Kilkenny's Good Shepherd service users work with poet to create new project

Finding Our Voice: Collection of poems from homelessness to challenge perceptions

Sam Matthews


Sam Matthews



Lanette McGuigan, project worker at The Good Shepherd Centre Kilkenny, discusses the #FindingOurVoice project

A new artistic collaboration between an award-winning poet and service users of the Good Shepherd Centre in Kilkenny hopes to give a voice to people living in emergency accommodation and to change attitudes toward homelessness.

The ‘Finding Our Voice’ project promotes engagement with the arts and creativity through spoken word, raising awareness and challenging perceptions. It’s a spoken word and creative writing programme facilitated by writer and poet Colm Keegan, funded by Creative Ireland and supported by Kilkenny County Council and the Good Shepherd Centre.

Mr Keegan, supported by Good Shepherd staff, worked over a period of eight weeks with two groups of service users within the Good Shepherd Centre. The groups explored multiple means of self-expression and reflection while looking at things like rap and spoken word as well as structure, character and storytelling. Each participant created a small body of work, based on their own life experiences.

Recognising the importance of sharing this work with the broader community, it was decided to create a series of short social media videos. Protecting people’s identities became an important consideration so actors were considered to read the poems.

However, the service users felt it was important to acknowledge the role of every day frontline staff, who have supported them all as individuals and as a community through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The readers of the poems are all from Kilkenny and charged with empathising with the poem, performing it and amplifying the issues raised to the best of their abilities.

Initially a selection of the pieces were to be developed into a stage experience, but Covid restrictions meant this wasn’t possible. Instead, it can be viewed by linking with the Good Shepherd Facebook page, beginning this Friday (September 25) and running each evening for 10 days.

The short video series is an authentic and honest expression of the real emotions and experiences of people in emergency accommodation.

“Sharing these short videos gives people a valuable opportunity to understand the life experiences of others facing real challenges, and we hope that as many people as possible take that opportunity and enjoy the poems,” says Noel Sherry, Good Shepherd manager.

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