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Helium’s teen adventure arts camp for young people living with long-term medical conditions, part of the Cork Creative Health Hub programme, began with a series of workshops meeting one Saturday afternoon a month in April, May, and June and culminated in a four day non-residential arts camp in June.

Participants rehearsing in the vocal booth at Rebel Recording. Photo by Siobhán Clancy

The programme was facilitated by artist Siobhán Clancy, who was assisted by a team of creative volunteers. The first workshop took place at Rebel Recording Studio and was co-facilitated by sound engineer Eoin Hayes.

Participants listening to work in progress with sound engineer Eoin Hayes at Rebel Recording Studio. Photo by Marcin Lewandowski

Participants chose an animation and worked together on all the elements of sound design: soundtrack, voice over and foley art. It was a really fun way not only to get to know each other but also to find out new things about their own abilities, to support each other’s creativity and spontaneity and to try something completely different. With Eoin’s guidance, an electronic soundtrack was produced with studio synths overlaid with vocals recorded in the purpose-built vocal booth. Everyone worked hard and got on incredibly well. The group even managed to take some time to record a cover of Hakuna Matata for a second animation for fun, only running a little over time. At the end of the workshop,  parents were invited to view the playback of the experiment, one of which was so impressed by the confident way her daughter was talking about their collaborative process that she turned to artist Siobhan and said ‘Is this my daughter?!’ 

Participants with their first test set of sprayed stencils. Photo by Siobhan Clancy

The second workshop was held at The Glen Resource Centre which provided access to fantastic outdoor facilities for adventure and creativity in a natural environment. The participants fulfilled a number of creative team challenges, one of which culminated in the design of a set of unique tattoos. Participants were also given the opportunity to decide what they wanted to do in the upcoming arts camp. From a list of approximately 20 options, they chose ‘music video production’, ‘fire skills’ and ‘festival design’. They also highlighted that they wanted to work towards the creation of a youth-friendly, drop-in space. With that in mind, they came up with the idea of hosting a council at the beginning of each day at camp where they would decide what was to be done for the day and how. The wheels were in motion at this point for a truly youth-led, youth-centred experience. 

Line drawing for temporary tattoo print based on shape outlines.

The third and final workshop took place at Sample Studios. This is a popular member-led artist studio building whose aim is to support professional development for contemporary arts practitioners at our premises in Cork city. By accommodating the workshop here, the artist members kindly showed support for our group of creatives-in-the-making. The industrial location and the flexibility of the creative space was ideal for our experimentation with video recording techniques and two short pieces were produced by the participants who were growing in number at this stage.

Camp participants and facilitators holding their festival banner. Photo by Marcin Lewandowski


Over the course of the four day camp, a group of five participants from the workshops, came together at Mayfield Arts centre. the group developed a sense of comradery and worked really well as a creative team. Siobhan was assisted by volunteers Lousie, Maeve, and Franka who brought their own creative expertise with them, sharing activities with the group such as ‘Bubbletime’ in which giddy participants are invited to take some time out and literally blow bubbles as a means of centring themselves through grounding breath, and ‘Ninjas’, a movement game that encourages focus, which was so popular participants even played it on their own at lunchtime. The team was also assisted by artist Ciara Harrison, whose textile-based art was a huge asset and contributed to some of the creations participants were most proud of. Medical support was provided by Marcin and Simon, who provided a high level of health supervision so the rest of the team could concentrate on getting as creative as possible.

Participants and facilitators during a game of ‘Ninjas’. Photo by Siobhán Clancy

A typical day began with an ice-breaker or warm up creative activity followed by a check in facilitated at ‘Council’ which was led by the youth participants and set the plan for the day.

Morning Council in session. Photo by Siobhán Clancy

The first day featured discussions on wellbeing and a moving debate where the participants got to express their opinions on misconceptions related to health and stigma. Everyone got a taste of stencil making, graffiti art and live vjing. As ideas for festival designs to feature at our upcoming showcase developed, a very important question was raised: instead of making an event look like a festival, why not just have a festival?! This exciting proposal drew with it a ton of amazing ideas that centred on young people gathering to have fun together and celebrate their creativity as an antidote to the negativity affecting youth in the world.

‘Evan’s Grub Hub’ and other festival ideas. Photo by Siobhán Clancy

Over the coming days, participants examined where some of that negativity came from and the sources were vast and varied: anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, racism, sexism, homophobia etc etc etc. The proposed ways of addressing this included building a ‘Break the Hate’ wall which is ceremoniously burned, setting up a food stall that caters to all dietary requirements, a First Aid workshop as well as colour wars, water fights, action painting, VJing, body art, star gazing and songs around a campfire.  Stay tuned for updates on this exciting proposal!

Outlining Troubles and Remedies Stage 2: Notes from discussion. Photo by Marcin Lewandowski

In between the serious conversations, they had loads of fun producing a collection of colourful and strange video clips for a visual archive to be mixed later in live VJ sessions. 

Action Painting for Camera.

These included filling balloons with glitter and bursting them over the camera, throwing paint bombs at screens, squirting fabric banners with colour dyes and lighting fires. Yes fires!

Timmy ignites sparks. Photo by Siobhán Clancy

One morning, with the expertise of forest school facilitator Niamh Geoghegan from, participants learned how to safely ignite and extinguish fires and use them to make their own willow charcoal for artistic purposes. The product of their efforts were used to sketch some possible designs for the future festival branding and decorate themselves in their own fire ritual.

Participants use freshly made charcoal from our fire. Photo by Siobhán Clancy

While all the processes were supervised throughout, the safety information and the tools were in the hands of the young people so they were in control of the pace, the duration and the method of their usage. They each rose to the challenge of taking on the associated responsibilities and yet maintained their inquisitiveness and imagination around the processes, constantly inventing new, unusual and fun ways to complete tasks and further expand their creativity. The processes were supplemented by other ways of exercising responsibility like discussions on serious topics, group decision-making around the plan for each day and making sure that every voice is heard at council. As their confidence grew, they relaxed with one another and initiated chats about their health experiences.. In these conversations they gave each other tips, complained about long waiting times for appointments and swapped in-jokes.

Participants pose in projection. Photo by Marcin Lewandowski

By the final day, the energy that led to occasional ‘messing’ (the young people’s own words) on previous days was now being channelled more consciously into the creative process. As the bonds grew between the group, so did self confidence and the willingness to work together, support and encourage each other to try things that are really, really hard like pick a chord out of nowhere and pull it into a song, put your thoughts into lyrics, sing the song for the first time and let everyone hear you, mix a set of random visuals that you feel will go with a track you have only just created, spray a stencil perfectly first time because you only have that one chance to get it right and you’re being video recorded.Every one of these young people took a leap of faith into this programme, a programme which has thanks to them, become a launchpad for bigger hopes and better projects in the future.

Participants work out some chords. Photo by Marcin Lewandowski

Helium’s Cork Creative Health Hub is funded by Creative Ireland’s “National Creativity Fund” and the Community Foundation for Ireland in 2019 and is taking place in partnership with Cork University Hospital’s Arts, Health and Wellbeing Programme. Our venue partners are the Crawford Art Gallery, Mayfield Arts Centre and Bishopstown Library. 

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