Funding has been awarded for 16 Seed Grant projects to support creative explorations of dying, death, and bereavement. The grantees are an extraordinary creative reflection on grief and loss across all communities in Ireland supported by the Creative Ireland Programme.
In October of this year, following a callout for applications, we received 140 submissions for Seed Grants to support people and communities in the creative exploration of grief and loss. There has been a 51% increase in applications from last year suggesting a much increased level of interest and need.
Arts and Cultural Engagement Officer at the IHF Dominic Campbell says:
“The 16 chosen projects represent the whole country and reflect a varied range of themes from life-limiting illness and early years bereavement, to death by suicide and burial customs. We know from our previous participants the importance of these projects for the individuals and communities involved in processing the loss and grief felt in everyday life.”
The awardees include individuals, as well as clubs, community, and voluntary groups. The memorialising and processing of grief will be reflected in the projects through the use of photography, writing, visual storytelling, memorabilia, as well as the more traditional arts, such as felt quilting and painting.
Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, reflected:
“Since 2021 the Creative Ireland programme has worked with Irish Hospice Foundation to develop the Seed Grants programme. This poignant programme of creative work gives a voice to the themes of loss and bereavement in communities throughout the country. This year the 16 projects selected are a heartfelt reflection of our very human desire to give a public expression to grief. I believe that creativity can be invaluable in making sense of the uncertainties of death and as such I am very pleased to be able to support the on-going work of Irish Hospice Foundation.”
IHF Seeds programme piloted in early 2021 and was extended through to 2023. To date 55 projects have been supported with micro grants, expertise, and resources enabling communities of place or interest to develop their own tools or articulate their needs.
Previous awardees include individual artists, writers, nursing homes, secondary schools, community groups, disability support centres, local choirs, and hospitals. This current round of projects will develop from December 2022 until April 2023 in Dublin (3), Clare (1), Cork (2), Galway (1), Kildare (1), Longford (1), Mayo (2), Offaly (1), Roscommon (1), Leitrim (1), and Sligo (2)
IHF Seed Grant Recipients 2022 – 2023
Ikenna Anywabuike, (Galway)
I Know The Sun Must Set
Actor, writer, and musician Ikenna Anywabuike will collaborate with visual artist Maclaine Black to create a digital theatrical installation of photography, poetry, and musical soundscapes. The aim is to illustrate why there is no step-by-step guide for coping with loss and how the nature of a bereavement can impact the consequential grieving process. For example, Ikenna feels the grief he experienced following the death of his grandfather was not the same as the grief he experienced when a friend died by suicide.
Roscommon Young Carers Project / Faye Hayden (Roscommon)
Beauty From Broken Glass
Roscommon Young Carers Project supports youngsters aged between eight and twenty-one who provide a primary or secondary caring role to a family member at home. They might be caring for a parent, natural and / or foster sibling, grandparent, or anyone within the extended family who has a disability, illness, mental health challenge, or injury. Artist Faye Hayden will guide the group in the collective creation of a stained-glass collage representing their own ideas on anticipatory grief, bereavement, and growth. ‘Beauty From Broken Glass’ will shine a light on the impact caring for others with life-limiting conditions has on young people.
Sligo Children’s Community Garden (SCCG) / Ruth Le Gear (Sligo)
Compost: Death, Decay, and Re-birth
Environmental artist Ruth Le Gear will use the wonders of composting as a means to explore the cycle of life with young children involved in Sligo Children’s Community Garden. Together they will build new compost beds, grow mushrooms, and establish a wormery. Compost from the new beds will also be used in the garden for growing plants, vegetables and fruit from seed. Results will be chronicled using notebooks, photography, and film. It is intended these activities, along with storytelling, will help the children appreciate the value of natural decay and its potential for growth.
SoloSIRENS / Jenny Macdonald (Tallaght, Dublin)
Having received an Arts Council Agility Award in 2022, theatre maker Jenny Macdonald of the SoloSIRENS Collective, plans to develop the next phase of a performance workshop drawing on her experience of a breast cancer diagnosis six years ago. Inspiration for this project comes from a therapist who described Jenny’s journey to recovery as: “Walking the tightrope between grief and gratitude.” Jenny intends this performance to be a collaborative experience between audience and performer, mirroring the tension between the inherent loneliness of a serious illness, and the deep connection grief can make possible with others.
Acquired Brain Injury Ireland / Danielle Manning (Clare)
The Untold Story of Love and Loss in Families Effected by a Traumatic Brain Injury
Using a variety of creative art practices, Danielle Manning, a Senior Social Worker with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, will engage with persons living with a traumatic brain injury to explore grief and loss. Upon completion, participants will be supported to exhibit their work in a community setting. The aim is to provide a deeper understanding to a wider audience of the grieving process endured by persons affected by a brain injury and to promote development of grief interventions in brain injury services.
Linenhall Arts Centre / Elaine Mears & Marie Murray (Mayo)
Textile artist, theatre maker, and Linenhall Arts Centre Associate, Elaine Mears, along with visual artist and designer, Marie Murray, will re-mount their sensory visual art installation for exhibition at Linenhall Arts Centre in January 2023. A central piece of this show is 15-meter-long tapestry woven with aspects of memories gathered from people during a year-long survey where people were asked: “If you could only keep one object that is of sentimental value to you, what would you keep and why?” In tandem with this exhibition there will be a series of workshops where participants will be able to create their own art pieces responding to the question.
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) / Trudy Meehan (Dublin)
When Astronauts Lose Hope
Researcher and writer Trudy Meehan of RCSI’s Centre for Positive Psychology and Health, will write a fictional story and educational workbook for people bereaved by suicide. It’s a story about how the pain of losing hope can be so strong that we can’t hold on, even when we are surrounded by love. Drawing on both Trudy’s personal and professional experiences of suicide bereavement, her books will respond to a recurring statement given by people similarly impacted: “If they really loved me, they wouldn’t have done this.” Both the story and workbook are aimed at older teenagers and adults, and will use storytelling, visual imagery, creative writing, and metaphor.
Freebird Motorcycle Club Project / Brigid Mulligan (Longford)
Freebird’s M.C.C. Project
Representing the Freebird Motorcycle Club, visual artist Brigid Mulligan will curate an extended tour of ‘Freebird’s M.C.C. Project’. As well as sculptures, the project includes a film which gives an intimate glimpse into the unseen side of Irish bikers living in a rural community during which Freebird members speak openly for the first time about sudden bereavements. This includes Brigid’s brother, Sean Mulligan, who died in 2002 aged 21 in a motorcycle accident. The tour will focus primarily on rural areas around Ireland and will connect with new audiences through screenings, exhibition events, and the creation of spaces for facilitated conversations around grief and loss.
Straffan Drama Club / Geraldine O’Brien & Karina Power (Kildare)
What Might Have Been
Straffan Drama Club (SDC) is a special interest voluntary group affiliated to Foróige with 25 members aged between 11 and 17 years. Drama facilitators, Karina Power and Geraldine O’Brien, will use this grant to run a two-part programme with SDC’s members. The first will be a theatrical production aimed at raising awareness on the impact of loss and grief within SDC during rehearsals, and without during performances. Assisted by John Conway of award-winning Kildare Young Filmmakers, members will then explore their own personal experience of grief and loss and illustrate their findings by individually producing 1-minute films. These will then be combined into a longer film with a view to submitting to young filmmaker festivals.
Pregnancy Loss Research Group / Keelin O’Donoghue & Marita Hennessy (Cork)
Parents’ experiences of pregnancy and perinatal loss: A visual narrative
The death of a baby at any stage of pregnancy or shortly after birth can have a devastating impact on parents, families, and healthcare staff involved. While pregnancy loss occurs in 20 – 25% of all pregnancies, it remains a neglected area of research and resources, and is also steeped in stigma, according to Professor Keelin O’Donoghue, Consultant Obstetrician, and founder and lead of the Pregnancy Loss Research Group, at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Themed “Nobody even thought to ask us anything”, Professor O’Donoghue and Marita Hennessy, PhD, will curate the production of a graphic visual narrative or ‘comic’ in collaboration with Amy Lauren, an illustrator based in Dublin.
This will translate findings from a research study with parents bereaved by stillbirth or neonatal death, led by Dr Änne Helps, which explored how parents could be involved in maternity hospital perinatal death reviews, as the current process does not facilitate this. This visual narrative of parents’ experiences and views of the review process will provide important, actionable insights to other parents, clinicians, policymakers, and others into what is needed to promote better communication, awareness, and prevention of future deaths where possible.
Cancer Connect / Helen O’Driscoll (Cork)
Talking about Cancer
Cancer Connect is an entirely own-funded organisation providing a personalised door-to-door transport service for cancer patients to ensure access to treatment. Many of its 320 voluntary drivers have been with the service since its inception in 2011. As a natural consequence of the close proximity between driver and passenger, confidences are shared and new friendships formed that are often brief. Moreover, many drivers regularly report difficult situations whereby a passenger receives terminal news, becomes ill, or passes away either during or shortly after a trip. As a result, Co-Ordinator Helen O’Driscoll will use this Grant to organise a series of conversations facilitated by Cork Arc Cancer Support to enable drivers to share experiences and avail of peer support in continuously having to deal with dying, death, and bereavement.
St Mary’s Secondary School Edenderry / Rosemarie Quilty Sharry (Offaly)
Home Economics Teacher Rosemarie Quilty Sharry will guide students of St Mary’s Secondary School, Edenderry, in a communal textile art project. Each student will collect positive memories associated with a loved ancestor, very often through conversations with family, relatives, and friends. Images will then be created using felt and embroidered with a phrase encapsulating this memory. The softness of the felt will act as a metaphor of the comfort of these memories. The students will use the felted fabric to produce their own textile heirloom. The artworks produced will be collectively exhibited under the title “Comfort Blanket” initially at the school and then at a local library.
So-Lo Project / Sophie Reynolds & Louise Gaffney (Roscommon, Leitrim)
Is Death a Dirty Word?
All societies have had rituals surrounding what happens to a loved one’s possessions after they die. Ancient Celts buried their deceased with their prize possessions; Vikings honoured their dead with ‘grave goods’. But in an age of mass consumerism, is there a need to examine our contemporary rituals for what happens to our own or a loved one’s possessions as we approach end-of-life or afterwards? That is the question social researcher Sophie Reynolds and artist Louise Gaffney will explore through a participant-led, action-based research project. Using collaborative art practices, they will also introduce participants to a range of useful concepts and principles, such as the Swedish concept of death cleaning.
Ber Wall (Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin)
A Wall for Clive
Prolific outsider artist Ber Wall will realise her dream of creating a memorial of artwork dedicated to her life-long friend Clive Coady. Every day since Clive passed away in 2013, Ber has kept his memory alive by creating colourful images of Clive engaged in various activities. Doing so has enabled Ber to cope with her loss and circumnavigate a non-verbal intellectual disability. Assisted by artist Eithne Griffin, Ber will create a montage of selected images from her vast archive that will then be displayed on a giant billboard in the heart of Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Lorna Watkins (Sligo)
Miscarriage Stop Motion Animation Film
What colour represents devastation?
What does it sound like?
What mark would it make?
Drawing on her own, and other people’s personal experiences, visual artist Lorna Watkins will use these questions as prompts for exploring the possible emotional consequences caused by miscarriages. This research will then be distilled and developed into a stop motion animation film layered with colour and sound reflecting her findings.
Aughagower Community / Anneli Watson / Tom Meskell (Mayo)
Aughagower Community, along with Anneli Watson and Tom Meskell, will engage with local volunteers of all ages in the creation of figurative lantern sculptures honouring local people who died during the Covid-19 pandemic without a traditional funeral. Tom Meskell, a socially engaged artist and figurative lantern expert, will assist in bringing this project to fruition. The finished lanterns will then be displayed, along with other illuminated sculptures, as a part of a full community public commemorative event in Spring 2023.
Previous Seed Grants Projects:
Take a look at the many and varied Seed Grant completed projects since the start of the programme.