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

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, 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.

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Helium Arts is a registered charity and compliant with the requirements of the Charities Regulator, the national regulatory authority for charities in Ireland


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