Arts + Health

Irish Doctors Orchestra

Irish Doctors Orchestra

Founded during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Irish Doctors Orchestra is an all-Ireland fellowship of medical professionals who are also classically trained musicians. The concept of the orchestra is to provide an opportunity for medics from across the island of Ireland to come together to create music as a therapy to the stresses and challenges faced in their professional lives. Their programme of rehearsals and coaching by professional musicians culminates in public performances. To date these have included sold out performances in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, Redemptorist Church, Limerick, and Astra Hall, University College Dublin. The Irish Doctors Orchestra follows in the footsteps of other doctors’ orchestras such as the European Doctors Orchestra, the Australian Doctors Orchestra and the World Doctors Orchestra.


Réalta is the national resource organisation dedicated to developing arts and health in Ireland. At local level, Réalta delivers the extensive Waterford Healing Arts programme, bringing music, visual art, creative writing and storytelling to the bedside of patients at University Hospital Waterford and other healthcare settings. Nationally, Réalta manages the resource website and delivers training; provides information, mentoring and advice; supports networking; and engages with policy makers to increase understanding and support for arts and health. Réalta is core funded by the Arts Council and the HSE.

Check Up Check In 2023. Photo credit: DGM Photographic.

Luci Kershaw

Postcards by Luci Kershaw (2020)

Mentorship from visual artist Marie Brett, an experienced arts and health practitioner, led Luci to re-examine her previous artworks and the testimonies of healthcare users and carers that have informed this work. This in turn shaped the making of the short documentary Zebra (2023), which follows the 10-year journey of Oisín and his mother Gemma as they navigate his diagnosis with an inoperable brain tumour. The film explores the role of art in Oisín’s life and how he lives ‘in this moment, for the moment and every moment.’

The making of the documentary has spurred Luci to consider how she can bring her documentation practice into healthcare environments and provide space for people not only to share stories but to participate in the filmmaking process. In this way, she sees documentation acting as an avenue of creative exploration for participants.

Video still from Zebra by Luci Kershaw (2023)

Luci intends to use the time afforded by the bursary to converse with healthcare professionals and arts and health practitioners on how her artistic practice and documentation processes might be shaped to support the work of caring environments. She also intends to connect with health service users to find out how they would like to participate in arts experiences in healthcare.

Luci has a particular interest in palliative and end of life care settings, having previously created On Dying (2022), a short film exploring death and the fear of dying, told through personal testimonies. She will spend time reflecting on ethical considerations when working within arts and health, and examining best practices in how processes and outcomes are documented.

On Dying by Luci Kershaw, Linenhall Arts Centre, 2022

Luci hopes that her findings will enable her to develop and mould a practice that is appropriate, positive, productive and meaningful in healthcare environments.

Further information on Luci’s practice can be found on her website:


Participants receive regular visits from a professional visual artist and gradually build their own personal art programme at home using a variety of media. The project co-ordinator introduces artists to community care teams such as occupational therapists, GPs and public health nurses. They in turn match the artists with older participants in the community who are isolated geographically, due to ill health, or for other reasons.

Hearth enables participants to work in stress-free environments on projects that are free of expectation, alongside artists who have experience of working with older people. In documenting the ‘everyday’ of the programme (a participant preparing their art space, the artist’s journey to the house, the exchanges that ensue), the film proposes to elevate ordinary, fleeting daily actions which act as a metaphor for the dignity of the participants themselves and the importance that Hearth places on this.

As Hearth was developed from a need to support elderly people living in their own homes, particularly those based in rurally isolated locations, the landscape will itself form a character, the epic scenery of Achill juxtaposed with macro shots of small, telling details such as a tapestry showing a country scene. Brief stylised moments will dot the film, giving a sense of otherworldliness to illustrate the escapism that art can provide.

Hearth aligns with an increased drive to move healthcare into the community. Taking the lead from this community-based approach, the filmmakers want to show how the programme prioritises creativity and human connection, and individualizes the participants. The multiple visits, the observational style, the focus on the artwork and the contrast between the small, daily gestures and the epic landscape are some of the ways in which this will be achieved.

Hearth exhibition at Linenhall Arts Centre


Hearth is currently facilitated by the following team of artists: Breda Mayock, Pamela Gray, Maggie Morrison and Norah Brennan.

The programme is supported by Mayo County Council Arts Service and HSE Community Care Teams in Mayo. It is currently funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, Southwest Mayo Development Company, Creative Ireland and Healthy Ireland.

Breda Mayock

Breda Mayock is an artist and musician living in Co. Mayo. She has toured and exhibited internationally. In 2009, she originated The Hearth Project with Deirdre Walsh. This project has brought art workshops into the homes of older people in Mayo over the past fifteen years.

Mayock also collaborates with the African community and with the Traveller community in Mayo on art and cultural projects. She works with Mayo Arts Service as a co-ordinator of many diverse art projects including Luisne Art Project, a long-standing arts and disability project in Mayo.

Mayock’s art practice runs alongside her other work. Throughout her career, her artistic expression has consistently centred on the theme of belonging and the universal desire for connection through shared experiences and languages. Mayock’s work in music and visual art has delved deeply into the experiences of women from minority cultures residing in the west of Ireland. Her art aims to bring visibility to pressing questions and advocate for change.

Mary Deely

Mary Deely has produced short documentaries including ‘From Ash’ about the craft of hurley-making which was supported by the Irish Design Council and toured festivals globally. She recently directed a short documentary ‘Matrescence’ about the experiences of first-time mothers which will have its festival premiere in Verona at the Bridge Film Festival in July 2024. Previously she worked on various film productions in the art department.

Eamonn Dunne

Eamonn Dunne is a camera operator and filmmaker based in the West of Ireland. He is also a storyline writer for the drama series Ros na Rún and has made several short documentaries which have screened in various film festivals nationally and internationally.

Art at the Kitchen Table, a Waterford Healing Arts programme.

Image courtesy of Age & Opportunity

Image courtesy of Cork County Council


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