Teenagers in Temple Street transform the hospital into a game environment
‘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 patient, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital
On Tuesday 13th June, young people, their families and staff at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital took part in Temple of Treasures, an interactive game event designed by teen patients with artists Siobhan Clancy and Rachel Tynan and the hospital’s Play Department. Travelling between ‘parallel dimensions’ in the hospital, participants encountered unusual characters on their mission to recover stolen treasure. The game forms part of a specially-designed project for teenagers transitioning from child to adult hospital-based care.
Transition to adult health services can be a particularly challenging time for teenagers with chronic illnesses. In 2016, Helium Arts, the national children’s arts and health organisation, developed the Fireflies project for teenagers in hospital, to explore how art processes can provide a form of support and a creative outlet for young people preparing for or undergoing transition. A partnership with the new children’s hospital, the Fireflies project is currently taking place in Temple Street and teenagers from the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght will have an opportunity to take part from autumn 2017.
Artists in residence Siobhan Clancy and Rachel Tynan collaborate with teen patients by the bedside once a week over six months, to develop art projects based on the theme of transition. The teenagers have been experimenting with underwater filming, printmaking, light projections, animation, portraiture, game creation and prop production. Working alongside the dedicated team of play specialists from Temple Street’s Play Department and inspired by their patient-centred approach, the project puts the young person at the heart of the process.
‘This project made a huge difference to my day. It cheered me up and kept me busy which I loved.’ – Teen patient, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital
When it came to devising the Temple of Treasures, the creation of the game and the rules of engagement were placed in the hands of the teenagers, promoting their independence and decision-making skills in an environment in which they often have little control. The game is played with the ‘Firefly’ cube, a custom-made device with sensors that activates light and plays audio files when touched. In the mobile version, the cube navigates participants through the hospital where they meet performers playing different roles. The teenagers incorporated elements of their hospital experience into the game, with characters such as Nebula, inspired by the nebuliser used in treating asthma, and Dialysis, inspired by the haemo-dialysis machine used to filter blood. A bedside version of the game was also designed for patients whose mobility is limited.
By creating an interactive treasure trail within the architectural and social framework of a hospital, the artists aimed to offer young people the chance to explore creative way-finding skills that might resonate with their own journeys through change.
Rachel Tynan, Fireflies artist-in-residence at Temple Street, said: ‘Our “Fireflies” illuminated and guided the participant on a journey through the hospital. It’s really exciting to be able to reimagine the hospital environment as a space for adventure and play.’
Kelly Mulcahy is mum to Josh, aged 6, who took part in the game: ‘He loved meeting characters and the amulet to take home is lovely. This activity was great to get him out of bed. It captured his imagination in his love for quests and computer games. You made his day today; he’s still talking about it.’
Helene Hugel, Artistic Director of Helium Arts, said: ‘It was great to see everyone in the hospital getting involved and playing the game, including staff and parents. It demonstrates the real power of the arts to connect people and place and create a common experience and understanding through the stories and ideas that matter to the teenagers.’
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 visit www.helium.ie