#MatExp Whose Shoes has been extremely popular in the UK. The approach is being used in about 50 NHS trusts. For about two years, there has been considerable interest in bringing this approach to Ireland. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Would this happen? How would it work?

It was exciting to get an enquiry from Helen Murphy, Director of Midwifery in Galway. Helen had previously worked at Lewisham and Greenwich in London, one of the best champions of the #MatExp Whose Shoes approach.

Soon we were planning our event and before I knew it I found myself on the way to Ireland! ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช

Windy!! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ ๐Ÿ˜‚ #IrishMatExp

It was an incredibly significant time to come to Ireland to explore issues around maternity transformation. Just a couple of weeks before the #RepealThe8th referendum. Feelings were running extremely high on both sides, with โ€˜Yesโ€™ and โ€˜Noโ€™ banners hung from almost every lamppost. It was quite a sight to behold.

We deliberately arrived a day early to give ourselves a chance to acclimatise, talk to people and better understand the issues. There was lots to think about

We wanted to walk in the shoes of the people in Ireland.

Driving across Ireland, we stopped for a coffee. We happened to stop at Portiuncula. The maternity hospital had been in the news. Maternity was constantly being mentioned on the news on the car radio. Our workshop would be very topical!

We helped Teddy buy some cakes. Cakes are an important part of #MatExp. ๐Ÿฐ ๐ŸŽ‚๐Ÿ‹

We arrived in Galway and walked along the beach.

We were pleased to get the chance to look around the maternity unit. Helen Murphy showed us around. It was helpful to understand a bit more about the setting and the challenges.

Physical environment makes a big difference and a lot of changes are obviously expensive. Helen and team were keen to brighten things up & make them more friendly.

I was thrilled to hear that Lewisham and Greenwich had decorated a room in Whose Shoes colours - and to see the idea spreading to Galway. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

It felt like a new chapter - building on the fantastic work so many people have been doing in Ireland to bring an era of women having a voice and real choice in their maternity experience.

Galway was a fun place to be. ๐ŸŽถ We went into town to absorb the atmosphere โ€“ I always love live music!

The big day dawned. Friday 11th May. #FabObs Flo was busy launching our #EmMVP project in London, Running a special #MatExp workshop with the London Ambulance Service, exploring the role of emergency services in maternity care.

It was fun following the London workshop on Twitter. It seemed to be going well. And then it was our turn!

We neednโ€™t have worried about cake - the cakes were fabulous!

I was delighted some of the wonderful #MatExp friends I have made through Twitter were able to come.

As well as the fabulous cakes, refreshments were a-plenty. It always helps the conversations when people feel valued and looked after. โ˜˜๏ธ Well done Galway! ๐Ÿ’š

Delphine from the Saolta Group came to take a few photos. And see what it was all about. In fact it seems that people had come from all over Ireland!

Soon we were underway. Helen gave a passionate introduction.

In fact she was jet propelled! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽˆ I was proud to show our โ€œIn their shoesโ€ film, made as part of our original #MatExp project in London.

Anna Geyer, our talented graphic artist, started with a blank page, other than the heading in rich Irish colours. Galway is part of the Saolta Group of hospitals. Anna would soon be capturing the key messages from all the lively conversations.

Soon there was a really good buzz in the room - passionate conversations interspersed with lemon lightbulbs, coffee and cake! ๐Ÿฐ

Luckily we had Deirdre and Greg to collect the post-its and sort them into key topics to help Annaโ€™s job of producing the graphic record. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

Never too young to participate!

The time simply flew. Anna reported back on the key themes to help people think further about their pledges.

The little shoes are always popular and a tangible way of thanking people and reminding them of their pledges.

The pledges were fantastic. I have a feeling that a bit of โ€˜#MatExp magicโ€™ was sparked in Galway. #IrishMatExp

Relationships -made and rekindled - are a key part of #MatExp Whose Shoes. Finding other passionate people, connecting with them and making change together. ๐Ÿ’š

Here is the film that I made of our inaugural event in Galway. Feel the energy! ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ’ฅ

Watch it here: https://youtu.be/r80BovwXSFk

We were thrilled by the very positive response. We are hoping #IrishMatExp Whose Shoes will catch fire in Ireland, as #MatExp has done in the UK. ๐Ÿ”ฅ

I loved all the great teamwork. I loved the fact theyโ€™d ordered some #MatExp Whose Shoes Galway sashes!

I look like a proud Girl Guide! Perhaps a proud honorary Galway girl. Thank you Helen Murphy! ๐Ÿ˜€

And the final word to @StowawayTeddy... and indeed #TedSheeran.

What a weekend to come to Galway!

For Grace and Deirdre

And all the fabulous Galway girls!

And a massive thank you to Galway girl @DeirdreMunro and her lovely family for their fabulous hospitality. And to everybody. We were made very welcome in Ireland! ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช ๐Ÿ’š Hope to see you again soon! ๐Ÿ˜˜