Image shown: The Magician and the Swallow's Tale

In 2012 the Arts Council awarded Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust an Arts Participation Project Award to work with visual artist Marielle MacLeman in Unit 7, Merlin Park University Hospital.  The project resulted in an exhibition entitled A Swallow’s Tale in a Thousand Skies and the book The Magician and the Swallow’s Tale – a collection of pictures, words and messin’ from the patients and staff of Unit 7. Containing works in progress and labours of love, the exhibition and book follow the project as it roots itself in the grounds enclosed by Merlin Park Woods.
Presented as an illustrated storybook, The Magician and the Swallow’s Tale, contains the things that matter to project participants. It includes beautiful artworks, designs for crockery and fabric, gardening tips, songs and stories of Connemara, as well as insights into the anglers’ art of fly-tying. Both patients and staff are portrayed as something other than the daily roles they play on a dialysis unit. Their interlinking stories are woven together through dialogue, artwork and characters including The Woman who Painted Western Shores, The Cake Decorator, The Box Player and The Woman who Dressed Dialysis. Parts of the book have been translated into Irish by patients and staff.

In providing a year-long programme of creative interventions, the project sought to physically enhance the clinical environment and to celebrate the ephemeral things that humanize it. Above all, participative workshops offered patients more positive, productive experiences during dialysis.

The project is generously supported by The Arts Council, Galway University Hospitals, Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust, Galway Arts Centre, the Irish Kidney Association, Galway City Council and Galway County Council.

The book is available from Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust for €10.00 + p&p. To order a copy contact Margaret Flannery on +353 (0)91 544979 or email

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust runs the west of Ireland’s leading Arts and Health programme as a means of improving the hospital experience for patients, visitors and staff. The Arts Trust believes access to the arts promotes wellbeing and enhances the hospital environment. In providing a multi-disciplinary programme of events and activities that integrate the arts with the health care setting, The Arts Trust promotes greater links between the hospital and the community.

Marielle MacLeman is a visual artist born in Scotland and based in Galway. She studied drawing and painting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, and works across mixed media wall-based work, object-making and site-specific installation. Her practice includes working in community and healthcare contexts. Initially specialising in palliative care she wrote the book, The Pattern of a Bird, published in 2008 by Art in Hospital, Glasgow. She has exhibited in the UK, Ireland and Italy and has received awards from The Scottish Arts Council, Glasgow City Council, The Arts Council of Ireland and Galway City Council and a Per Cent for Art public art commission.


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