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What’s the Story? at St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork

From Sept 2010 to June 2011, Meridian Theatre Company ran a multi-faceted story gathering arts project in St Finbarr’s Hospital, Cork.

The project was coordinated by Artistic Director, Johnny Hanrahan, and engaged residents, staff, former staff, volunteers and the broader community of families and supporters of the hospital. The project drew on the basis of the What’s the Story? template which Meridian has honed and developed in a range of contexts over the last seven years.

Meridian often incorporates music, video and other media in their work focusing on creating interdisciplinary new work while maintaining a strong narrative basis.


Through this project, Meridian Theatre Company presented a range of projects that aimed to ground artistic activity in the life experience of the hospital community. Disparate as they are, the intention was that they all contribute to a portrait celebrating the diversity and particularity of the individual experiences of all those involved with the hospital.


A series of interviews took place focusing on life histories in the case of residents, and professional experiences in the case of staff. These formed the basis of an aural portrait of the hospital community.

Out of this interview process images, opinions, events and impressions were developed. These formed a springboard for a wider range of creative artistic responses by the hospital community and professional artists.

The overall project has certain initiatives within it which are grouped together under a general heading. For example, under the rubric of Celebrating Care which focuses on the staff experience, creative writing/visual art workshops for the Person Centred Care group in the hospital are combined with two visual studies of the hospital by professional artists. One involves a series of abstract drawings of the gestures of care captured in the daily life of the hospital. The other is a photographic study of the material environment of St. Finbarr’s Hospital, focusing on resonant objects, spaces and atmospheres (see above images).

Other projects include Voices of St. Finbarr’s which represents edited versions of the interviews in a variety of ways; listening posts in the hospital itself, a CD of striking interview material, a storytelling showcase where residents are interviewed and facilitated to tell their stories to an invited audience. Listen to Voices of St. Finbarr's here.

Interviewees had portraits created for exhibition by artist Jennifer Forde. Other activities springing from the project include bedside recitals by cellist, Aoife Sadlier, creative music improvisation workshops in the mental health unit of the hospital led by Caoimhe Conlon, art workshops for residents led by artist Fiona Machin and a Bealtaine project in which teams of transition year students from four Cork schools create a range of artistic responses to the stories of residents who are physically unable to build creatively on their own stories.

Evaluation Methodology

Evaluation was undertaken on an ongoing basis through monthly meetings between Johnny Hanrahan and a steering group comprising hospital staff, and Julie Murphy and Aidan Warner, HSE Community Care Team.

A final short report was prepared by Johnny Hanrahan and reviewed by the steering group. The consensus was that fewer more focused activities would be a better way forward as the project was quite disparate at times.

Evaluation Outcomes

The project was significant in providing stimulus and interest for residents participating in art and music sessions.

The Person Centred Care group used the workshops to reflect on their practice and to personalise general ideas about this type of care. It gave the artists involved an intense insight into the care process.

Johnny Hanrahan, who led this project, was inspired by the courage of residents and the commitment of staff.

Documentation & Dissemination

The results of all of these were exhibited at an Open Day in June 2011 which served as the natural culmination of the overall project.


September 2010 - June 2011


Participants in this project include residents, staff, former-staff, volunteers and the broader community of families and supporters of St. Finbarr’s Hospital.

Lead Organisation

Meridian Theatre Company


  • Meridian Theatre Company
  • St. Finbarr’s Hospital

Funded By

Friends of St Finbarr’s, HSE



Web Link


Aoife Sadlier, Caoimhe Conlon, Johnny Hanrahan, Julie Sharkey, Kieran O'Connor, Vivienne Roche


Literature, Theatre


Older People

Nature of Project

Collaborative/ participatory

Design by New Graphic