Blue skies and summer sun makes our flowers grow Blue skies and summer sun this is what we know Daffodils dancing in the wind Cherry blossom petals fall like snow Primroses like rainbows Daisy chains all in a row Pansies tough, tough enough Tulips standing proud and tall Red roses beautiful Oak trees never fall
This poem/song was composed by the participants of the Work Therapy Unit of St Hilda’s Services, Cornamagh, Athlone, to honour the founders of St Hilda’s, on the occasion of the organisation’s 40th anniversary. The participants were also responsible for creating a mosaic to symbolise both beauty of nature and development.
Stephen McCormack, one of the project leaders, helped the group compose the song over a ten-week period— from words to sentences to verse to chorus to music—and finally to a Christmas performance that coincided with the unveiling of the mosaic from the Art Programme. As Syra Reid, one of the programme coordinators, says: ‘It was serendipity … we all had input into the project … it was the icing on the cake and the mosaic featured as the main piece for the 40th anniversary celebration in the Radisson.’
The participants developed a mosaic, which now stands in the Sensory Gardens of McCormack House, a day service also run by St Hilda’s. Sandra Hughes is from Tonnta Street Theatre in Athlone. She joins two sessions a week at Carnamagh, where she has developed the mosaic and puppet making programmes. Regarding the process of creating a mosaic, she says: ‘This suits everybody … the process is foolproof … there is something for everybody to do … from picking the tiles to colour grading, to breaking, shaping and as we say ‘banging for Ireland’. The theme design is a line drawing for guidance, yet the ‘lads do it all’. Sandra reflects that the mosaic process ‘ticks a lot of boxes’ in developing visual, spatial awareness, colour coordination, observation skills and more. It develops teamwork and gives the individuals involved confidence. Most of all, they enjoy telling the story behind each of the mosaic projects. Rosemary Joyce is involved in health promotion and music therapy and reflects how proud and energised this work makes people feel.
The puppets and their identities come from the individuals themselves who identify initially the character they wish to develop. The next step is to shop around Athlone for the materials required—a Marilyn Monroe dress, a hippy dress, and a chef costume. The puppets are designed to be life-size, yet light and easy to carry. ‘When they put on the puppets they are different people,’ says Sandra. Ruth Fitzgerald chose a hippie from Woodstock and enjoyed shopping for all the hippy paraphernalia. Peter Malynn loves cookery as well as art and chose a chef theme for his model; Imelda Keegan fancied the concept of Marilyn Monroe; and Michael Igoe, a horticulturalist, chose a dapper figure with a flowerpot head. As well as participating in street theatre, the group went around at Halloween and performed in Shanganna Services for the Elderly and participated in the Tonnta Street Theatre.
The enthusiasm, energy and sheer joy, as well as the tenacity and productivity, of this group are remarkable! St Hilda’s Services have demonstrated a unique capacity to make a tangible contribution to the arts in Athlone, and, by all accounts to enhance the quality of life for the Shannonside residents.