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The Sick! Festival returns to Manchester and Salford this year, once again using the arts to explore questions of physical and mental health and the most turbulent experiences of living in the modern world. And Big Issue North is proud to be media partner for the first time.

With its most ambitious programme yet, the festival, taking place on 8-25 March, will feature hard-hitting new theatre, dance, film and public art from around the world, alongside debates, talks and other events, at venues including the Lowry, Home, the Whitworth, Contact and STUN.

Sick! Festival was launched in 2013 in Brighton, before expanding to the north, and in 2015 won the Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe (EFFE) award for excellence, which recognised 12 events from 760 across 31 countries.

Highlights for 2017 include the UK premiere of Five Easy Pieces by controversial Swiss theatre director Milo Rau. He worked with seven children on a piece exploring how children can understand the “significance of narrative, empathy, loss, subjection, old age and the horrors sometimes inflicted on them by adults”.

Michael Essien I Want to Play as You by Ahilan Ratnamohan from Belgium is described as a “powerful and explosive football-dance-theatre performance exploring the line between hope and desperation for young African footballers who migrate to Europe in search of a life out of poverty”.

Before I Die is a participatory public art project in locations across Greater Manchester by US artist Candy Chang. It invites people to contemplate death, reflect on life and share their aspirations in public. After losing a loved one, Chang channelled her grief and depression into this project, which has now been created in over 70 countries, including Iraq, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan and South Africa.

Alongside the artistic events is a programmes of discussions and debates, featuring 82 speakers from academia, public health bodies and charities. Themes range from mental health to the experience of being a refugee

As part of our media partnership, readers will be able to find out more about Sick! Festival events in coming editions of the magazine and at bigissuenorth.com.

Sick! Festival artistic director Helen Medland said: “The festival has a particular focus on our sense of belonging, identity and relationship to our communities. The Big Issue North partnership further aligns our engagement with those who care about important societal issues and with lived experiences of the topics addressed.”

For more information see sickfestival.com.

Photo of Five Easy Pieces: Phile Deprez

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