The mental and physical health arts event is in Moston, Harpurhey and Charlestown for 2022

SICK! festival has announced its full lineup of events and exhibitions for 2022, and committing to the goal of “presenting and commissioning powerful, innovative and engaging work”, it's nailed it again.

The talent is here. Our job is to highlight it. By making this genuine long-term commitment to the area, I think we can do this

Existing with an aim to “make a change” and engage with some of the more sensitive and emotive topics within society, SICK! combines the work of researchers, clinical practitioners and public health professionals with that of international artists and creatives. As a multi-arts powerhouse, it explores complex matters and discussions via dance, theatre, film, spoken word and visual performance. It’s cool, like really cool. 

Mandla Artist And Performer From Sick Festival 2022 Lineup
mandla is one of SICK!'s multi-talented performers for 2022 Image: Ashley Karell

A festival that “faces up to the complexities of mental and physical health”, SICK! has been running since 2013, and a real focus remains on the communities, organisations, and individuals that ground their multidisciplinary work within real-life experiences.

This year, the festival has committed to the Manchester arts community with the majority of its events taking place in and around Moston, Harpurhey and Charlestown. It’s here to stay for the next ten years too. With a mixture of indoor, outdoor, and online events, it’s appropriate for the whole fam and its foundations remain grounded in the lives of local people. 

The events are also free.

With a 2022 lineup that features a double-decker menopause bus, an immersive exhibition in a storage container, and a powerful set of pics from the award-winning Allie Crewe, one thing you can’t call SICK! is crap. Eclectic, innovative, and unique - definitely. 

The Menopause Bus Sick Festival Manchester 2022 2
A bus that you defo want to miss your stop on Image: Chris Hall

All aboard the menopause bus

The brainchild of singer-songwriter Tosin Akindele and Swiss musician Sbiyelle Aeberli, The Menopause Bus is “a visual and choral collaboration between Manchester and Zurich”. Covering a topic that is often neglected and unexplored within mainstream society, SICK! is getting folk to sing, dance and shout about menopause. 

Boarding an open-top, London-style bus, musicians, choirs and local communities will celebrate a subject that is often seen as "a bit of a taboo". Touring around public spaces and big events in both cities, the bus will act as a moving stage for newly written songs and performed experiences surrounding menopause and its real-life implications. 

As well as making a whole song and dance about it, the bottom floor of The Menopause Bus will act as a space for information, conversation and discussion. Providing locals with an opportunity to chat about a topic that affects a whole load of us, the bus becomes a kind of “social engagement hub”, and it's way nicer than the 192. 

The festival is looking for volunteers to get involved in The Menopause Bus - drop them a line if interested. 

Ejaculation Falls

The festival is also looking for 6 people “all ages, 18 to anything, with a wide range of gender identities, with different sexual identities and experiences, from different social, cultural and economic backgrounds” to participate in the creation and presentation of a project called, er, Ejaculation Falls. 

Along with performance-maker and director Essi Rossi, those chosen will be exploring their experiences (or inexperience) of sex and pleasure for two weeks in May. The performers will be paid for this project which is in collaboration with the Sexuality Summer School from the University of Manchester. Find out more about Ejaculation falls and get involved.

Allie Crewe I Am Portraits Sick Festival 2022 St Peters Square
You'll catch Allie Crewe on the Met come May Image: Allie Crewe

Some poignant portraits

Award-winning photographer Allie Crewe won the BJP Portrait of Britain award in 2019, and her current portrait commissions are funded by the Arts Council. Exploring the issue of domestic violence for the national charity SaveLives, her exhibition I AM is also a big part of SICK!’s 2022 itinerary. A series of bold and powerful images that “bear witness to the lives and experiences of survivors of domestic violence”, the images will be exhibited in St Peter’s Square and across the Greater Manchester Metrolink network. 

By placing the pics within the heart of the city, Crewe’s work aims to challenge the narratives around domestic violence and send out a message of survival and resilience: “when a person leaves a violent or controlling relationship they have often lost their core identity. I AM is an opportunity for transformation, for new identities and new journeys to begin” explains Allie. As SICK! aims to “use art and creativity to explore mental, physical and social challenges”, these portraits deserve their stage in St Peter’s Square, and then some. 

Jimmy Cauty Estate Art Piece For Sick Festival 2022 At The Green Moston Lane
A small scale dystopian tower estate in Moston Image: Coulson & Tennant

Not your bog-standard estate

Another immersive and creative piece of SICK! brilliance comes in the form of musician and artist Jimmy Cauty’s Estate, a touring artwork displayed inside a 40ft shipping container. Comprising of four concrete tower blocks built at a 1:24 scale, each block is 17 floors high and contains some “meticulously crafted derelict interiors - some with lights, toilets and tiny TV’s playing looped public information broadcasts”.

With each two-metre tower having its own unique identity and social purpose, one is dedicated to residential and light industrial Live Work Die units, another is a children’s prison, the third is a high-rise residential care home, and the final tower previously functioned as a pagan religious centre. It’s immersive, it's dystopian, and it's all compacted into a tiny Pollard Yard-esque gallery space. 

Love Letters To Moston Lane Square Image
Love Letters to Moston Lane was created by Jack Poole and other members of the Moston community Image: SICK! Festival

Other SICK! stuff

Other bits from the SICK! itinerary include Soundpathsan audio app for your phone that takes the sounds and voices of the community and turns them into an atmospheric journey, LOVE LETTERS which sits just off Moston Lane, and Witness This which will be performed at Harpurhey shopping centre on Saturday 28 May. 

There's street poetry, vinyl-wrapped cars that explore toxic masculinity, and a performance lecture on "the story of being a 'category mistake' - an identity that society does not want to admit exists". 

Rebel Dykes is a film by Manchester-based directors Harri Shanahan (of the band, ILL) and Sian A Williams. It follows a group of artists, performers, musicians and activists who get involved in all kinds of radical activities that take them on an adventure through squats, BDSM nightclubs, anti-Thatcher rallies and AIDS action protests. It will show at HOME on 23 May with a post-screening discussion with producer Siobhan Fahey.

On 8 May there will be an all day "bonanza" of creative and physical activities at Boggart Hole Clough in Moston - possibly the best-named park in Greater Manchester. The family-friendly event will incorporate footie, storytelling and a brass band amongst other things.

Helen Medland Ceo And Artistic Director Of Sick Festival 2022
Helen is the CEO and Artistic Director of SICK! Image: SICK! Festival

Why MCR?

Although a lot of the previous SICK! fest events were held in Manc-based spaces, a new permanent setup is welcomed by festival director Helen Medland: "This year we’re bringing the festival right into the heart of Manchester, we’ve just made a commitment to work in Moston, Harpurhey and Charlestown for the next 10 years, so we’ll be delivering a lot of the festival there. We’ve been working with a whole range of different communities, thinking about what affects their health and wellbeing. We’re really excited to be building long-term connections in these neighbourhoods".

Previous festivals have been shared between Manchester and Brighton, but as Manchester seeks to cement itself as a hub of culture and an accessible, creative city, it supports SICK!'s endeavour to be "really innovative and thought-provoking, but relevant and accessible to as many people as possible".  

Steve Vickers Sick Festival Creative Producer 2022
Steve is eager to big up MCR for its pool of creativity Image: SICK! Festival

Creative Producer, Steve Vickers, also states: "I've been working in the community here since 2010 and it's a really vibrant place. I want us to shine a light on Moston, Harpurhey and Charlestown, to let people know there's a great pool of creative talent here that makes a big contribution to Manchester's cultural offer. The talent is here. Our job is to highlight it. By making this genuine long-term commitment to the area, I think we can do this". We agree, Steve.  

Mindgames Arcade Mental Health And Wellbeing Exhibiton Sick Festival 2022
SICK! ain't playing games with this 2022 itinerary Image: SICK! Festival

The 5 W's and How

SICK! festival 2022 will take place between Sunday 1 May and Tuesday 31 May with events being held in loads of different locations throughout the month. For a full run-down of dates, times, locations and creative briefs, the full 2022 programme is ready and raring to go.

As festival director, Helen Medland highlights, “it feels like an important time to think again about some of the subjects that we often struggle to talk about like mental health, domestic violence and health inequalities. We also want to explore wellbeing and celebrate the great stuff that goes on in our communities. It’s a festival that you really can get out there and explore".

All of the SICK! events are free, but some should be booked in advance to make sure you dont miss outSICK! is also posting some sneak peeks and all the deets on its Instagram page, so that's another way to keep up with the culture. 

Header Image: Maximilian Bill

Read next: Where's your head at? Same-day therapy comes to Manchester

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