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Puppet Portal Project: Independent Evaluation by SpiralOrchard

The Puppet Portal Project was Helium’s first hospital residency programme (2009-2010). Children in seven hospitals across Ireland collaborated with professional artists to create puppets and shared their stories, performances and short films with peers in other hospitals via Áit Eile, an online live video-link facility developed by the Centre for Health Informatics at Trinity College, Dublin. The project sought to help counter the isolation that children can feel when they are hospitalized by connecting them to a wider community in a shared creative conversation. The Puppet Portal Project was recognised by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (2010 Innovation Award nominee) and The Allianz Business to Arts Awards (2010 Best Use of Creativity, Highly Commended).

Helium Arts commissioned SpiralOrchard to conduct an independent evaluation, focusing on the impact of the pilot project in four hospitals on the key stakeholders: paediatric patients, parents, artists, teachers, hospital play specialists and hospital staff. Project management was evaluated in terms of the artistic process, artistic facilitation, collaboration with the teaching staff and collaboration with the hospital play specialists. The use of technology to communicate artistically between the four hospitals was also studied.

‘As a result of their participation in the PPP and through playing with their puppets, children in the hospitals experienced increased levels of happiness, interaction, learning, communication, collaboration and play. Play serves an important function for hospitalized children in that it restores a sense of normality, reduces anxieties, serves as an outlet for tensions and conflict, facilitates communication and speeds recovery (Lansdowne 1996, Children in Hospital Ireland 2000). The feedback from the evaluation establishes that the PPP (puppetry) was delivered to the stakeholders in a conscientious and professional manner. The professionalism and sensitive approach of the puppeteers (artists) facilitated the successful integration and positive impact of the puppetry sessions.’

The evaluation used a mixed-methods approach. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected via questionnaires with ethics approval from the participating hospitals. On-site interviews were also conducted and further data was collected via on-site observations, multimedia journals and arts-based methods (e.g. a Puppet Portal fun scale).

The resulting paper, ‘The Puppet Portal Project: Examining Puppetry and Technology Located Across Four Hospital Environments within the Arts and Health Context’ was published in 2010. SpiralOrchard found that the project ‘had a positive impact on the mental wellbeing of the stakeholders … It provides evidence that puppetry and the process of puppetry (designing, making, playing and sharing) enhanced the hospital environment by directly affecting the patients’ experiences.’ (10-11) Quantitative and qualitative analyses showed that ‘attendance of the puppetry sessions had a significant impact on the mood of the patients and this helped to reduce the sense of isolation and alienation for children staying in hospitals.’ (127)

Master Evaluation Document: http://www.artsandhealth.ie/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/The-Puppet-Portal-Master-Evaluation-Document.pdf

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