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A Spoonful of Creativity

The final workshop in a series of 4 for Block 1 at the Helium Arts Creative Health Hub involved a celebration event with families. Participants aged 7-10 designed and created an alternative ‘Sweet Shop’ where the emphasis was on the creation of unique designs, flavours and scents. They demonstrated that not everyone has to eat lots of sweets to have fun with them!

Over the course of 4 consecutive Sundays, the group identified sweets as a key theme of interest. They acknowledged that not everyone can or wants to eat lots of sweets as even in this small group there existed a range of preferences, allergies and dietary requirements to be taken into consideration. So, through a series of inquiry-based, creative activities, they came up with some healthy, tasty and imaginative alternatives to add to a balanced diet. In response to a stated interest in inventing, the workshop space became a laboratory where their own curiosity, imagination and grit produced the outcomes.


The experience was facilitated by artist Siobhán Clancy assisted by volunteers medical students Leah, Aoife, Tessa and Myriam from UCC with the support of junior doctors Carolyn and Kevin from CUH and Geraldine from St John’s Ambulance. The workspace was arranged in different ‘stations’ to facilitate choice and experimentation. This allowed the participants to exercise autonomy in their creative process by giving them the freedom to move around and decide what they might work on and for how long, It also encouraged collaboration and peer learning as they found themselves swapping ideas and techniques with the person beside them.

The project was preceded by a tour of the latest exhibition from the Crawford Collection titled ‘Heroes and Villains’. The participants were taken with the generosity of ‘everyday heroes’ depicted in the painting The Bread Line by PM Brandt who were providing for so many children.

A colourful range of sweets in all shapes and sizes were modelled in clay and presented on sweet platters.

Sweet packaging was designed using paint, pastel and marbling inks on paper and card. The tactility of these processes was highly enjoyed by the participants. They practiced their new skills at every opportunity allowing themselves to be lead by their imagination and energy.

A logo concept by one participant featuring fruit and a chocolate fountain to encourage a balanced diet was made real by the group and mounted on the canopy of their pop up sweet stall.

The stall itself was inspired by a gingerbread house with a half door and smiling inhabitants.


Everyone’s favourite part of the process was the creation of a collection of mouth watering scents by combining natural ingredients like dried fruits, powders and spices. The participants challenged themselves to design scents in response to the preferences of their ‘customers’ represented by a collection of different hats displaying statements in speech bubbles.

Samples of the creations were placed in miniature vials with glitter and worn as a charm on a necklace and bracelet reminiscent of Victorian smelling salts….except that the reviving element is their yummyness!

Excitement built in the final workshop as the participants prepared to showcase their creations to their families. Parents had been given ‘golden ticket’ invitations that morning inspired by Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. On their return in the afternoon, they were ushered into the workshop by an aproned participant host who then proceeded to present the creations.

Each participant in turn then talked a little about the different elements on display and how the were made. This part of the proceedings was unplanned. The confidence with which the participants spoke was not insignificant as during the first workshop all had stated a refusal to “let anyone see” their work. It seems that their sense of ownership of the process, pride in their work and the fun they wanted to share had overruled initial modesty or lack of confidence.

In the participatory spirit of the workshops series, following the presentation, family members were invited to create their own scents to take home at the ‘Scent Creation Station’. By this point, it was the participants who were facilitating their families to get creative.

In the lead up to this family celebration, the artist had been facilitating waiting room-based creative activities inspired by the community workshops on days she was located in CUH.

Following the workshop with the permission of the CNM Marie McSweeney, the artist brought the sweet shop into the Seahorse Outpatients unit for other children to enjoy and feel inspired by it in the creation of their own healthy sweet and packaging designs coinciding with the Easter season.


Helium’s Cork Creative Health Hub is funded by Creative Ireland’s “National Creativity Fund” and the Community Foundation for Ireland in 2019 and is taking place in partnership with Cork University Hospital’s Arts, Health and Wellbeing Programme. Our venue partners are the Crawford Art Gallery, Mayfield Arts Centre and Bishopstown Library. 

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CHY Number: 19236
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