In Events

Confronting our physical, mental and social challenges head-on: Tim Harrison, Creative Director of SICK! Festival invites us to join a conversation about the very stuff of being human.

Photo of Tim Harrison, Director of SICK! Festival Brighton

What do you get if you bring 60 performances, 52 artists, 12 public discussions, 35 speakers, 3 public installations and 6 UK premieres together in an exploration of the foremost physical, mental and social challenges that all of us face in our individual and collective lives? You get SICK! – the award-winning Festival, returning to Brighton in 20-25 March 2017 for its third outing in the city.

“SICK! Festival is a tricky thing to categorise, which is perhaps what gives it its pioneering edge. It’s not a theatre festival, although you will find many outstanding international performances in the programme. It’s not a dance or film festival, although these art forms are richly represented. Scientists, researchers and doctors feature strongly within the programme but it’s not a science festival. Neither is it a conference, but the programme includes debates, talks and discussions with more than 80 speakers.

SICK! Festival is the point where all of these disciplines and perspectives come together, offering a platform in which everyone interested in chasing away taboos and exploring the very stuff of being human can join in the conversation.

During the week of 20-25 March 2017, an outstanding international programme of performance, debate, film and public space artworks will be presented at the newly refurbished Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts and other locations across the University of Sussex Falmer Campus. 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; sex and healing; mental health and isolation – it’s all there: the stuff of being human.

The UK Premiere of Swiss Theatre Director Milo Rau’s Five Easy Pieces is based on testimonies and reconstructions of true stories that confront the taboos of our age. Rau worked with seven children to explore the emotional and political absurdities and bottomless pits of the adult world. The piece asks how children can understand the significance of narrative, empathy, loss, subjection, old age, and the horrors sometimes inflicted on them by adults. This makes for a confrontational experience.

There is a Light: Brightlight is a Contact Youth Theatre production that takes direct inspiration from Brightlight – a major study developed by young people for young people and funded by the National Institute for Health Research that seeks specialist services for teenagers and young adults with cancer. Offering a critical and provocative perspective of how we support young people with cancer in an increasingly stretched Health Service, There is a Light: Brightlight has been created with the help of researchers, clinicians and patients.

Before I die is a participatory public art project taking place at Jubilee Square, Brighton and Library Square, University of Sussex by US artist Candy Chang that invites people to contemplate death, reflect on life, and share their personal aspirations in public. After losing someone she loved, Chang channelled her grief and depression into this project covering a crumbling house with chalkboard paint and stencilled it with the prompt, “Before I die I want to _____.” The project has now been created in over 70 countries, including Iraq, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and South Africa. Revealing each community’s longings, anxieties, joys, and struggles, Before I Die explores how public space can cultivate self-examination and empathy among neighbours and compassionately prepare us for death and grief.

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 downloaded from www.sickfestival.com. Follow us on twitter @SICKFestival

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