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Art Responds: engaging healthcare communities in a time of corona

Date posted: 19 April 2020

Image shown: Museum of Song Postal Project, Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley, Arts for Health West Cork.

Since the introduction of Covid 19-related restrictions in March, arts and health practitioners in Ireland have been developing new ways of connecting with health service users, healthcare staff and members of the public who may be particularly vulnerable to isolation and loneliness at this time. This page brings together some of these innovations and new initiatives are added as they come onstream.  

Tune In
New initiatives are springing up connecting artists and local communities. 49 North Street is a dedicated space in Skibbereen for creativity, recovery and wellbeing. The North Street community has been invited to create a collective response to the changing times though home recordings, making sounds/music using their bodies, found objects and instruments. A collaboration with The Happiness Ensemble, filmmakers Aoise Tutty Jackson and Maggie Ryan and composer Liam McCabe, the work will be collated into two short films.

Tallaght University Hospital Arts and Music Response
Tallaght University Hospital is proud to have a longstanding, active and diverse Arts and Music Programme running in the hospital. Knowing the difference the programme makes to patients and staff it was important to find a way to continue the programme in the new world we find ourselves in. The Arts Team diversified, designing participative and receptive activities for the programme that could still reach out to patients and staff.

A series of art packs for patients called ARTS4ALL offer a choice of activities from colouring to weaving, crafting to sewing; catering for all levels and abilities. Relax with Me is a series of music-inspired relaxation and visualisation videos guided by music therapist Clara Monahan and suitable for patients and staff. A third video series, Guided Meditations for Healthcare Staff, is now in the making. Heartbeats – TUH Choir were also faced with a challenge to ensure members stayed engaged and in touch with each other. Thanks to Michael Fay, the Choir Director, choir rehearsals have been transformed into an online format.

Kids’ Classics: #MusiciansonCall
Kids’ Classics are launching a new series of Musicians On Call virtual visits to Ireland’s children’s hospitals with the support of the Kids’ Classics team of professional musicians and hospital staff. For further information please contact info@kidsclassics.ie

Embrace Music: livestream concerts for nursing homes
Embrace Music is a new social enterprise fronted by musicians and arts & health specialists Sadhbh O’Sullivan and Sharon Murphy. For the last seven years they have worked both together and separately in County Kildare running community choirs and delivering music sessions to people living with dementia and other age-related illnesses. The overall aim of Embrace Music is to give people as many different opportunities to embrace music and other art forms as possible in their own locality, or even in their own home. Embrace Music is currently hosting weekly livestream sing-alongs for nursing homes and older people experiencing isolation. For details contact
embracemusicireland@gmail.com

Distance Creates by Helium Arts
Helium Arts, the national children’s arts and health charity, is keeping creativity and connection alive for children and young people with long-term health conditions during times of social distancing. Helium’s team of artists are delivering a series of home-based creative activities from short video demonstrations and live streaming to PenPal collaborations and virtual workshopping. For further information contact Helium’s family liaison, Maria, at hello@helium.ie.

Creative Writing for Staff Health & Wellbeing at UHW
Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) is hosting online writing workshops for staff at University Hospital Waterford. Facilitated by artist Lani O’Hanlon, these workshops offer a creative outlet to rest and reflect in a supportive space.

WHAT is also developing various ideas to gently support staff at UHW while they cannot fulfil their normal programme. Among these is a series of ‘post cards’, poetry and music to lift spirits and, hopefully, prompt a smile. The first poetry post card ‘And People Stayed Home’ has been posted on the UHW intranet and circulated to staff via email. Read & listen to this poem here.

Museum of Song Postal Project
The Museum of Song project by artists Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley was due to take place this April 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 are sending packages full of poetry and song to participants in Dunmanway, Schull and Skibbereen Community Hospitals. The project will also include live streamed sessions and one to one phone calls from the artists who already have a connection with participants from previous collaborations.

Museum of Song is part of the Arts for Health Partnership Programme in West Cork. The team there has been developing a number of initiatives in response to Covid-19 which you can read about here.

Singing for the Brain
Singing for the Brain is a HSE Cork Kerry Community Healthcare supported initiative consisting of seven groups across Cork City and County. Normally these groups meet up once a week to sing and socialise together. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the HSE Community Work Department are connecting participants in a weekly Singing for the Brain session via Zoom. The HSE is now offering to add an extra Singing for the Brain session online on a Wednesday afternoon. This session is suitable for older members of the public who would like to partake in a weekly musical session. For further information contact Mary Flynn at Fermoy Resource Centre (mornings) on 025-32962.

Arts Care 4U YouTube channel
Arts Care, Northern Ireland’s leading arts in health organisation, launched their Arts, Health and Wellbeing YouTube channel on 1 April. Arts Care 4U has been developed to respond to the need from service users and staff to have access to the arts and their Arts Care artists and clown doctors who normally deliver their weekly programme in hospital wards and healthcare units. This new channel allows everyone at home to also have the opportunity to tune in and take part in a range of visual arts workshops, ‘stay active’ movement sessions, music and singing, storytelling, poetry reading and to enjoy the wonderful clown doctors. In addition, the channel offers a range of participatory arts workshops especially for older people in residential care or who are self-isolating at home.

Updated 9 June 2020

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