Joy in the Park: A celebration of creativity and careers as no longer mutually exclusive

Upcoming Fitzgerald’s Park event in Cork highlights importance of minding mental health and wellbeing, particularly for those seeking a future working in creative sectors

Returning for its second year on Sunday, July 23rd, Joy in the Park will take over Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork, for a free and fun day out while also highlighting the importance of minding mental health and wellbeing.

This year’s line-up includes The Frank & Walters, John Spillane, Aoife Scott and Karen Underwood, along with spoken word, children’s entertainment, arts and crafts, food stalls, wellness activities and a mental health support hub.

In addition, Minding Creative Minds is back, hosting The Couch Sessions. These feature a curated conversation between creative sector voices with the title Broaden your Horizon as a Creative.

Minding Creative Minds, launched in June 2020, is a mental health and wellbeing support programme for the Irish creative community, with founder David Reid appreciating that there has been somewhat of a stigma to wanting or having a creative career and recognising that creatives need to nurture their minds and careers against outdated societal expectations. He says that due to a number of factors which include irregular working hours, often poor and irregular financial compensation, poor support structures and feelings of isolation, some within the sector can be susceptible to mental health issues and concerns. Added to this is a historic pervasiveness of harassment and abuse within the arts.


The Couch Sessions moderator Mary Crilly, chief executive of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork, is involved with Safe Gigs Ireland, a new initiative to make gigs and nightlife safer by creating a zero-tolerance environment for sexual violence. “We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the women of Mise Fosta and the FairPlé movement and others, who did the hard, harrowing work of putting the issues of harassment and abuse in the sector on to the political agenda,” she says. “The culture of our creative sectors meant they were never going to reform themselves or police themselves.

Society in general is realising that a career in the broader arts is a genuine option for many young people

—  David Reid, Minding Creative Minds

“Thanks to this work, we have three new initiatives in Ireland that are leading the way for other countries – Minding Creative Minds, Safe to Create, and Safe Gigs Ireland. These three organisations challenge unsafe environments for creatives, each in a different way, yet they complement each other. Their initiatives have created the services and the protocols to support creatives individually, as well as organisations to challenge and change unsafe environments into safe environments.”

A career in the arts, was at one time deemed incompatible with making a living, and so the path to a creative future was considered purely a vocation. However, a creative career is more than its aesthetic value. It is nothing less than the freedom of thought and expression that drives society.

And yet, Reid tells us that, in 2019, a survey involving 1,400 people in the sector revealed 91 per cent of the respondents had experienced anxiety, depression or mental ill-health at some point in their life. This provided the impetus to establish a free counselling and 24/7 support for the creative sector. “The Irish culture has always valued creatives across all disciplines and shared in the various successes we have had locally right through to the international stage across theatre, film, music, writers, journalists, poets, novelists and all disciplines presented in so many wonderful forms,” says Reid.

“Parents and society have valued the love, passion, and excellence in creativity and art from the first school play for their child. Now, we are positioned for this enjoyment to be extended to plausible career consideration. A child who enjoys and is good at an arts discipline can actually aim to have a career in this sector and be supported from within their family right through school and college. A career in the creative arts is now almost held alongside a more traditional career, like accountancy or teaching. Society in general is realising that a career in the broader arts is a genuine option for many young people. Job satisfaction from making a career in an area they are personally involved in right through their lives is far greater than other more traditional areas.”

Reid acknowledges that the industry is vast, vibrant and economical. In 2019, €500 million in VAT receipts came from the music industry alone, with about 55,000 people employed in the sector in Ireland. He says this did not just occur for “our personal fulfilment, but also our economic fulfilment – the freedom to earn a living from our chosen career, as much as a property lover’s aspiration might be to run their own property company, or a dentist of owning a practice”.

It’s part of life, never mind a creative career, but perseverance is a huge part of it, and I guess leaning into the optimism of what might come

—  Stephen James Smith, poet and artist

The arts are as much a business as any other concern, and the mindset behind that fact is shifting. “We are in the business of entertaining,” says Reid. “Those of us who work in a creative sector share many conversations, emotions and objectives with our audiences and our peers. Our default has been the entertainment aspect, the art and cultural depth, the messaging through our events, and the shared experience.”

Stephen James Smith says he has certainly had deterrents and obstacles throughout his prolific career as a poet and artist. “I think the key word is resilience,” says Smith. “I’ve had my setbacks along the way. I’m sure I will again. It’s part of life, never mind a creative career, but perseverance is a huge part of it, and I guess leaning into the optimism of what might come. You never know how your day is going to start, and you may get those random things thrown your way. And curiosity is a big part of it for me, and not knowing where you will end up next.”

Reid reiterates that for anyone wishing to have a creative career and to work full time in the sector, it is important they are aware of the various supports which exist and are open to them. “Let Minding Creative Minds help you,” he says, “to support, to educate in all its forms – including the fact of trying to make a living and having a viable career in the sector, which can be difficult. There is often a long apprenticeship to be served starting out with no guarantee that success will follow. Don’t be alone; if you have a question or a worry, just ask.”

Along with the important discussions at The Couch Sessions, Joy In the Park will balance fun with connection and understanding, while raising awareness around mental health and wellbeing through a programme of wellness, sensory activities and workshops.

Geraldine Walsh

Geraldine Walsh

Geraldine Walsh, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health and family