Sunderland film crew to document work of floating hospital ship

Grace (CGA10025) on the dockside with Iona Cairncross. Photo Credit: Michelle Murrey.
Grace (CGA10025) on the dockside with Iona Cairncross. Photo Credit: Michelle Murrey.
Have your say

A SUNDERLAND production company is opening a window into the world of a floating hospital ship.

MCC Media’s episode for award-winning documentary series My Life will follow the story of Grace, 17, as she has a rugby ball-sized tumour removed aboard the life-saving ship which is moored off Pointe-Noire, in the Republic of Congo.

The programme highlights the Congolese teenager’s burgeoning friendship with Iona Cairncross, 15, a North East girl who lives aboard the ship with her parents who are volunteers.

Grace and Iona don’t speak the same language but, somehow, they manage to find a way to overcome the barriers and become friends as Grace waits to find out if the doctors can save her life.

The emotional show was filmed by MCC Media who travelled from their offices in St Peter’s Gate to West Africa after being commissioned by CBBC to make the programme.

Paul McCoy, from Whitburn, directed and produced the episode.

He said: “The documentary is about the formation of friendships in difficult circumstances and what happens when two worlds collide.

“The documentary series as a whole follows the lives of children and our episode looks at the children who live aboard these ships, whose parents may be doctors, surgeons or cooks.

“We’d been filming for two days when Grace came aboard and it was really interesting to be able to follow her progress from pre-op to the results of the op.

“Iona was paired with her as part of a buddy system as it can be strange for the patients coming into this foreign, state-of-the-art environment.”

Paul, editor Dave Mordey and their camera crew spent 10 days in September aboard the Africa Mercy, a former ferry which was converted into a huge floating hospital at a South Tyneside shipyard in order to bring vital medical aid to some of the poorest people on the planet.

Paul added: “This was a fantastic experience for everyone who worked on the film. It was a great story that just had to be told.”

With help from Gateshead-based creative development agency Northern Film & Media, MCC made a taster tape for the episode in Tenerife, which won them the commission from CBBC.

My Life returns to CBBC with seven new thirty minute films, following the lives of children with unusual personal stories to tell.

Kez Margrie, CBBC’s executive producer for the My Life films, said: “This latest series features some truly incredible young people and they all have very different stories to tell.

“At CBBC we try to encourage our viewers to see the world in a new and interesting way and we hope that the extraordinary personal stories told by the children in My Life will inspire them to do just that.”

l MCC Media’s episode, My Life: The Floating Hospital, will be broadcast as part of the series on CBBC on February 18 at 5.30pm.