Launch of Our Stories –  A series of artworks by John Conway inspired by staff working at the Children Health Ireland hospitals

Thursday January 14 2021

Our Stories is a series of artworks by John Conway which were inspired by the artist’s conversations with staff of Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Crumlin, Tallaght and Temple Street in 2019 during which they reflected on their workplaces and the role art plays in normalising the space for children. 

In 2019, the CHI Arts in Health programme began working with the CHI Organisational Development Team to consider how to create a space for staff to celebrate the existing hospitals and their unique cultures before the big move. John Conway was invited to meet with the staff in an informal way and these conversations inspired ‘Our Stories’ a series of ninerisographic printed artworks. A full set of these works now hang in each CHI hospital and in Connolly Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre. This series of artworks is a celebration of the stories and perspectives of CHI staff in relation to their workplace, and the role art can play within it. It is hoped that they will inspire new conversations and memories, as we move forward together to the new children’s hospital.

The Chief Executive of CHI Eilísh Hardiman said: ‘the arts in all its forms provide a colourful and engaging platform for people to come together and this is particularly relevant for Children’s Health Ireland as we move from being three long established children’s hospitals to merge into one. It is a delight to see the words of our staff become the inspiration for such beautiful works by John Conway and I congratulate everyone who worked hard to make this happen.’

According to the CHI Arts in Health Curator, Mary Grehan, ‘when we first embarked on this project, we had no idea what the outcome would be but we were delighted when John proposed the creation of such child-friendly artworks based on those things staff said to him. Of the many interesting comments staff made about their working environments, we selected those things that prompted specific imagery and we are delighted with the results.’

In the words of the artist John Conway ‘Artists often have the unique privilege of being able to visit interesting and complicated spaces; observing and taking the pulse. I was very much welcomed by all the CHI staff I met through this project. They gave me an insight into working cultures across the different CHI sites. I got an understanding of what art does at the coal face in an acute health setting. The way art works for staff and children can be very different to how artists might expect.’

The project was funded by Children’s Health Ireland and Dublin City Council Culture Company’s Engage The City programme.

CHI Staff – the stories featured in the final artwork

CHI At Tallaght
Marian Connolly – Director of Nursing 2019 – Tallaght – “The bread and butter of paediatrics”
Yvonne Cuff – blood room: “Find the butterfly find the bee” & “We use the art here”
Emma Nolan- Oak Ward Tallaght – “You’ll always find a kid who loves dinosaurs”

CHI at Crumlin
Lori Ekstrom – Genetics Lab – “You only see what’s on your path”
Orla Ryan Flanagan – Occupational Therapy – “Staff that make an institution not bricks and mortar.”

Temple Street
Miriam Carew – “We can’t decide whether is a cat, pig or dog”
Yvonne Friel – Theatre CNM – “There’s a rota for bakeday Wednesday”
Joanna Broderick – Emergency Dept – “Children on elephants in the treatment room”

Biography of John Conway

John is a visual artist working extensively in community, youth and health settings. He uses a multi-disciplinary approach to respond to environments and the lived experience of communities. He is the director and curator of Other People’s Practices, a long term artist research residency program which takes place in the National Forensic Mental Health Service. He is also Creative Director of the multi award winning Kildare Young Filmmakers. Recent awards include the Irish Art Council’s Arts Participation Bursary Award, Creative Ireland’s National Creativity Fund, the Documentary Bursary Award, the Kildare Arts Act Grant and the Artist in the Community Research and Development Scheme.