The Museum of Song project by artists Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley was due to take place this April through a series of on-site sessions in community hospitals in West Cork. With the closure of hospitals to all but essential staff, the project has been reimagined by the artists. Over the next six weeks, Tess and Sharon will be sending packages full of poetry and song to participants in Dunmanway, Schull and Skibbereen Community Hospitals.
Each week the artists present a theme for consideration and an invitation to respond along with a stamped addressed envelope to facilitate a reply.
This week, the artists are inviting participants to think about the songs of their mothers and fathers ‘Is there a song that your mother or father sang? Or perhaps your grandmother or grandfather? Let us know if there is a place you might have heard it sang… in the kitchen or on the farm for example?’ This first envelope also includes a poem by Seán O’Suilleabháin, resident and programme participant at St. Joseph’s Unit, Bantry General Hospital called ‘The Jig, the Bucket and the Rabhcánaí’.
The project will also include live streamed sessions, a web page storying the progress and one to one phone calls from the artists. This is all made possible from the previous connect the participants have had in working with the artists over the previous months leading to the lockdown.
Responding to these challenging times, we hope after six weeks to discover a wonderful collection of songs meaningful to the participants which we will then share with them and the wider community. – Tess and Sharon
Museum of Song is part of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork, a managed arts programme for older people in healthcare settings established in 2005. Programme Manager Justine Foster outlines how the project evolved in response to Covid-19:
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.
A highlight of the project is an invitation to a short, live performance by opera singer Camilla Griehsel from outside the healthcare setting, respecting a safe physical distance, inspired by the singers on the balcony in the shutdown cities of Italy.
For more information on the Arts for Health Partnership Programme visit