Teenagers in hospital explore their creativity on Year 2 of the Fireflies Project

Teenagers in hospital transitioning to adult care have been exploring their creativity and building magical worlds on Year Two of Helium Arts’ Fireflies Project which concluded this July. The project took place at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital supported by the hospital’s Play Department. Other participating hospitals included the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght and Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore.

We take a look back at what the young people got up to with artists-in-residence Siobhan Clancy and Rachel Tynan and how the project supports the transition to adult care which can be challenging.

Temple of Treasures game event at Temple Street. Photo credit: Paul Gallagher.

Giving young people a voice and space to explore their identity
What would happen if the hospital was turned into a game environment? Siobhan worked with young participants in Temple Street who in turn collaborated with each other on developing an interactive game which incorporated elements of their experience. The teenagers reconsidered particular conditions or illnesses in a positive light. One teenager came up with the idea of having characters with special abilities and another teenager proposed that players could obtain their superpowers during the game by a magical alien jewel (below).

I enjoyed making the game. It made me enjoy art more because it took my mind off being sick.’ – Young participant

Promoting independence and decision-making skills
The game project was governed by rules devised by the young people themselves so they could explore first-hand what it means to create their own experience of an imaginative world and build skills transferable to the real world. By facilitating experiences in which they have increased agency, young people are supported to rehearse decision-making and communication strategies.

Artist in residence Siobhan Clancy wears the magical alien necklace

Communication skills
Taking part in the Fireflies project gave the teenagers something to talk to their caregivers about outside of their illness and treatment. For one young girl, creative interaction became an opportunity to talk about her move from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin to Temple Street, to process this change and discuss her anxieties around change. As artist Siobhan Clancy describes:

This participant felt like she was “starting all over again” in terms of getting to know staff. We talked about other changes she has experienced in her life and how she might represent these. We also talked about the thoughts of her future transition to an adult hospital which she described as “scary”. For her, the main anxiety about change was not knowing the people she would meet. I told her about my recent workshop with nurses. She thought that making a set of cards that hospital staff could be recognised from was a “nice idea” that would “help”.’

Discovery and reconnections
‘Into the unknown’ was how one teenager described the process of transitioning to adult care during a July workshop with teen outpatients attending the National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght. The teens created their own ‘stepping-stone’ artworks leading to a bridge. One participant said that the tiles created were like different chapters in her life. The workshop took place in partnership with the National Centre for Arts and Health, Tallaght and was led by Fireflies artist Rachel Tynan and Art Therapist, Aimee O’Neill.

Rachel also reconnected with participants from Helium’s Cloudlands project, which ran at Temple Street from 2012 to 2015. She visited the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore to work with Mary who has recently transitioned into adult care and has acted as an advisor on the Fireflies Project. She also collaborated on a day of art making and story building at The LAB Gallery with Lauren who will also soon be transitioning to adult care.

Artwork by Lauren and Rachel

Sharing the Work with Student Nurses
Siobhan Clancy facilitated a morning with 3rd Year UCD Nursing Students as part of their Arts & Health Module. The student nurses also contributed to the development of elements of the game project! Read more about the workshop here.

Temple of Treasures
It’s about a girl called Maya and an alien who took her treasure and she has to go and find it and there’s gonna be a cool box with audio and good clues. It’s gonna be so fun. I can’t wait.’ – Teen participant, Temple Street

The game project developed with young people throughout the year with artists Siobhan Clancy and Rachel Tynan culminated with the Temple of Treasures event at Temple Street in June.

The characters that the young people developed were brought to life by performers and the game was played with the ‘Firefly’ cube, a custom-made device with sensors that activates light and plays audio files when touched. Find out what went on here.

Temple of Treasures game event at Temple Street

Sunshine’s Story
Sunshine* is a young girl who took part in the project at Temple Street. She is going through haemodialysis while she waits for a kidney transplant and spends a lot of time at the hospital. The dialysis can involve long, isolating sessions several times a week where Sunshine has to sit and wait for the process to finish. But taking part in Fireflies, Sunshine was able to use this time to be creative. Over several months working with Siobhan, Sunshine made prints, experimented with syringe paintings (below) and helped to develop the interactive game.
[*Not her real name]

Syringe painting by Sunshine and Siobhan

Acknowledgements
The Fireflies Project has received three-year funding from the BNP Paribas Foundation through the ‘Dream Up Programme’ with additional funding from the Arts Council, Dublin City Council, HSE Lottery funds and other sources.

For further information please visit www.helium.ie/tag/fireflies-project/