Posts Tagged ‘arts + health’

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.

Rachel Tynan – Cloudlands Artist at Work in Temple Street Children’s University Hospital

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

Rachel Tynan travels the long corridors of Temple Street Children’s University Hospital with an iPad and a blue suitcase. In the suitcase are the makings of a thousand stories: art materials including plasticine, wire, pens, pencils, paint, glue, paper, fabric, balloons, needles, thread, and cotton wool offered one day by a nurse. In the case, a variety of colourful boxes can also be found which contain objects to inspire conversation. One day a week, Rachel visits teenagers who are on an extended stay in hospital, providing them with a creative outlet to voice their stories, thoughts, and imaginative ideas.

Rachel has been working throughout the hospital including the dialysis unit, where patients can be restricted for up to four hours on a dialysis machine. When Rachel first meets a patient she asks them to choose one of the conversational boxes. Each box contains a different object which can inspire the patient to begin their story: a burnt map, a blue feather, a long balloon, a bird x-ray. Once the teenager begins their story, Rachel joins the story-making journey, ready to improvise with art materials, hospital furniture, and imaging technology.

Rachel explains: ‘Each teenager has their own story to tell and each one is unique. There is no way of knowing what we’re going to be doing during the day. This is the exciting part of the project. The magical moment is when we start talking about a possible story and the teenager and I have different ideas that we can evaluate and express together. It also means that I don’t know what I’m going to need so my suitcase is like a bottomless bag which usually explodes into life as each session gets under way. Trying to get everything back into it isn’t easy. I enlisted the help of one child to sit on it while I zipped it up!

Rachel finds there are recurring themes of flight in the teenagers’ stories; an angel that flies at night-time, a flying horse, a phoenix. The teenagers have the opportunity to first tell their story, then make the characters using sculpture, drawing, or puppetry techniques, and finally bring the story to life by making an animated film, which they can bring home on a DVD. The young people will soon be able to share photos of their work and their stories with teenagers in Cork and Galway University Hospitals through an online forum developed by Helium. Response from the teens is positive. One 15 year old patient described the project as ‘limitless’, a place where he could do anything. Hospital staff are very supportive and have remarked on the importance of a project which focuses specifically on teenagers in hospital, as they have few activities for this age group.

Rachel Tynan graduated from the National College of Art and Design (BA Art and Design Education) in 2009. In 2012, she completed her Masters in Design, specialising in textiles and examining the psychological, physical and emotional effects illness has on the human body through textile, sculpture and body art. Find out more about Rachel’s Art Practice here:

Cloudlands Dublin is produced by Helium Arts and has been funded through the BNP Paribas Foundation Smart Start Programme. Cloudlands Dublin is taking place at Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin and is further supported by the Arts Council, The Ireland Funds, Dublin City Council and HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster.

“Two Suitcases”: Mid-term film week mentors

Posted on: October 24th, 2012 by emmaeager 1 Comment

The second phase of the Two Suitcases Project – in which teenagers living with chronic illnesses make their own films and animations in collaboration with professional artists – gets under way over the October mid-term break. The following artists and filmmakers will be mentoring the teenagers, led by collaborative artist Siobhán Clancy:

Siobhán Clancy’s practice explores models of socialization that impact on individual wellbeing in contexts of health, disability, education and young people. Outcomes are disseminated online, presented as performance and/or embedded in event-based programmes to facilitate active engagement of the audience. In the past, her work has been supported through the AIC Scheme by The Arts Council and managed by Create (2009) and also by Dublin City Council Arts Act Grant (2010). She has been awarded residencies with ‘Art at Work’ (2010), Helium Children’s Arts and Health (2009-2011) and Disposable Film Festival, USA (2012). Clancy is currently studying an MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at NUIM. See also

Alan Brennan graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2000 with a BSc in Media Arts. His graduation film, The Uncorruptibles, was screened at several festivals and has been highly commended. His independent short film Ball received a special commendation at the Kerry Film Festival 2001. In 2004, he graduated from the National Film School with a Masters in Scriptwriting. In 2008, he wrote and directed the Irish Film Board-funded short film Shapes, which has played at film festivals around the globe to great acclaim and was recently acquired for broadcast by HBO and Channel 4. His debut feature film Earthbound won Best First Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2012 and will be in Irish cinemas early in 2013. Alan is currently living in Wexford with his wife and two sons.

Sandra Butler is one of Ireland’s leading scenic artists with seventeen years experience within theatre, television and coporate environments. Her recent work includes engagements as head scenic artist on the 2012 Wexford Festival Opera production of L’Arlesiana, RTE’s The Works and DruidMurphy. She has collaborated with numerous theatre companies, including Druid, the Abbey Theatre, Rough Magic, Fishamble and Landmark Productions. Sandra was engaged as a mentor on the first phase of the Two Suitcases Project in February 2012, facilitating art direction.

Ben Murnane is a writer and editor, and currently a PhD student at the School of English, Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of three books, all published by A & A Farmar: Two in a Million, a memoir of life with a rare genetic disease, Fanconi anaemia; Dublin on a Shoestring (with Katherine Farmar), a guidebook; and Feather Silence, a collection of poetry. He has written for several newspapers – including the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Daily Mail – and RTÉ Radio. He is also writer and presenter, with Katherine Farmar, of the online video series Dublin: The Local Way, and writer/director, with Emma Eager, of the short film Two Suitcases, which won awards at the 2012 Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival and the 2012 First Cut! Youth Film Festival.

Anna Rodgers is a documentary director and producer who over the past 12 years has received numerous awards and critical recognition for her work. She specialises in working on sensitive subjects and social issues, as well as music and culture. Anna’s recent work includes: Lonergan’s School Principles, a documentary for RTE focusing on the issue of early school leaving with former Mountjoy Prison governor John Lonergan; MND: The Inside Track which brought the audience on a quest for a cure for motor neurone disease with the much loved sports broadcaster Colm Murray, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2010; and No Laughing Matter, a documentary on breast cancer with Anne Gildea.

Zachary Griner has done two things since he was young. The first was to spend the summer of his 13th birthday mowing lawns to buy his first camcorder to make skate videos. Second was to volunteer his time at a foster care home giving Christmas presents and spending time with kids since he was 11. He brings a positive and fun environment into his love of filmmaking and his dedication to working and teaching others. Zachary believes that with a smile and a bit of passion, the world can be a fantastic place. Zachary was a mentor on the first phase of the Two Suitcases Project, facilitating storyboard construction, camera operation and lighting.

Youth support during the film week will be facilitated by Linda Hederman:

Linda Hederman is an art therapist with experience working with various client groups. These client groups include both children and adults with special needs, the visually impaired and school goers of all ages in disadvantaged areas. She previously worked as an interior designer. She then took a three year career break to sail around the world. Upon her return she decided to retrain to work with people in a therapeutic way. She has also worked in the art department including on the film The Commitments. She is an artist producing mainly collage work with a particular interest in text.

Two Suitcases Project: Free Mid-Term Film Week for Teenagers Living with Chronic Illness

Posted on: July 30th, 2012 by emmaeager 2 Comments

Helium has been awarded an Arts Council Young Ensembles Scheme grant to hold a film week during the mid-term break (Oct 30th-Nov 2nd) in which teenagers living with chronic illness will collaborate with professional filmmakers to develop their filmmaking and animation skills. This film week is free for all participants and is being developed as part of Helium’s Two Suitcases Project . We are delighted to announce that the Digital Hub Development Agency will be partnering with Helium on the project.

The Two Suitcases film week will be facilitated by collaborative artist Siobhán Clancy, filmmakers Anna Rodgers (MND: The Inside Track, No Laughing Matter) & Alan Brennan (Earthbound), scenic artist Sandra Butler, and writer Ben Murnane. Participants will have the opportunity to develop and make their own short films, and take part in workshops in the following areas: scriptwriting, storyboarding, camera operation, directing, animation, set design, and editing.

This project will facilitate online participation for teenagers who are unable to attend the film week in person through different virtual platforms. Helium is also developing a private creative webspace where teenagers can upload artwork and script ideas, join discussion groups, and post blog entries.

Teenagers living with chronic illness are invited to take part in a film-making workshop at the Digital Hub in Dublin on September 26th – if you enjoy the workshop you can then join the project! This workshop invites teenagers who can’t take part in person to join the session online.

Film-making workshop
Venue: The Learning Studio, The Digital Hub Development Agency, The Digital Exchange Building, Crane Street, Dublin 8
When: Wednesday 26th September 2012
Time: 3-5.30 pm

Workshop registration and information: email project co-ordinator Emma Eager

The images below are from our first film week in February in which the teenagers filmed Ben Murnane’s inspiring story. You can learn all about it here. Update: “Two Suitcases” wins Best Film Under 18s category at the 2012 Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival.

The Two Suitcases project has been funded by the Arts Council Young Ensembles Scheme. The project is being produced by Helium in partnership with the Digital Hub Development Agency and in association with the SWICN Computer Clubhouse. Helium gratefully acknowledges the support of Children in Hospital Ireland and patient support groups. Helium wishes to thank the Vodafone Ireland Foundation for their in-kind sponsorship.

Artist Mentoring Programme at Barretstown Camp

Posted on: July 30th, 2012 by emmaeager 2 Comments

Helium has been partnering Kildare County Council Arts Office to provide training, mentoring and support to fourteen artists engaged in an exciting programme at Barretstown Camp. In the spring, artists joined activity leaders at Barretstown to learn about their model of working with children with serious illnesses and their families. These artists have been invited to develop their own participatory arts projects during the Summer and Autumn Camps. To coincide with this opportunity, Helium has come on board for three training days, to assist artists to reflect on this learning experience; facilitating peer-learning, training and mentoring.

At the first training day in March, the Barretstown model was introduced and puppeteer Helene Hugel and artist Susan Boyle shared their perspectives on working with children in health contexts. The latter part of the day concentrated on different types of documentation and reflective practice techniques. The second training day, led by Niamh O’Connor, took place in May. The emphasis here was on deepening the peer learning experience and focusing on proposal making for collaborative participatory art projects with mentoring available during the summer period. The final training day will take place in November.

Founded by Paul Newman, Barretstown is a specially-designed camp that provides Therapeutic Recreation programmes for children with serious illnesses, and their families. Activities include visual arts, drama, music and photography.

Creative Voices: film, drama and writing workshops for teenagers living with chronic illness

Posted on: May 15th, 2012 by emmaeager No Comments

Are you interested in filmmaking or acting?

Would you like to tell stories in a unique and imaginative way?

Creative workshops for teenagers living with chronic illness will take place in Dublin on June 26th and June 29th, facilitated by artists Emma Eager and Ben Murnane, in association with Helium Children’s Arts & Health and the Digital Hub Development Agency.

These workshops are aimed at teenagers who are interested in exploring their creativity through filmmaking, acting, writing or art. Participants will have the opportunity to take part in theatre games and creative writing sessions, to film small scenes and to try out animation software and drawing tablet apps.

The workshops are free and if you have any short stories, poems, scripts or artwork you would like to share you are welcome to bring them with you. If you can’t make it in person but would like to take part you can join us online via Skype to share your creative ideas.

Where: The Learning Studio, Digital Hub Development Agency, The Digital Exchange Building, Crane Street, Dublin 8 [download directions here]
When: 26th June & 29th June 2012
(Specify which day suits you best.)
Time: 2-5 pm
Contact: Emma Eager at for more information and to register for one of the workshop days

If you enjoy the workshop day and you are keen to develop your filmmaking and animation skills, do some acting or turn your creative writing into a short movie, we aim to hold a film week in August where you will get the chance to collaborate with professional filmmakers and artists.

Emma and Ben teamed up with teenagers in February to make a short film based on Ben’s memoir, Two in a Million, about his teenage experiences of living with the rare genetic disease, Fanconi anaemia. Ben’s film will be screened at the workshops and you can learn more about the film, watch a trailer and view behind-the-scenes photos here

Emma Eager has been funded by the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community Scheme managed by Create – the national development agency for collaborative arts, and is kindly supported by Children in Hospital Ireland. Emma studied film and broadcasting at DIT and English literature at Trinity College, Dublin. She works with Helium on communications for various projects. Ben Murnane studied theatre and English at TCD; he has published three books, including his memoir and a collection of poetry, and written for newspapers and radio.

Two Suitcases Project: A creative voice for teenagers living with chronic illness

Posted on: May 15th, 2012 by emmaeager 4 Comments

The Two Suitcases Project is a film & technology project which supports the creativity of teenagers living with chronic illnesses through the development of filmmaking skills. Teenagers have the opportunity to film their own stories or take on acting/production roles in the films of their peers. The project supports the creative potential of teens who are unable to participate in person through virtual collaboration with professional filmmakers and artists. In the pilot phase, the writer Ben Murnane made a short film about his experiences of living with Fanconi anaemia & the importance of creativity during his teenage years. Young people with chronic illnesses took on camera, animation, editing, art department and acting roles. We would like to thank them for the super ideas they brought to the film and the fun they brought to the set. Check out the trailer for Ben’s film below:

In February, Ben Murnane filmed his story, Two Suitcases, which we decided was a great name for the whole project. This short film is based on Ben Murnane’s memoir, Two in a Million , a beautifully written and warm account of Ben’s experiences of living with a rare genetic disorder. Ben was diagnosed with Fanconi anaemia at the age of 9 and at the age of 16 he was the first person in Ireland to receive a new type of bone marrow transplant. The title of the film comes from an old hospital saying that the nurses used to tell Ben: ‘When you go into hospital, you take two suitcases with you – one to carry your clothes, and another to pack away your dignity.’

Creativity has played a vital role throughout Ben’s life and we were keen to bring his trademark humour to the making of the film. As a child he loved superheroes and at the age of 10 he wrote and starred in ‘Superman and Supergirl’, which his father filmed and then accidentally recorded over with his sister’s ballet. In his early teens he wrote and filmed his own episode of Father Ted, the highlights of which appear in Two Suitcases. At the end of primary school Ben set up the Nottwel Club and began bringing out a monthly magazine, The Fush Monthly, with contributing articles from friends and family. The magazine was later revived as Totally Fushed in 2000 and Ben talks of the importance of his mag in his memoir: ‘I’d needed my mag through the years. Without it, I would never have known where to turn for comfort. In the summer of ’02, I wrote the first short story based on my transplant for TF… Writing about my life had become an essential part of living it. I now knew that, whatever career path I took, I would want it to leave room for my writing.’

Check out the behind-the-scenes photographs:

Photographs by Helene Hugel, Scott Anthony Kelly, Zachary Griner and Emma Eager

Read an article about the Two Suitcases Project from “Hot Press” magazine

The pilot phase of the Two Suitcases Project was produced by Helium Children’s Arts and Health in association with We would like to acknowledge the Vodafone Ireland Foundation for sponsoring the iPhones that were used to film “Two Suitcases” and the In-kind support of the DIT Student’s Union and DIT School of Media for providing the venue for this event. The making of “Two Suitcases” would not have been possible without the support and mentorship of professional filmmakers, artists and DIT film students who volunteered their time to make it happen.

Creative Connections: learn all about what happened at our seminar and workshop exploring arts, health, and early years

Posted on: April 20th, 2012 by emmaeager No Comments

Creative Connections, a 2-day professional development programme in the area of arts, health & early years (arts for babies/toddlers and their parents) was held at the end of March, with a very exciting line-up of speakers and artists from around Europe contributing.

Ruth Churchill Dower, Director of Earlyarts UK, and Catherine Maguire, President of the Irish Association for Infant Mental Health, spoke at the seminar.

Artists’ workshops were presented by Kate Wilson (Visual Artist, Ireland), Hannah Lefeuvre (Community Dance Artist, UK), Anna Rosenfelder (Children´s Theatre Artist, Facilitator, Germany) and Ger Relph (Musician, Ireland)

Creative Connections was hosted by Helium in association with Westmeath County Council Arts Office, with support from the Arts Council. Helium would like to gratefully acknowledge Mullingar Arts Centre for providing a venue for part of this event.

A PDF of key points from discussion between Ruth and Catherine, who reflected on their observation of the morning’s workshops with parents and babies/toddlers

Catherine Maguire’s presentation will be made available to download in early May.

Feedback from participants after Artists’ Workshop at Creative Connections
Artists were asked to share something that they would take away from the workshop:
• It was great to learn how early children start to absorb and react to the activities around
• The importance of providing bonding experiences for parents and children.
• Fantastic Experience! Thank you so much!
• Stimulating, with inspiring workable ideas on many levels.
• Process more important than product. Concept – setup and clean up become part of
interaction. Focussed space!
• The atmosphere today has been so inspiring! I hope I can take a little of this to my own
workshop spaces. Thank you!
• Giving children space to be creative, use of storytelling, and the importance of sensory

Creative Connections: Workshop with children and their parents

Photographs by Niamh O’Connor

Stories and Music for Children in Hospital Talk and workshop on a collaborative approach with storyteller Fiona Dowling and musician Caoimhe Conlon

Posted on: January 30th, 2012 by emmaeager No Comments

Continuous professional development talk and workshop for musicians and storytellers with storyteller Fiona Dowling and musician Caoimhe Conlon

Date: Saturday 3rd March 2012

Time: 2 – 5pm

Cost: €20 euro (includes resources)

Location: WHAT Centre for Arts & Health, Waterford Regional Hospital

Helium in partnership with Waterford Healing Arts Trust presents a continuous professional development talk and workshop by artists Caoimhe Conlon (Musician) of Music Alive and Fiona Dowling (Storyteller) at the WHAT Centre for Arts & Health, Waterford Regional Hospital.

This workshop is open to musicians and storytellers with some experience in participatory and/or collaborative arts practice, preferably with children and young people and/or in arts and health.

Caoimhe and Fiona will be talking about their recent 6 month collaboration together on the Scales and Tales project in Cork University Hospital and reflecting on their learnings and methods.

The talk will be followed by a practical workshop based on their devised, collaborative approach.

Deadline for all applications is 5pm on Thursday, 16th February 2012.

To download an application form please see:

For further information please contact Waterford Healing Arts Trust: E: T: 051 842664

Successful applicants will be notified by Monday, 20th February 2012.

Participatory arts and technology project with teenagers in hospital

Posted on: January 10th, 2012 by emmaeager No Comments

Helium’s Artist in Residence programme is moving into a new phase in 2012, with an arts and technology project aimed specifically at teenagers in hospitals with chronic illnesses who are in isolation or who are otherwise unable to have normal interactions with their peers in hospital. Helium is currently working on the preliminary research phase of this project in partnership with The School of Nursing and Human Sciences, Dublin City University; The Centre for Health Informatics, Trinity College Dublin; and The School of Nursing and Midwifery, University College Cork. The partners will submit a systematic review of the literature for publication in February 2012.

During this initial phase, Helium will host a series of innovation workshops with artists to develop prototypes for a multimedia intervention. The systematic review and prototyping will feed into a pilot consultation with teenagers living with chronic illness in spring 2012. The aim of this consultation will be to learn how their needs could be met creatively and to gauge their reactions to the prototype interventions presented by the artists on the day. This consultation with the teenagers will feed into the next stage of the intervention’s development and the project will pilot in hospitals in autumn 2012. In conjunction with the arts and technology programme, Helium will be producing a short film project giving a creative voice to teenagers with experience of long-term or recurring hospitalisation.