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SICK! Festival comes to Manchester this March

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By Emily Oldfield

A three-week programme of events exploring the question of how we cope with the world in which we live is coming to Manchester. SICK! Festival considers the themes of belonging and identity, trauma and well-being, with events and artistic installations across Manchester and Salford from 8th to 25th March 2017.

The festival will offer some of the most powerful theatre, dance, film and artwork seen in the city, with the tagline ‘Life. Death. Survival’. It offers a range of events for all ages, many for free, from the hard-hitting to the humorous. This year’s programme is the most ambitious to date, featuring 76 artists, 46 performances, 15 public space installations and a number of discussions that attendees can get involved in.

Venues participating in the festival include The Lowry, HOME, the Whitworth, Contact and STUN. Here you will come face to face with creativity which covers those difficult themes many of us wish were talked about more openly – including death, illness and grief.

By considering the issues of our times, SICK! Festival is set to be a rewarding experience for all involved. Highlights include the UK Premiere of There is a Light, from Manchester’s own Contact Young Company, an original theatre production inspired by the findings of the first major study developed by young people about their cancer care experiences.

GuideGods is a witty show by Claire Cunningham which explores how major faiths view deafness and disability, whilst another powerful performance, Michael Essien I want to play as you by Ahilan Ratnamohan, combines football and dance, exploring the challenges faced by young African footballers who migrate to Europe in search of a life out of poverty.

There are also many participatory public art installations. For example, Before I Die by Candy Chang invites people to contemplate death, reflect on life, and share their personal aspirations in public, inspired by the artist’s own experience of grief. It has already been created in over 70 countries.

A number of features of the festival explore the question of whether the arts can help us address some of life’s most difficult issues. For example, UK Visual artist Stuart Semple joins performer Bernadette Russell in Happy Clouds, a public discussion about the role of art in troubled times.

Other discussion sessions cover life’s difficult questions and bring challenging issues into the open. On the Couch combines the public and expert panels together to reflect on issues from identity to illness, while the Living Library series invites people to engage with a variety of perspectives, from refugees to people facing mental illness.

Talking about SICK! Festival’s decision to make Manchester its new home, CEO Helen Medland said: “The move to Manchester was essential as the city offers exciting venues that want to promote challenging and thought provoking works. World class Universities, extensive charity and community organisations, a local government leading the way in meeting societal needs and a population that we believe embraces the openness and inclusion that SICK! festival represents.”

She added, “We are very excited about how SICK! can connect with audiences across Manchester.”

The SICK! Festival is already an award-winner, having achieved the EFFE Festivals Award in 2015, featuring in the top 12 European Festivals out of a selection of 760. For more information and tickets, visit the festival website, home.mcr.org or other venue sites. Many of the events are free, but booking is recommended.


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Emily Oldfield

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