Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre is celebrating Bealtaine Festival this May with an array of free events at the centre, online, and around the parks of West Cork. As part of the celebration, the Arts for Health partnership programme, which is managed by Uillinn, is bringing arts experiences to older people in care settings across West Cork.

Artist Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley are touring the community hospitals with their project Museum of Birds and Beasts where they will collaborate with the National Folklore Collection in Dublin and the Museum of Country Life in Mayo to bring a selection of artifacts to inspire ideas and conversation. Adding to the project, celebrated basket maker Joe Hogan from Mayo will pay a visit to the participating hospitals to share his skills and draw on the residents’ own rich experiences of life working and living in connection with the natural world.

Arts for Health Artist Sarah Ruttle has organised two unique exhibitions The Lark sings with unpremeditated art at Schull Community Hospital and Music can speak any language at St Joseph’s Ward in Bantry General Hospital featuring work by residents. Bénédicte Coleman, artist on the Arts for Health programme, is hanging a new selection of work by residents in the new wing at Castletownbere Community Hospital.

An exhibition in the Stairwell Gallery at Uillinn is showcasing work created on the Arts for Health Programme over the last two years, both at the centre and at home, through projects such as Bringing Art Home and Little Light Pocket Theatre – projects that reached out to older people staying safe at home or in residential care though the postal service.

The exhibition also features new work by Arts for an Active Mind with ceramic artist Ayelat Lalor. Arts for an Active Mind is a weekly session facilitated by Paul Cialis that has taken place at Uillinn on Monday mornings since 2002. Over two sessions the group explored food and associated memories to create an evocative and playful series of ceramic works on plates.

Throughout May a new group is being formed called Salt and Pepper for older people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans or a sprinkle of all those terms and a shake of others. Artist Toma McCullim who is leading the project gives a flavour of what to expect: ‘Salt and Pepper because we are at the time of life when our hair is starting to speckle but we are also the essential spice of life! We will be meeting up on park benches around West Cork for chats and reminiscing talking all things queer and quare, having guffaws and giggles and discussing our ideas to make and create. Each park date will have a host from the locality, and we will be travelling to Ballydehob, Dunmanway, Bantry, and of course dear old Skibbereen.’

For friends and colleagues in long-term residential care, Arts for Health held a live gig on 11 May at Schull Community Hospital featuring Liz Clark with special guest Lisa Hannigan. The concert was livestreamed to simultaneously connect with all residents and staff across West Cork.

International Nurses Day on 12 May saw the release of Buíochas Mόr, a new song produced by Arts for Health artists Liz Clark and Sarah Ruttle for all healthcare staff, especially the day care staff: ‘It marks a celebration of getting back through the doors, with our older communities sharing their gratitude for the Day Care service they valued so much, amplified now having been kept away so long from their friends and the staff who are at the heart of the service.’

Upcoming events include a live screening of a musical composition, The River goes on Forever, on 16 May created with staff and residents at Skibbereen Community Hospital with composer Justin Grounds, featuring Skibbereen Campus Choir directed by Liz Clark. The sharing will take place at the hospital where the choir will also perform. The work will be available for all to see on www.artsforhealthwestcork.com

Arts for Health partners at 49 Street invite everyone to join an Open Door session with Ger Wolfe and a Chairde on Friday 20 May at Skibbereen Family Resource Centre.

On 23 May Skibbereen Campus Choir will perform from the Perrot House gardens at the campus for the older residents and staff of Cork Kerry Community Health Services.

Finally, to conclude the month, on 31 May at 11am there will be a Bealtaine Dance Session for people aged 50+ in the Uillinn galleries with dance artist Andrew Coombes from Adrenaline Dance in London. Andrew invites you to dance as you wish in the gallery space of Uillinn to an eclectic playlist from hip hop to classical via Africa.



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