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Story Dress debuts at a Dublin Children’s Hospital

Story Dress, Helium’s storytelling and technology performance project for children in hospital debuted in April 2013 at a children’s hospital in Dublin. The project revolves around a uniquely designed interactive storytelling dress which has in-built lighting effects and an embedded soundscape, activating music and sound effects as artists Eléonore Nicolas and Fiona Dowling tell children stories on the wards.

Eléonore in the story dress before heading to the children’s wards

Artist Eléonore Nicolas describes the effect the storytelling dress had on children, families and staff when she first arrived on the wards in April:

Everybody in the hospital stopped in their tracks to look at the dress. All the kids who heard the song got out of their beds and popped their head out of the door to see the dress and hear the sounds. It’s a brilliant way to get the audience’s attention and start a story, which is exactly why this project happened in the first place!!

The music made by Christophe Le Pu, which played every time I was in the corridor, before and after a story, helped to get the attention for sure. It even helped the magic to continue after a story was finished as a 3 year old girl told the nurse « I can still hear the magic girl » after I had walked around the corridor.

Not only did people stop, they also watched. Story time is often the moment for parents to make a phone call or get a cup of tea, but last Saturday, I could see intrigued parents staying to watch what was going to happen and so did the staff.

There was one particular time when I was telling a story about a little boy watering a plant. Everytime he pours water on the plant I activated the sound of water pouring from my dress. This sound is so sharp and crisp, as well as being beautiful and unexpected, that the whole room would stop to listen to the story. It is one of those moments when you feel that time has stopped, not just for the storyteller but for everyone in the room.

The dress was so popular that parents brought their child to see me and take photographs. Children were approaching me for a story instead of me going to them.


There was a little girl who saw me from the window and really wanted to find out more about the dress. I stood in front of her and played with the dress by triggering buttons for animal sounds and wondering with her where all these sounds could be coming from. The little girl could not speak but she gave me a huge big smile and that was worth more than a thousand words!


After a while, I started to feel more and more comfortable in the dress and played more with it. At some point, I asked a little boy to press the top of my hat. The sound of when Tinkerbell does a trick was triggered, I swirled 3 times and said that I just turned into a storyteller who came especially to tell him a story.


The first time with the storydress in the hospital felt like we had reached for the moon and landed right on it!

Story cubes


The artists not only want to create a memorable experience for children in hospital, they also want to encourage children’s creativity after their visit is finished. With this in mind, Eléonore and Fiona have devised storytelling cube props which are left with the children enabling them to invent entirely new stories in their own time.

Story Dress will continue as a rolling one-year hospital residency. You can follow the development of the Story Dress project @


Story Dress was made possible by the following people: artists Eléonore Nicolas and Fiona Dowling, dressmaker and design consultant Caitriona Ni Threasaigh, music and digital artists Mark Linnane & Fionnuala Conway. Story Dress went from dream to reality thanks to the wonderful people who funded it through the Helium Fund:It campaign.

Story Dress is currently supported by the Arts Council.

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