Image shown: HSE Rural Training Centre

The Spotlight series highlights the role of healthcare professionals who are developing, leading or collaborating on arts and health initiatives. This month, we hear from Andy Neary, Manager of the HSE Rural Training Centre in Castlebar, Co. Mayo about the core role of the arts within the centre and the music-based project Ukulele and Me.

Who I am

I’m Andy Neary and I have been manager of the HSE Rural Training Centre in Castlebar, Co Mayo for the last 14 years. We provide support services for people with enduring mental health issues. The centre was first established in 1987 and has continually developed over the intervening years. Today the main emphasis is on health and social gain and community integration. The ethos of the centre is to provide support to all on their recovery journey and outreach support if required.

An arts and health project that has significance for me

We utilize the arts and creativity as a core aspect of our service and engage with high quality national and international artists on projects. We have organised art exhibitions at venues throughout Mayo and supported individual art exhibitions for service users within their own local community. We have brought music to our service users in different formats including Samba and percussion drumming.

A particular project that stands out for me is Ukulele and Me, a music-based project facilitated by Con Murphy who has extensive experience working within healthcare in Ireland and abroad. The sessions provide for a wide level of engagement where all participants contribute on an equal basis in the creative process of writing and performing music with the ukulele. The project allows participants to expand their creative boundaries, composing their own material, exploring rhythm and recording.

Why I feel music has value in health settings

The Ukulele and Me project enables participants to build their confidence and group sessions help to promote social inclusion for people with mental health issues. Participants are keen to expand their creativity to include writing and learning music skills. Based on a number of sessions held to date and on reviews and feedback from the service users, we have received a positive endorsement of the benefits of music to their health and social inclusion.


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