Art and health festival featuring ‘menopause choir’ is coming to Manchester’

In a first for North Manchester, an open-top bus menopause choir will be performing as part of a multi-arts festival. It’s all part of SICK! festival, an arts and health event that faces up to the complexities of mental and physical health.

The festival where health and creativity meet will span the entire month of May, and will be based in Harpurhey, Charlestown and across Greater Manchester. Most of the festival’s events will take place in North Manchester and are bolstered by a commitment to the area for the next ten years.

The festival’s first events to be announced include an open top bus Menopause choir, led by Gospel singer-songwriter Tosin Akindele and Swiss musician Sbiylle Aeberli. Musicians, choirs and local communities will board the ‘Menopause Bus’ to shout and sing about the rarely discussed topic as part of a international collaboration between Manchester and Zurich.


Festival director Helen Medland said: “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.

“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.

“We’ve got some fantastic artists in the programme from Manchester, the rest of the UK and around the world. They include visual artists, poets, performance makers, we’ve even been working with a computer games designer.

“We want to make a programme that is really innovative and thought-provoking but relevant and accessible to as many people as possible. We’re only a small team and we’ve had so much help from loads of different organisations including health services, charities, community groups, universities and other arts organisations as well as some fantastic funders who make it all possible, we’re really grateful for this and we wish to thank you all big time.”

Other confirmed events include musician and artist Jimmy Cauty’s ‘MDZ Estate’, a multi-media touring artwork comprising four concrete tiny tower blocks at 1:24 scale and displayed in a 40ft shipping container. One tower block is dedicated to residential and light industrial Live Work Die units, another is a children’s prison, the third a high-rise residential care home, and the last appears to have functioned as a pagan religious centre.

Meanwhile, award-winning photographer Allie Crewe’s ‘I AM’ has been developed in partnership with domestic abuse charity, SafeLives. The artist’s bold and powerful images bear witness to the lives and experiences of survivors of domestic violence from Manchester and across the UK.

The 2022 edition has been developed with international artists alongside participants from the local area. Exciting and unexpected experiences will pop up across the region, from interactive activities to talks and community events to bring people together.

With a mixture of free outdoor, indoor and online events, the festival will offer programmes suitable for families, young people, adults and anyone interested in using art and creativity to explore mental, physical and social challenges. The festival takes place throughout May, for more details, visit the festival website here.

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