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The Museum of Song goes to the Islands

3 min read

The Museum of Song goes to the Islands

3 min read


The Museum of Song goes to the Islands

As with many art projects scheduled to start in April 2020, The Museum of Song - a traditional music collecting project led by artists Tess Leak and Sharon Whooley had to change direction when lockdown hit.

Instead of holding a series of on-site sessions in community hospitals in West Cork Tess and Sharon sent postal packages full of poetry and song to participants in West Cork Community Hospitals. Included in the packages were stamped addressed envelops along with an invitation to participants to contribute songs from their childhood.

Over the course of Spring and Summer 2020, they asked participants to send them some of their favourite songs. We asked for Songs of Our Mothers and Fathers, Songs of the Land, Songs of Leaving and Returning, Flower Songs, Bird Songs and The Most Beautiful Voice.  Despite the challenging times the country found itself in, they were delighted to receive over 150 songs from every participant in the Museum of Song Postal Project. Envelopes were sent to from Castletownbere, Dunmanway, Schull and Skibbereen Community Hospitals,  Bantry General Hospital and from older members of the community in Drimoleague.

Tess and Sharon are now in the process of gathering all of these songs together which we will then share in the form of the ‘Museum of Song Songbook’.  Included in this book will be songs such as the evocative ‘This is My Homeland’  which was shared by Mary in Skibbereen who said  “this song makes me very happy as he is coming home to where he was born. He is returning.”

The lights of London are far behind,
My thoughts of homeland are crowding my mind,
Familiar places come into view,
I see my home now, soon I’ll see you.”

This project is part of the Arts And Health Programme in West Cork and could not have been completed without the residents and community hospital staff who engaged with such thoughtfulness and care in difficult circumstances.  Support from the Creative Ireland Programme will ensure that this gorgeous project will be now extended to include residents in the Four Valleys in Bantry and on Sherkin, Cape Clear, Bere, Heir, Dursey, Whiddy and Long Islands.

The aims of the Museum of Song Postal project is to connect with older members of the community inclusive of those with cognitive differences, who are at potential risk of being isolated. The project also aims to deliver a song collecting project via the postal service which could engage participants in a meaningful way to contribute to a wider collection of songs. And lastly, to spark conversations about songs and singing as a way of making connections across communities and provide opportunities for reflection, creativity and solace.

Every two weeks the artists sent out a themed package that included an introductory letter, song lyrics, a poem and a postcard to each participant. The themes were ‘Songs of Our Mothers and Fathers’, ‘Songs of Leaving and Returning’, ‘Songs of Spring’, ‘Flower Songs’, ‘The Most Beautiful Voice’ and ‘Songs of the Land’. A stamped addressed envelope was also included, along with a response sheet encouraging people to share with the artists their favourite songs relating to the theme. Some participants sent back lists of songs and others shared stories relating to one of their chosen songs. As a result of this first phase, 160 songs have been collected. Volume 1 of The Museum of Song Songbook was launched in January 2021 with Volume 2 to follow with songs collected from the islands and valleys.

For more information on the Arts for Health Partnership Programme visit


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