Since its inception in 2013, SICK! Festival has proven a resounding success. This year’s multi-platform programme expanded the festival, simultaneously running in Manchester as well as Brighton. SICK! has a unique remit, examining the medical, mental and social challenges of life and death and how we survive them – or don’t. This year’s theme and focus areas are on sex and sexuality, suicide and abuse.
Between 2 – 25 March, venues across Brighton welcome a host of international voices from the arts, healthcare and charity sectors. It’ll offer audiences the opportunity to consider life and death, from a range of perspectives. With a taboo-breaking programme, it addresses topics like the effects of porn on young people, the silence around gender-based violence and suicide survivors. It’s often harrowing, at times uplifting and humorous but always thought provoking.
SICK! opens with a debate titled Sexual Transactions, based around the idea that there is an argument that says that sexual intercourse is only acceptable if both parties share the same motivation, a motivation that is at least sexual and preferably emotional. But also that there are other consenting transactions such as sex work, which blurs the personal and economic lines. Speakers from across Brighton and Sussex such as Sussex Uni’s Dr. Tanya Palmer and further afield such as novelist Ellis Suzana Slack. The debate is held at The Basement and will be chaired by Prof. Bobbie Farsides of Brighton and Sussex Medical School.
The winner of the 2013 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, Nirbhaya will be playing as part of SICK! at Brighton Dome Corn Exchange on Mar 10 and 11. Bearing witness to the 2012 rape and fatal assault of a young female physiotherapy intern travelling with a male friend on an urban Delhi bus, multi-award winning Playwright and Director Yael Farber presents a blistering evocation of that night. Including testimonies by sexual violence survivors, it is powerful theatre that cracks the silence that exists around sexual and gender violence.
One of the more unique pieces in an already unique programme is Sex, Cancer and Cocktails which takes two worlds, Cancer and pleasure, which are almost by definition separate and brings them together. Held at a secret location, with tickets booked and allocated on a lottery basis it’s an in-home, closed door conversation about doing it during treatment. Featuring presentations from sexual health doctors, cancer nurses and drawing a range of perspectives from its audience Sex, Cancer and Cocktails offers a radical and rarely discussed perspective on illness and feeling (or not feeling) sexy.
Throughout the festival, SICK! will be taking to the streets of Brighton, Screening Container is a programme of short films, bite-size documentaries and video installations inserted into a converted shipping container. Shipping Container is a demonstration of the power of the moving image to connect intimate and complex narratives for both reportage and imagination.
SICK! Festival isn’t a theatre festival, although the programme is filled with international quality performances. It’s not a dance, film or literature festival, despite these forms featuring heavily. It’s not a science festival, but the programme is full of scientists, doctors and researchers. It’s not a conference despite the debates and talks. SICK! instead uses these forms as a means to begin conversations. The topics discussed are ones often difficult, often upsetting and as such often ignored.
SICK! Festival is testament to its necessity. Although rarely discussed in a public sphere we are all in many ways connected by traumatic and personal experiences. It provides an honest and intelligent light with which to examine the taboo and misunderstood issues which are realities in our lives and society.