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Pay-as-you-feel arts festival will challenge prejudices about disability and mental illness

Most of us have to confront mental health issues at some time or another. Whether it’s in our own lives or people around us, dealing with the ups and downs of life or serious mental illness, it’s something most of us are familiar with.

But we rarely have the opportunity to discuss these matters openly because mental illness still has a huge stigma attached to it.

Arts festival SICK! is aiming to help people talk about mental illness and disability and encourage openness and greater understanding through theatre, comedy and art.

Over the course of three weeks, this groundbreaking festival will explore issues around mental and physical health, showcasing work by hand-picked local, national and international artists. All will explore the question, “What is the value of a life?’”


Graphic Encounters, developed with Manchester Metropolitan University and the LGBT Foundation, will bring together leading female comics artists with women in Manchester experiencing health problems related to social inequalities.

These experiences will be revealed through a series of illustrated narratives, displayed as a series of posters across Greater Manchester’s Metrolink network.

Mats Staub’s installation Death and Birth In My Life at The Whitworth has been developed with staff from the Intensive Care Unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary and invites the audience to listen in on a series of intimate conversations about the most moving and existential experiences in life.

Still No Idea with Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence

And comedian Laurence Clark’s An Irresponsible Father’s Guide to Parenting – which takes place at The Lowry on 19th Sept – promises a funny, brutally honest and charming account of what it’s really like to be a disabled parent. Clark starred in BBC1’s documentary We Won’t Drop The Baby and explores the mixed reactions it received through his show.

In total, there will be 28 different shows running throughout the festival – including a rainbow death cafe, creative workshops for young people at Hulme’s NIAMOS centre (featuring a podcast workshop from award-winning radio station NTS), and a performance from the British Paraorchestra called The Nature of Why fusing contemporary dance with a cinematic live-score by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory.

Elsewhere, a Living Library will give guests the opportunity to meet young people with unique, often challenging stories regarding dealing with the ups and downs of life and serious mental illness. Visitors will get 15 minutes for frank and open conversation, to listen, ask questions and reflect.

SICK! takes place at a number of venues across Greater Manchester between 18th September and 5th October, with The Lowry the first stop on the tour. Audiences can pay what they feel they can afford to attend the performances, installations and events over the course of the three week festival.

Head of programming at The Lowry Steve Cowton said, “SICK! Festival are brilliant at exploring the most pressing issues facing humanity through different art forms and they are an important partner for The Lowry. The programme for this year’s festival is the best yet and we can’t wait to see how our audiences respond.”


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