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beyond the box: images and stories from our 2013 exhibition

Posted on: December 12th, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

beyond the box, an exhibition of work by Cloudlands artists in residence Emma Fisher, Eszter Némethi and Rachel Tynan took place at Pallas Projects/Studios, Dublin, in November 2013. This exhibition was the materialisation of the journey taken on year one of Cloudlands  in Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Galway. beyond the box was inspired by the artists’ creative collaborations with teenagers over a nine-month period and the experience of being in residence in hospital. The title of the exhibition comes from the boxes that the artists used as a tool to initiate their creative process with each teen.

Alongside the artists’ own installations, there was a display area showcasing some of the work made by the teenagers in collaboration with the artists and attendees were given the opportunity to view the shared online space and images from year one. beyond the box was curated by Katy Fitzpatrick.

Emma Fisher

Escaping the Wool
Mixed-media installation, including shadow screen, wool, cardboard, and animated projection

Follow the red arrows on a journey to reveal stories hidden in shadows. The installation references a song written by a teen in Galway University Hospital. Emma invited exhibition attendees to listen to the song which was included in the Year 1 Gallery.

Eszter Némethi

Islands are just a bunch of squiggly lines anyway
Mixed-media installation, including cotton sheet, mp3, radio transmission, ropes, pulleys and text

This instructional installation invites the viewer to step inside a web of interwoven narratives, signs and symbols. Begin with an audio instruction, take the plunge and unlock the stories of an old woman and sad tornadoes.

Rachel Tynan

Mixed-media installation, including platform, video projection, paper scroll, and vinyl

Lie down and take flight; ‘colourful windows cast warm colours when the sun shines’

Artist and Curator talk

An artist and curator discussion chaired by Patrick Fox from Create took place at NCAD on 6 November, prior to the exhibition launch. The artists talked about how their work with young people on the project informed their installations and gave insights into their creative processes and collaborations during their nine-month residency. This discussion can be viewed below.


It was fantastic to see so many friends and supporters of Helium at the launch. A special thank you to the young participants from Cloudlands who attended, some of whom travelled from Cork and Westmeath to be there; to Patrick Fox, our master of ceremonies; to Katy Fitzpatrick who curated beyond the box; and to Pallas Projects for making the place nice and toasty on a cold November evening. Check out some of the action from the launch below.

Thank you to Ines Billings for the photographs.

Cloudlands Year 1 was funded by the BNP Paribas Foundation Smart Start Programme, The Medtronic Foundation, PepsiCo Ireland, and The Arts Council. Cloudlands Year 1 was further supported by The Ireland Funds, The Community Foundation for Ireland, Dublin City Council, The National Lottery through HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster, Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust, HSE South, Cork City Council, and Cork University Hospital Arts Committee.

Helium Children’s Arts and Health is Seeking an Arts Administrator/Fundraising Researcher as part of a JobBridge Internship

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

Helium is now seeking a highly motivated, versatile individual to take up the role of Arts Administrator/Fundraising Researcher. This is a nine month position and is open to those eligible for a JobBridge Internship. The successful candidate will work 30 hours per week between the Mullingar office and working online from home. Working hours are flexible. The Intern will work alongside Helium’s management team, which collaborates online.

Internship Description

The successful candidate will support the Artistic Director to carry out a number of fundraising development tasks, with main responsibility to research and collate information on potential new funders, sponsors, patrons, etc to support the company’s programmes. There is also an opportunity for the Intern to design and produce their own local fundraising event or small campaign (online or offline or a combination of both) if they so desire. A small library of fundraising guides will be available to the Intern, with time to absorb methods for best practice. Helium will endeavor to alert the Intern to any out of office training opportunities, as they arise, which the Intern is welcome to attend during working hours.

Appointment Procedure:

To insure that you are eligible for a JobBridge Internship please go to :

Please email to request a full job description and procedure.

The closing date for receipt of applications is:

Thursday, December 5 2013 at 5pm.

Shortlisted candidates will be requested to attend an interview in Mullingar on Monday, December 9th.

Join the Party! Dublin Kids Funky Seomra in aid of Helium on 2 November

Posted on: October 5th, 2013 by emmaeager 1 Comment

Fancy a family day out with lots of activities for children? We’re talking kid-friendly DJ sets, disco-dancing games, face-painting, shadow puppet-making, balloon-modelling, art “tents”, a chill-out zone, a drawing wall and lots more besides. If so, come along to the third Kids Funky Seomra in aid of Helium at St. Paul’s Centre, Adelaide Road, Glenageary, Dublin on Saturday, 2 November 2013. The action kicks off at 1 pm and all are welcome.

The Helium team will be on hand with creative games and play for little ones from toddlers to tweens. The images below from the first two Kids Funky Seomraí will give you a flavour of what’s in store.

All proceeds will go to Helium’s creative programmes with young people in hospitals and healthcare settings. A big thank you to David Mooney and everyone at Funky Seomra for their continued support of Helium and for their wonderful parties. To learn more about Funky Seomra see

Kids Funky Seomra
Date: Saturday 2 November
Venue: St. Paul’s Centre, Adelaide Road, Glenageary, County Dublin
Time: 1-3.30 pm
Price: €8 or €25 for a family of 4

beyond the box: a new exhibition from Helium Arts launches this November

Posted on: September 26th, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

beyond the box is an exhibition of work by Emma Fisher, Eszter Némethi and Rachel Tynan created in response to their experience of the Cloudlands artist in residence, arts and health project produced by Helium Arts for teens in hospital. The exhibition, curated by Katy Fitzpatrick, will be launched on Wednesday 6 November 2013 by Patrick Fox, the Director of Create, at 6.30 p.m. in Pallas Projects/Studios, Dublin, and will continue until 17 November 2013. An artist and curator discussion chaired by Patrick Fox will take place at NCAD on 6 November at 5 p.m. All are welcome.

beyond the box is the materialisation of the journey taken on year one of Helium Arts’ Cloudlands Project, a tri-location arts and health residency for teens in hospitals in Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Galway by artists Rachel Tynan, Eszter Némethi and Emma Fisher respectively. The exhibition represents the experience of what it is to be an artist working in this context, and is inspired by the many creative collaborations with teens over a nine- month period.

The title for the exhibition comes from the boxes that the artists used as a tool to begin their creative process with each teen. Each time the artist met a new young person, she would present a series of boxes from which the young person could choose. Within each box was an object, a seed to begin a conversation that took the artist and young person on a collaborative journey that placed at its core the voice of the teenager. beyond the box seeks to make the invisible visible, by bringing these stories, processes and experiences to a wider audience.

Through a number of participatory installations, beyond the box seeks to evoke in the viewer the feeling of what it is to be a teen in hospital, and to provoke and challenge our preconceptions. Visitors will be invited to discover hidden elements, have your world turned upside down, be a spectator / performer, and explore the imaginary worlds created by young people in hospital.

Alongside the artists’ own installations there will be a display area showcasing some of the work made by the teens in collaboration with the artists and providing the opportunity to view the shared online space and images from year 1.
Venue: Pallas Projects/Studios, 115 – 117 The Coombe, Dublin 8
Dates: 7-17 November
Time: Thurs,Fri, Sat 12-6 p.m.
Sundays 1-3pm

Check out this wonderful Irish Times article about Cloudlands, beyond the box and the experience of teens in hospital.

Call for participants: Helium film project for teens living with chronic illness

Posted on: August 14th, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

Are you a teenager living with a chronic illness or have you spent long periods of time in hospital?
Are you keen to learn about and try out some script-writing, filming or acting? What about online film-making?
If the answer is YES to any of the above, we would love to hear from you!

Two Suitcases is a national film project run by Helium in which young people living with chronic illness get the opportunity to collaborate on writing, filming and editing their own scripts with support from professional film-makers and artists. Teenagers on the project have already made two films and won two film awards along the way.

The great thing about the project is that you can take part in person or online … and it’s free for all participants!

What’s Happening:

August – October: Join other teens online to write a collaborative film script on Helium’s private creative space OAK
August – October: Skype master classes with professional film-makers, writers and artists moderated by Helium.
29 Oct – 2 Nov: Mid-term film week at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Dublin. Online activities will include set design, animation, and virtual acting
November: Editing and soundtrack composition workshops … you can join us online here too.

Whatever your interest, there’s a workshop and a role for you.
To register for workshops and find out more information please contact the super-friendly Emma Eager at
Learn all about the Two Suitcases Project on

Two Suitcases 2013 is produced by Helium Children’s Arts and Health in partnership with the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). The project is funded by the Arts Council and the Community Foundation for Ireland with in-kind support from the Digital Hub Development Agency.

Cloudlands: artists’ insights as phase one comes to a close

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

The first phase of Cloudlands came to a close in July after nine months of creative collaboration between artists-in-residence and teenagers at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, Cork University Hospital, and University Hospital Galway. The last couple of weeks on the project saw artists Rachel Tynan, Emma Fisher and Eszter Nemethi trial new technology that will inform the next phase of the project beginning in late autumn and offer fresh insights into the imaginative work they’ve been producing with young patients.

Here’s what has been happening in Galway and Cork:

Emma Fisher Artist in Residence, University Hospital Galway

Emma Fisher spent the last couple of weeks making books, collages and installations using sensors and creating puppets for shadow puppet films with young people in University Hospital Galway.

Here, Emma talks about working with a 13 year old girl with autism:

‘I had a shadow puppet book in my bag which turned out to be brilliant. She flicked through it and showed me what she liked, then I showed her how to make a puppet, and she just got stuck in. She was so fast drawing them out, then cutting them. We attached a screen from her TV stand to the table, so she could reach her hands around to operate the puppets while watching it. There was a moose, a fish, a witch and a dog. Then I showed her colour and she made a background with green grass and a house, and gave some of the puppets colour. We started filming and when her mom came back she got involved in puppeteering.’

Eszter Nemethi Artist in Residence, Cork University Hospital

A computer game called Pack of Dogs, an animation about seven puppies, a story about a flying bus, a QR code trail … all developed by young people with Eszter Nemethi at Cork University Hospital.

Pack of Dogs – Eszter and a 13 year old girl designed this computer game, starting with felt backgrounds before graduating to touchscreen design. They also made a stick figure with different heads that could be animated to run, jump and slide. ‘As the girl could not sit up we devised an upside down animating table consisting of a sticky label glued on by it’s non sticky side to a board. The stickman stuck to the sticky label so we were able to attach the whole thing to the bottom of the hospital table … she was lying in bed animating “upside down” sort to speak to the amusement of the teachers and nurses.’ Eszter has now started developing the technological version of the Pack of Dogs game.

We look forward to the return of Cloudlands and more creativity for teens in hospital later this autumn…

Puppetry in Healthcare Settings Workshop by Siobhán Clancy features at Hands On! 2 in London

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

In April 2013, artist Siobhán Clancy attended the Hands On! 2 Puppetry Symposium hosted by the Little Angel Theatre in Islington, London on behalf of Helium. Siobhán collaborated with young people on Helium’s Puppet Portal Project in 2009-2010 and brought these skills to bear in facilitating a workshop on Puppetry in Healthcare settings at the symposium. Here she talks about her experience of the symposium and the workshop she facilitated.

The Little Angel Theatre is a vibrant and progressive company established in 1961 and housed in its own quaint building in the centre of London hosting high quality performances. It also facilitates an education programme and partners with the Centre for Research into Objects and Puppets in Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. This second symposium offered a mix of theoretical and case study-based presentations followed by day-long workshops in four specific fields, one of which I was invited to facilitate on behalf of Helium.

Day 1: Presentations

Right from the first key note speech on Applied Theatre by Professor Tim Prentki, the tone was set for a brilliantly challenging and critically reflective two-day experience.  Prentki  illuminated the work of Brecht, Freire and Boal as creative responses (and challenges to) socialist values purported by Marx in contradiction to the capitalist concept of the purpose of the arts.  He emphasized how the ethical applied-theatre practitioner starts from the position of the participant in order to avoid fantasy solutions akin to magic realism and instead to explore grounded possibilities for emancipatory social change.  Prentki’s assertion that “It is a statement of defeat to call ourselves human beings but a statement of hope calling ourselves human becomings” provoked constructively critical and aspirational discussions after each panel on that first day.

These panels addressed puppetry praxis in a variety of situations including therapeutic contexts, inter-cultural spaces, youth work and educational projects, health and community spheres.  Most of the presenters offered an honest insight into the limitations, the unexpected achievements and the cycle of adaptation so necessary to applied and participatory arts processes to honour the needs and interests of their project participants.  Among the initiatives that stood out to me, two in particular caught my imagination due to the dynamic use of form and technology.

Riku Laakkonen (Finland) described use of Forum Theatre in puppetry with a group of young people in mental health rehabilitation. The choice to perform with the familiar teddy bear resulted in staging and visibility issues for their audiences which were overcome by ingeniously projecting a streamed recording of the performance; technology and film-making being an exciting additional component for this young adult males.

The second initiative was a project in Greece developed by a science professor Vasilis Tselfes with a theatre/early education professor Antigoni Paroussi.  They  collaborated across faculties (no mean feat by any university’s standard) on an innovative assignment in which students used puppetry and performative techniques to describe scientific principles for young audiences.  The results were impressive not least due to the open and self-critical reflective process adopted by both lecturers that enabled them to examine and improve the delivery of their module with each iteration over a three year period.  My favourite outcome from the experiment was one ‘show’ with a puppet wonderfully manipulated by two students, that evolved from a ball of dough. It climbed out of a mixing bowl to form swaying arms and dancing dough legs demonstrating the principle of fermentation.

One panel was particularly challenging in their interpretation of audience participation. They presented three different approaches to the site specific context.  The first presenters Liat Rosenthal and Sue Buckmaster described the newly established Enrichment Programme accompanying the latest production by the company Theatre Rites called Rubbish. The set was a huge rubbish pile in which performers foraged and animated the objects they found.  Certain characters that evolved in the show, such as a sick seabird whose oil-slicked feathers where cleaned by performers, highlighted for the audience the devastating effects of environmental pollution and our responsibility to address it.  However noble as these efforts are, I felt the enrichment programme fell short of tackling the causes of environmental issues.  Instead it inferred a ‘fait accompli’ attitude and further reinforced this message in the post-show workshop that invited the audience to create their own puppets from recycled materials instead of questioning why we as consumers condone the production of so much waste in the first place.  Both presenters defended the creative decisions as a need to find positives in overwhelmingly complex socio-political issues, in support of parallel challenges to systemic failures by others such as environmental activists.

Kati Francis and Sasha Nemeckova outlined their recent tour of an inclusive sensory-immersive puppet production for children in India whilst also running workshops in SEN settings.  They confronted the notion in applied theatre that practitioners ought not to ‘parachute in with a show’ by bringing it to groups without prior consultation or participation in its development.   They offered a strong challenge; however, I would still have to question the intent behind aesthetic and narrative decisions with little or no reference to the artistic or moral culture to which they are being presented for the purposes of education.

The third presentation in the panel was made by Dream Theatre directors Frans Hakkemars and Joanne Oussoren. They partnered with the local council in a disadvantaged are of Rotterdam to provide an experience that would allow participants to forget the “grueling” circumstances of their lives and “develop language skills”.   Again, I had to query these objectives when presented by white westerners working in the privileged positions of arts production to an audience for whom the native tongue of that country that they are being encouraged to develop is not necessarily their first language nor does it honour in any way their culture of origin or how their lives have been negatively affected by the culture in which they now find themselves (ie. enforced poverty, disenfranchisement etc).

These three presentations provoked me to question the instances in which our participatory practice crosses the line into cultural colonialism. By this I mean we risk forgetting that the solutions derived from our experience informed by a value set appropriate to our cultural concerns may not necessarily be appropriate for others. Where does the political rhetoric that we have embraced because it is convenient to our privileged lifestyles gloss over the detached status we occupy and reinforce oppression and a drive to homogenity?  As practitioners, how can we demolish claims to authority in this regard and really recognize and engage with the issues on a grounded level?  Is it possible to do so and still retain funding which we know originates from sources with vested interests in waste management instead of waste irradication and the reinforcement of western ideology instead of genuine intercultural dialogue?  Those three presentations confronted us with representations of ‘the other’, embodied by the environment, the disabled and the disenfranchised.  In these performative formats they were being rescued and distracted – hardly a formula for emancipation.

Yet, while these arguments still rang in my head, I was confronted with the undeniable magic of theatre that does manage to lift the spirit, to inspire the soul and in some small measure, to improve our existence by suspending the problem of reality for a moment of beauty.  This experience was created through an interpretation of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis by The Little Angel Youth Theatre.  Performed with skill and careful craftsmanship, it was a delight to see the stage from which the presentations and problems emerged made to come alive with the sincere joy of creativity.  A post-show discussion with the young people (roughly 11-14 years of age) gave a lovely insight into the process and challenges endured and enjoyed by the participants.

Day 2: Puppetry in Healthcare workshop

The second day afforded me some opportunity to interrogate my own facilitation and co-production ethos with a merry crew of roughly 18 people who joined in a workshop on Puppetry in Healthcare settings; one of four running concurrently throughout the day at the Centre for Speech and Drama.  The participants came variously from backgrounds in performance, mental health and educational settings and brought rich and diverse content to our discussions on best practice in this field.

Taking a ‘learning by doing’ approach we got stuck into a 20-minute puppet making session after some initial introductory activities and discussion on my experience of working with Helium  in Ireland.  Twenty minutes is a relatively short time by most standards of puppetry workshops but it is a luxury compared to what I call ‘hospital time’ where circumstances can change minute to minute based on the health conditions, therapy schedules or availability of participants when they may have visitors. The workshop participants rose to the challenge masterfully and afterwards reflected on the merits of a short time limit as a way to subvert negative self-criticism or perfectionism.  In the event, the range, spontaneity and responsiveness of the participants to the materials provided enabled the production of some wonderful simple puppets that were easy to manipulate, an important factor for working with potentially fatigued patients.  It is also useful to note that the simpler the features of a puppet, the more universal the appeal and openness to interpretation it may have. This is understood by cartoonists, for example, as the most conducive way to facilitate identification with the character by even a diverse audience because they can project themselves more freely onto an non-complex representation.

With the puppets ready, we used some ‘puppet exercises’ to explore movement and encourage appropriate mobility for each participant and played a number of story games to develop characters and brainstorm potential narratives.  Then I described several rehearsal tools used in the Theatre of the Oppressed genre and on forming three groups, the participants developed rehearsal pieces based on their chosen technique.

The result were three incredibly diverse development pieces, each powerful and innovative in their own way and all created in a remarkably short space of time (hospital time!).  The final session of the day was a plenary that enabled us to share our outcomes and discoveries with the other three workshop groups.  Some pertinent questions that emerged for our group were:

How can we form alliances and continue to support radical practices in the face of funding cuts to the arts?

How can we demonstrate the legitimacy of work in this area without raising false expectations or prescribing beneficial outcomes such as seems to be demanded in the administrative forms of institutions and funding bodies?

How can we use our documentation to best communicate the merits of our processes to staff and administrators of health institutions who work in very different ways?

How can work in healthcare contexts address the greater project of social well-being without perpetuating normative interpretations of ‘health’ and a reformist attitude to what is perceived as ill health, especially in disability and mental health contexts?

How can we support those experiencing mental health conditions not to stigmatise themselves?

Personally, I am looking forward to exploring these and more at the next Hands On! Symposium hosted by the Little Angel Theatre and I would encourage all practitioners in this area to join in likewise. For more information about this event go to: or check out The Little Angel Theatre online for updates on forthcoming events.

Siobhán Clancy

This article is an opinion piece and the views represented do not necessarily reflect those of Helium Children’s Arts and Health

Helium welcomes new board member

Posted on: July 19th, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

We are delighted to announce that Annette Nugent has joined the board of Helium. Annette is a freelance Marketing and Communications Consultant, who specialises in the cultural sector. She was previously Head of Communications for Temple Bar Properties (now Temple Bar Cultural Trust) and also worked with Dublin Tourism. She is a member of Theatre Forum and AMA (UK), was Chairperson of Project Arts Centre (2008-2011) and is currently a member of the NCFA Fundraising Committee.

Annette is also a parent to two small boys, one of whom spent some time in Temple St Hospital, so is particularly interested in the needs of families of sick children in a hospital setting and how the arts can brighten everyone’s dark days in such environments.

Two Suitcases: the next phase

Posted on: June 27th, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

A new phase of Two Suitcases, Helium’s film and technology ensemble project for teens across Ireland living with chronic illness, kicks off this summer with a film screening and workshop day at the Digital Hub in Dublin on 26th July. Participants will meet to discuss script ideas for the next film week which will take place over the October 2013 mid-term break. In this phase, the script will be developed by participants online through Helium’s purpose-designed creative platform OAK (, Skype gatherings and the private Two Suitcases Facebook page. Participants will also have the opportunity to take part in online masterclasses with film professionals and artists during the summer.


Helium will launch the next phase of the Two Suitcases Project with a screening of short films made by participants on Friday, July 26th at the Digital Hub in Dublin.

Two Suitcases is based on the memoir of Ben Murnane, who was diagnosed with Fanconi anaemia, a rare genetic disease, in his childhood and underwent a bone marrow transplant at the age of sixteen. This award-winning film focuses on the role creativity played in Ben’s life during his teenage years.

Creepy tells the story of a possessed teddy bear with vengeance on his mind and the film will be accompanied by a behind-the-scenes documentary. Creepy is an original script by participants who developed the story and shot it over 5 days last October and edited it during post-productions sessions at the Digital Hub. This film introduced the online dimension to the project, with one of the participants helping to devise the script on OAK and taking part as an online actor on the production.

Check out the making of Creepy in the images below:


It has been a fantastic year for the project with the pilot film Two Suitcases winning Best Film at the 2012 Chaplin Film Festival (Under 18s) and 2012 First Cut! Youth Film Festival. The project was showcased in October 2012 at the Dublintellectual event, ‘Creative Entrepreneurialism and the Humanities’, as part of Innovation Dublin. In May, Ben Murnane attended the 2013 Ontario Fundraiser for Fanconi Canada in Ontario. Two Suitcases was shown to 400 people at this event and Ben spoke about his experiences of living with Fanconi anaemia, his memoir Two in a Million and what it was like filming his story with the young people on the project. Clips from the film were also shown during an interview with Ben on TV3’s Morning Show in February 2013.

You can learn more about previous phases of the Two Suitcases Project here and here, about the professional mentors on the project here, and about our online creative platform OAK here.

We are welcoming new participants on our 2013 film week. If you would like more information please email or phone Emma Eager on 086-3552789.

Two Suitcases 2013 is funded by the Arts Council and the Community Foundation for Ireland. We gratefully acknowledge the in-kind support of the Digital Hub Development Agency.

Cloudlands project – technology developments

Posted on: June 21st, 2013 by emmaeager No Comments

The artists from the Cloudlands project met up with one of our super technology duo, Fionnuala Conway, on Friday 7 June to talk about developing and trialing some new technology in the hospitals before the end of year 1 of the project. Their ideas were about transforming the space, surprising the young people and working together with patients to create interactive / sensored objects. We are in the process of developing different types of technology from light, sound and motion sensors, animated books, to UV sensitive materials.

Ideas include creating a hidden trail across the hospital that represents young people’s stories, clues are revealed with UV lights, choreographed movement and mirrors … who will take on the challenge of unveiling the entire story? Delving into a magical world, where the characters from stories come to life when you turn a page! And surprising other young people, hospital staff or parents when their movement triggers sensors and creatures come to life.

On Wednesday the 10th July in all three hospitals (Temple Street, Cork and Galway) the artists are going to be trying out their ideas and new technologies. We hope the day goes well and will be updating you on what happens later in July!