The establishment of Réalta, the National Body for Arts + Health in Ireland, puts Ireland at the forefront of the global arts and health movement, according to Christopher Bailey, Arts and Health Lead at the World Health Organisation.  Mr Bailey was speaking at the official launch by Waterford Healing Arts Trust of Réalta on Friday 3 March 2023 in Waterford.  Other speakers included Prof. Kevin Rafter, Chairperson of the Arts Council, Grace O’Sullivan, MEP and Patron of Waterford Healing Arts, Catherine Drea, Chairperson, Réalta and Claire Meaney, Director of Réalta.  See 

The launch was attended by a wide range of stakeholders involved and interested in arts and health in Ireland, including healthcare professionals, artists, participants, arts and health practitioners, funders and policy makers.  Chairperson of Réalta Catherine Drea welcomed guests and thanked all stakeholders, past and present, saying “It takes a village” to create an organisation such as Réalta.  Guests were then shown a video illustrating the development of Réalta, from the original establishment of Waterford Healing Arts Trust in 1993, to the beginning of the organisation’s national programme 15 years ago, the setting up of the resource website in 2011 and the development and launch of Réalta in 2023.  Claire Meaney, Director of Réalta, then outlined Waterford Healing Arts Trust’s work with business planning consultant Ahmad Abu-el-ata in developing a business strategy for Réalta, and with branding agency Totem – based in Dungarvan, County Waterford – to develop the Réalta brand as well as the new logo for Waterford Healing Arts (re-branded from Waterford Healing Arts Trust).

Officially launching Réalta, Mr Christopher Bailey, Arts and Health Lead with the World Health Organisation said “To have a national arts and health resource centre established in Ireland automatically puts you at the forefront of this global (arts and health) movement, and I’m honoured to be able to share this moment with you.”  He went on to say “In Ireland, much the same as in the US, these (arts and health) programmes begin locally and then become national.  Waterford Healing Arts Trust was a local programme and now it has blossomed into something national, and that’s extremely exciting to me.”

Guest speaker Professor Kevin Rafter, Chair of the Arts Council, added “Waterford Healing Arts Trust is a strategic partner of the Arts Council, and it was one of the organisations that delivered and played a very strategic role for the Arts Council during the COVID crisis, with the Surviving or Thriving programme, supporting the wellbeing of artists… Today is an important day.  You officially become the national resource organisation for arts and health…building on 30 years of hard work.  Your work has been hugely influential and has had an impact on subsequent hospital based programmes that have been supported by the Arts Council.  I know Réalta, in taking on the online platform and Waterford Healing Arts, will continue to work with the Arts Council to promote health and wellbeing by improving quality of life and cultural access in healthcare settings and that’s hugely important.  On behalf of the Arts Council I wish you well and say congratulations on what is a very special day.”

Grace O’Sullivan, MEP and Patron of Waterford Healing Arts, said “For me, as an old sailor, the word Réalta, star, is very very important, because in the old world of sailing, and navigation, it was the stars that guided us, so having Réalta now rolling out across the country and guiding others in the area of art and healing is very important.”  She went on to say “I want to pay tribute to the musicians, the artists and all the others here today, who bring your talents and your skills, goodwill, energy and your smiles, day in, day out, into the hospital.  Réalta is a leading light, it’s on the national platform and I want to say well done.”

Réalta has been established to strengthen the arts and health sector in Ireland and provide a central resource for all those interested and involved in arts and health.  Core funded by the Arts Council and the HSE, Réalta is based at the Centre for Arts + Health at University Hospital Waterford.  Further information is available from 

Pictured at the launch of Réalta are Waterford Healing Arts musician Liam Merriman, Prof. Kevin Rafter, Chairperson of the Arts Council, Grace O’Sullivan, MEP and Patron of Waterford Healing Arts, Grace Rothwell, General Manager UHW, Christopher Bailey, World Health Organisation, Claire Meaney, Director, Réalta, Dr Abdul Bulbulia, Founder of Waterford Healing Arts Trust and Catherine Drea, Chairperson, Réalta. Photo by Patrick Browne