Personal contributions for the project ranged from a huge variety of people, all affected by all different cancer types, including brain tumours.
Helena explains the inspiration: “The book was made with support from James McNaught and his charity Cancer On Board. The idea for Cancer On Board started as a joke in the chemotherapy ward about not getting a seat on the tube and is now an established charity.
“Because my book is about open conversation and James’ badge encouraged this too, I decided to use their symbol to create a portrait of each person involved. These portraits are paired with each person’s story.”
Since being awarded a First Class Honours in July, the highest the world-renowned arts and design college can give, Helena launched a Kickstarter funding campaign this month to publish the project as a book.
Godalming-based Helena, 22, said: “I have been working on this project for nine months now. The initial aim was to promote open discussion and to normalise the cancer conversation by narrating other people’s stories.
“I started by evaluating existing narratives (for example Macmillan adverts, podcasts and books) and deciding whether they were honest or not. This then fed into creating my own stories.”
Opening the discussion
The motivation behind Helena’s 100 Stories project was also based on personal experience: her father has had a brain tumour for almost 19 years, since Helena was just three years old.
The aim of her project was to use design as a form of cathartic practice and to promote open discussion by narrating other people’s stories.
The people in this book include anyone who has had, has or has been affected by cancer, with several being our supporters.
Those featured include Martino Sclavi, Russell Brand’s best friend, who was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma, an extremely aggressive cancerous brain tumour, in 2011 aged just 38.
Martino has since undergone several brain surgeries and written his own acclaimed book about his experience, The Finch In My Brain.
Of the 100 Stories project, Martino said: "Meeting Helena, as a young and excited director, was wonderful for me. For me, as a film producer with a big hole in my head, it’s often difficult to narrate effectively for interviews and conversations but our meeting threw a new light on brain tumours for us patients.
“Helena was very curious of my attitude for this ’strange’ reality I find myself in and as she pulled out her camera to interview me we began to talk about my positive attitude towards my new life with holes in my brain.
“Then, after a few months, she sent me her film and it truly blew me away. There is no question technically and emotionally about the creativity of her unique style of filming. I most definitely want to see much more."
Embracing the project
Originally the work was created for Helena’s final major project at Central Saint Martins, where she received a First Class Honours in Graphic Communication Design this summer.
Helena said: “The hardest part was plucking up the initial courage to start the project in the first place. We were told to have an idea for a final major project which we were really interested in, something we could sustain for six months.
“My most memorable projects included a film about epilepsy and two short films about ADHD. Both illnesses directly affected me and by creating art projects, I learnt about them and the process then became cathartic – it was very good for my mental health!
“So I thought, why not tackle the scary big-C, the illness that now effects 1 in 2 people. My father has two brain tumours, which are cancerous and during my final weeks of university, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Initially I thought the subject would be quite morbid, reading through over 100 stories surrounding the themes of death and illness. But the feedback was always very positive.
“I think by including people in an artistic way, opens up a whole other idea of open discussion.
Up to this point Helena has been creating the book solely out of her own pocket and is now faced with the mammoth task of self-publishing. She initially aimed to raise £8,400 to cover the minimum order requirement of 500 books.
The 28-day Kickstarter campaign has already passed this after just two weeks. Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform, so Helena needed to reach this in order for the project to go ahead.
“100 Stories is for anyone who has been affected by cancer, whether your loved one has just been diagnosed, or yourself.
“These stories are honest accounts of how people have dealt with cancer through open conversation and social media.”