Arts festival to celebrate North West talent with digital and live works

This year's Push festival will feature six brand new commissions and – for the first time – an experimental video game
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Push festival is an annual celebration of the North West’s creative talents, run by First Street arts venue HOME.

For 2021, the festival will take place over the whole year, allowing work to be seen both live and digitally, despite the coronavirus pandemic which is currently keeping theatres and arts venues closed

This year’s festival will feature six brand new commissions and – for the first time – an experimental video game.

The commissioned artists are Grahem Arnefield, Emmanuel Bajiiji, Katherine Hollinson, Jenni Jackson, Holly Rush, and Hope Strickland and Jessica El Mal.

Their works encompass a vast range of styles, experiences and perspectives on the world in which we live.

The strand will start with the online computer game Closed Hands, created by Manchester indie games studio Passenger, formed by artist and activist Dan Hett.

The game examines the lead-up and aftermath of a terror attack in a fictional UK city, through the lens of five core characters and dozens of other lives brought together by the same event.

The attack itself is intentionally never depicted, leaving the game to draw a complex picture of the reasons why it occurred, and long-last effects it had on people, communities, and the city itself.

Closed Hands is the studio’s first work which builds upon the experimental games series developed by Dan Hett, exploring his personal experience of losing his brother Martyn in the Manchester terror attack in 2017.

“We’re really excited to present Closed Hands to new audiences, and we really hope that it helps push forward the idea that games should, and can, boldly hold up a mirror to our reality in new and interesting ways,” said Dan.

“The story is deep and complex, and presented in a way that we hope can be explored by both games audiences and those outside it, too.”

The other new commissions will be presented across the year, with more details to be announced as each work develops.

The White Ship by Grahem Arnefield is a collaborative historical re-enactment of the 1112AD “White Ship Disaster” from the perspective of the Hastings townspeople subcontracted to wait for the King Henry I’s White Ship – a ship that never arrived.

Candy Floss by Emmanuel Bajiiji is a charming storytelling piece charting one man’s journey as he reflects on life in Oldham, his new town, in a new country, on a new continent.

Multidisciplinary work Endurance by Jenni Jackson explores how we can observe a woman wilfully push herself to the limit, how complicit the audience is with that experience, and how this destruction of the female body echoes through time.

Katherine Hollinson is creating a digital work with her sister, Gemma, that looks at Gemma’s life living with disabilities through the lens of their sisterly relationship.

Superhero Alter Ego by Holly Rush takes the idea of social media and digital comic books and satirises superhero archetypes to create a surreal, escapist narrative. 

And If I could name you myself (I would hold you forever) by Manchester artist Hope Strickland and Jessica El Mal engages with notions of Black resistance and feminist ecologies through the lens of trauma, memory and the visual conceit of the cotton flower. 

“Our Push commissioned artists for 2021 are so exciting and look set to take audiences on a journey of re-looking and re-examining the world around through a variety of performance styles,” said HOME’s Jenni McCusker.

“We are so excited to be working with them to bring their projects to life and can’t wait to see how they develop. 

“During the pandemic with countless lockdowns and restrictions the freelance artistic community has been devastated so we continue our commitment to support artists at all levels and make as many opportunities available as we can for artists to make and present work in these very challenging times.”

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