharon Whooley of Harvest Films and was funded by an documentation bursary

This project received funding from the Arts Council, Project Award, Arts Participation, 2018