What is SICK! Festival?

Introducing SICK! Festival 2017: confronting our physical, mental and social challenges head-on. By Tim Harrison, Creative Director SICK! Festival

Give me your Love by Ridiculusmus Photo Credit: Sarah Walker


In an era when what connects us as a global community is under increasing scrutiny, what can a festival of art and discussion tell us about belonging, identity and the very stuff of being human? SICK! is the award-winning festival of theatre, dance, public art, film, and debate returning to places and spaces across Manchester in March 2017 for its second and biggest ever outing in the city.


With the help of 75 artists, 60 performances, 82 speakers, 18 public installations, 14 UK premieres, and 13 discussion events, we’re inviting you to take part in a conversation about the foremost physical, mental and social challenges that all of us face in our individual and collective lives.


Over three weeks from 8-25 March 2017, an outstanding international programme will be presented in venues across the city. From major arts venues such as The Lowry, to locations in communities and neighbourhoods away from the city’s cultural centres, the programme aims to connect with the widest possible audience. The festival is not just for those who have longstanding interest in the arts, but anyone who is affected by the issues we address. Belonging and identity, trauma and well-being, mental health and isolation – it’s about all of these things, which matter so deeply to us in our individual and collective lives.


SICK! Festival explores the most turbulent experiences of living in the world today. The challenges we face are sometimes rooted in bodies and minds that fail us, sometimes in the complexities of living in a troubled society with others facing their own problems. Embracing the multitude of identities, histories and social conditions that shape us, SICK! Festival asks how we are coping with the world we live in.

Koen De Preter & Theater Stap – To Belong

Created by a professional theatre company in which disabled artists take centre stage, Theatre Stap’s To Belong will receive its UK Premiere at The Lowry on 18 March 2017 in a dance performance about what it means to be part of a group. What brings people together, what connects them? Why and when do they feel connected and when do moments of struggle occur? Using pedestrian and poetic movements Theater Stap’s actors dance the experience of being a member of a group. Movements that allow them to get together and identify with one another. Movements in which they can lose themselves. Watch a clip here.


What happens when a traumatic event impacts on your sense of identity and belonging? A new show about MDMA assisted therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Give Me Your Love is the second instalment of Ridiculusmus’ trilogy investigating innovative approaches to mental health. Telling the story of ex-soldier Zach who has withdrawn into a cardboard box in a kitchen in West Wales, Give Me Your Love is based on real-life testimonies from war veterans and explores the healing potential in altered states of consciousness. Watch a clip here.

Berlin – Zvizdal

On April 26th 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor malfunctioned leading to one of the worst nuclear disasters of our times and the permanent evacuation of the people of some 90 towns and villages in a 30km radius of the reactor. One such village was Zvizdal, where Petro and Nadia, a couple in their 80s born and raised there, refused to leave. Zvizdal is a portrait of Petro and Nadia created by multimedia performance company Berlin during trips made to visit them twice a year over five years to interview them and follow their lives and choices as they survive without a community. Watch a clip here.


Drawing on and reflecting personal experience and professional knowledge, research practice and artistic reflection, SICK! Festival comes from a desire to confront head on the difficult, deeply personal and hugely important issues that affect us all. Identity, mental illness, sexuality, ageing: issues that all too often are kept away from public view and debate. We exist to change that and we hope you will join the conversation. See you there!


The full SICK! Festival programme can be viewed here.

Keep Connected via Twitter @SICKFestival or via Facebook at SICKFestival
Sign up to the SICK eNewsletter to be ahead of the crowd here.