About Compassion Community Across Munster
Generously supported by Rethink Ireland’s Impact Fund for Munster, we facilitated four safe spaces across Munster this year, where people had open and creative chats about loss, gently exploring how compassion connects, and shared some ‘deadly conversation’ as part of our continuously expanding Compassionate Culture Network (CCN).
Between April and October 2023, CCN workshops ran consecutively in Limerick, Mallow, Bantry and Cahirsiveen. Each was facilitated by a local specially trained artist and support worker who also engaged with existing resources while using creativity to try and break through the block some people have when it comes to talking about grief.
Along with producing events, such as coffee mornings, an exhibition and two poetry publications were also produced. The above short video was also created documenting the Cahirsiveen project and illustrates how CCNs are designed to knit together existing resources, such as those provided by the Health Service, Local Authority and NGOs, to benefit people struggling with grief and the impact this can have on health, particularly on those who are isolated. As Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Healthy Ireland Arts and Culture Lead, Dr Sheelagh Broderick, told us:
“The Health Service has realised that it’s very important for people to be connected, to have opportunities for making meaning together. So when you put those two things together, what you get is arts and health. It’s a very new way of working, but has been proven through research internationally and nationally, that it’s beneficial to participants.”
But why use creativity and the arts to explore loss? And what have they got to do with health? In short, they help people process sensations into meaning. The simple act of making something allows people to think and feel differently. Crafting settles the mind. Creativity opens the spirit. Alongside academic research in this area, we know from previous experience facilitating CCNs, linking experienced artist-facilitators with a wider public at community level in properly resourced sessions, initiates meaningful conversations on death, dying, and grief, and can reduce the risk of developing mental and other health issues. As one participant said:
“I arrived at the first session feeling raw after a recent personal loss and still struggling to cope with my own grief. Working with Mallow CCN and the participants this summer, listening to the stories shared, poems composed and creating art together, has shown me how helpful and necessary these places are in alleviating some of the pain and loneliness that come with grief. It was very healing and ‘normalised’ grief for me.”
In total, 54 workshops were facilitated and attended by circa 330 people. Together they gently explored loss and how compassion connects through a variety of creative practices, such as poetry, music, art, photography, printing, collage, drama, and sculpture.
Nancy Holmes-Smith (Artist) and Tara Donoghue (Artist / Photographer) used practical making and hands-on work to explore ephemeral creation and photography, voice and drama, every week at Cahirsiveen’s Library. Additional support and resources were generously provided by Kerry County Council, Age Friendly Ireland, Healthy Ireland, CorkKerry Community Healthcare, and Kerry Education and Training Board.
Led by Ella Daly and supported by Dominic Campbell, Irish Hospice Foundation’s Arts and Cultural Lead, this CCN combined making with talking by exploring “what makes home” using visual arts and printing. Participants were invited to bring along images of lost loved ones or places or things for adapting and printing onto fabric and bags. Additional support and resources were generously provided by Citizen Innovation Lab, Limerick County Council Arts Office, and the University of Limerick among others.
Mallow & Bantry
Experienced practitioner Tess Leak led sessions in Bantry and Mallow. Tess was an integral part of our original series of CCN pilot sessions in 2022, where she established a replicable approach using haiku poetry as a starting point for participants. Tess was supported in Mallow by visual artists Ai Wise and Maria Jönsson Kent, who brought new skills to the programme. In Bantry, another experienced practitioner, Becky Hatchett, worked alongside Tess in facilitating sessions. In addition to exploring haiku, Becky brought in sculpture using natural materials as starting points for conversations, often focused on impermanence. Gorgeous poetry booklets were also produced by both groups.
The Impact Fund for Munster produced a completion report of awardees’ projects. It includes a case study articulating the strong collective and individual impact our networks had on participants.
We were also able to commission an independent evaluation report on these networks produced by Michael Foley and 1OpenDialogue. Download this report to learn more about the enormous value of this work in promoting wellbeing through artistic engagement.
Thank You to Our Donors
We are very grateful to Rethink Ireland, the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund. With special thanks to all the generous donors, including the Parkes Family, the Sunflower Charitable Foundation, Ei Electronics, Community Foundation for Ireland, and a number of private donors.