Image shown: Light up the Night

Spraoi installation at UHW

2016. Photo credit: Keith Currams.

Image shown: Well Festival at UHW

John Robert's Square

Well Festival 2013. Photo credit: Keith Currams.


The festival champions the links between wellbeing and the arts in terms of both personal and societal benefits, and coincides with World Mental Health Day (10 October) and World Hospice Day (14 October). The festival’s special children’s strand, Wellies, aims to engage even the youngest audiences in colourful, beautiful, thought-provoking arts experiences.


The Well Festival was launched in 2013 as a joint initiative between Waterford Healing Arts Trust and Garter Lane Arts Centre.

Guided by the over-arching principle of linking arts and wellbeing, the festival partners – Waterford Healing Arts Trust, Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford City and County Libraries – meet regularly throughout the year to plan and programme the festival. With an ever-watchful eye on budget – bearing in mind that all events should remain free to the public – artform, quality, audience appeal and age range are all considered when shaping the programme, resulting in a festival where audience members can witness music, art, film and literature or experience the joy of creativity through dance sessions, art and photography workshops and growing for wellbeing.

Reflecting the key stakeholders in the city and county, events take place at University Hospital Waterford, Garter Lane Arts Centre and Studios, and Waterford Libraries, including Central Library, Tramore Library, Kilmacthomas and Carrickphierish, as well as The Book Centre and the Waterford Greenway.

Artistic Outputs

The festival tests different ideas around the relationship between arts and wellbeing. Examples of artistic outputs include:

  • Innovative workshops involving GP trainees and architecture students which looked at the design of primary care buildings and the impact of these spaces on health (2014 & 2015).
  • We haven’t had an earthquake lately is an annual public reading that invites people to share their favourite feelgood poem or piece of prose.
  • The Best Foot Forward dance workshop is a chance to dance for fitness, health and wellbeing for people aged 50+.
  • The Creative Check Up, a mobile field hospital exploring participants’ “artistic health” (2017) toured its “clinic” to each partner venue.
  • Night-time installations by Spraoi (2016) and Night Flowers by artist Tom Meskell (2017) in the grounds of UHW light up the night for patients in the wards.
  • Wild Thing (you make my heart sing) (2017), a two-part installation by WHAT Artist-in-Residence Ciara Harrison, who worked with staff of UHW to create “wild” fabric flowers for the foyer of UHW, and a special individual bloom for each in-patient on their meal tray.
  • Continuous Professional Development workshops in the area of arts and health such as Songbirds: Music, Communication and Wellbeing in healthcare (2017) by UK arts and health specialists Ros Hawley and Mark Fisher.
  • Another Expanse (2014), an exhibition by artist Dominic Thorpe in Central Library, explored some of the difficulties faced by people making life-changing decisions on behalf of a family member with serious mental health illness.
  • 1000 Meanings: Shot in Limbo (2017) in Garter Lane Arts Centre, a series of photographs created by asylum seekers in collaboration with artist Philip Cullen exploring their lives in limbo.

Evaluation Methodology

The programme is evaluated internally. Audience, participants’ and artists’ views are collated following the event. Each year, the Well Festival team reviews events and feedback in order to inform future planning.

Evaluation Outcomes

A sample of feedback includes:

We haven’t had an earthquake lately… at The Book Centre, Waterford

It was a wonderful experience for me to participate in this event, and to read from my brother’s book, ‘Related Lives’. I really enjoyed listening to the other readers and their chosen words. It was a lovely event in the lovely setting of the Waterford Book Centre and I am thankful to the Well Festival for the opportunity to be involved. – Participant

Light up the Night at University Hospital Waterford (UHW)

I felt I had to say a big thank to those responsible for a dark and windy day lightened by the wonderful display of light. I had a wonderful view as I was a patient in AMU 6. Myself and a very sick lady in the bed next to mine were fascinated by the work in progress. The nurses were wondering what was going on. The buzz in the ward was a much needed distraction for everyone. As darkness fell and the sculptures lit up in changing colours, it gave light to the ward in many ways. The sadness lifted from the sad faces of the worried and the elderly patients. Thank you for the gift of light !!!!!  – Patient

Sing for your Health at Central Library, Waterford

It means a lot to me and makes me happy that I can do something that cheers me up. I am a bit nervous performing in the choir but I got over it and enjoyed it. – Participant of Iontas, Waterford Healing Arts Trust arts and mental health programme

Healing Sounds on the Wards at Medical 4 UHW

Liam, I was in Medical four ward – UHW – on Monday last when you and your young friend arrived to play some music for residents. It was sheer MAGIC – and much appreciated. Keep up the good work and music. – Patient

Documentation and Dissemination

Well Festival events are captured by photography and video where appropriate and promoted through the partners’ websites, the Well Festival website, PR channels and social media networks.

The 2017 programme is available here:


Waterford Healing Arts Trust, Garter Lane Arts Centre and Waterford City & County Libraries

Project dates

Well Festival was initiated in 2013 and takes place for a week each October, coinciding with World Mental Health Day and World Hospice Day.

Lead organisation

Waterford Healing Arts Trust, Garter Lane Arts Centre and Waterford City & County Libraries

Funded By

The Arts Council, Waterford City & County Council, Sanofi, HSE, Department of Social Protection, The Book Centre, Europe Direct Information Centre


Dance, Film, Literature, Music, Visual Arts

Healthcare context(s)

Acute Hospitals, Children, Health Promotion, Mental Health, Older People

Nature of project

Collaborative/ participatory, Exhibition, Festival, Performance



Web link


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