Artist in Residence 2021

Storyteller Joe Brennan joins WHAT team
Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) is delighted to announce that storyteller Joe Brennan has been selected as the Artist in Residence for 2021 at WHAT/University Hospital Waterford (UHW).  Under the project title Telling Tales, Joe will work with staff of UHW for a period of six months, offering opportunities to the staff to experience oral storytelling in different ways.  The Artist in Residence scheme is funded by the Arts Council.  

A native of Wexford, storyteller and writer Joe Brennan has told his stories and led storytelling workshops throughout Ireland and beyond over the last 20 years.  Joe has featured at many festivals including Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival, Festival at the Edge (UK), Pitara International YA Festival, Delhi and Kilkenny Arts Festival, while, most recently, he told stories over the phone to older people living in County Wexford as part of his Tale-a-Phone Exchange project, supported by Wexford County Council, throughout March 2021.  Joe has also written a number of plays for young audiences, he is the author of Donegal Folk Tales, and his stories are included in The Anthology of Irish Folk Tales.  He delivers creative writing workshops as part of the Arts Ability programme, which supports participants to experience and create art, and is funded by Wexford County Council Arts Office and the HSE.

The focus of the WHAT Artist in Residence programme is the artist’s engagement with patients or staff at UHW in participatory and/or collaborative arts experiences.  As access to patients is limited due to COVID 19 restrictions, for his residency, Joe will focus on engaging with healthcare staff and offering them opportunities to experience storytelling in different ways, such as listening to traditional stories via his weekly Thursday Tales, sharing stories in a Storytelling Lounge, or developing storytelling skills of their own through weekly workshops called Telling the Story.  Joe explains “Storytelling is a very democratic art form: It’s accessible to everyone and it goes back to the earliest of times.  Stories allow us to share and reflect on our experiences, gain understanding and promote empathy.  They can also be a lot of fun!  I’m looking for staff to engage, participate, enjoy and also learn, both from the stories themselves and from developing new storytelling skills.  It can open up a whole new world and hopefully might even bring some welcome relief from some of the intense times we’ve been experiencing.”

Claire Meaney, Director of Waterford Healing Arts Trust, added “We are thrilled to welcome Joe Brennan to our team as Artist in Residence for 2021.  Storytelling is a new art form for us here at UHW and Joe brings a wealth of experience, warmth and understanding, so we feel this will be a wonderful opportunity for staff to try something completely new, exciting and enjoyable, especially at this time.  There are so many ways for us to experience the residency this year, from sitting back and enjoying listening to Joe’s stories, to learning how to craft and perform stories ourselves.  The WHAT Artist in Residence programme is a means of engaging staff or patients in contemporary arts practice and an opportunity for artists to develop their professional practice within an acute hospital context.  Joe will be breaking new ground by bringing one of the oldest creative traditions into a modern clinical setting, albeit online, and we can’t wait to see what develops.”

Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT) is Ireland’s leading arts and health organisation.  Established in 1993, WHAT brings arts experiences to the bedsides of patients at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and other healthcare settings.  WHAT believes that the arts contribute to the wellbeing and vitality of society and that engaging with the arts stimulates the participant’s sense of identity and creativity.  WHAT also supports the development of arts and health in Ireland and manages the national website 

Photo of Joe Brennan by Barbara Flynn