In Haunt

Death matters. This a point upheld by SICK! Festival, with a forward-thinking events programme coming to Greater Manchester on 18 September – 5 October. For 2019, its Week 2 focus (25-28 September) is Death and End-of-Life Care.

For this week only, 2 tickets for any of the week’s many performances are available for just £5 (using promo code SICKWEEK2). In addition, SICK! Festival’s Saturday (28 September) symposium ‘Let's Talk About It... Death, Grief and End of Life Care’ is now FREE to attend (free on the door, or people can get in touch via to secure a space): a 6-hour exploration of the emotions and ethics of death. Taking place in The Bright Building at Manchester Science Park (10am onwards), this will involve clinical practitioners, academics, artists and individuals all discussing death and End-of-Life Care across four thought-provoking panels.  The four different focal points of these panels are: Turning off the Machine, The Sanctity of Life, Elephants in the Room and Death & Inequalities.

Developed in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Manchester and staff from the Intensive Care Unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary – SICK! Festival is cutting-edge research meeting creative public engagement. New commissions, performances, exhibitions, films and public discussions will bring themes of life, death and everything in-between to the fore, in a range of venues across Greater Manchester.

The Director

We all die, and most people will experience the death of a loved one at some point. Therefore, talking about death, and its inevitable feature our lives, is crucial.  But this does not mean that it is easy, and that is why SICK! Festival this year has a specially-curated selection of events, providing a range of interactive and immersive features encouraging reflection and discussion of the topic. (Pictured above: The Director, more information in list)

SICK! Festival is no stranger to exploring and engaging with challenging themes, after all. A bi-annual international festival that captivated audiences in Manchester previously in 2015 and 2017, its ethos is to examine what it is to be human: bringing topics such as healthcare, disability, death and dying into discussion.

Rather than shying away from difficulty, SICK! Festival seeks to smash down stigma and encourage positive engagement with some of life’s key themes, this year considering the question ‘what is the value of a human life?’  This highlights the ever-evolving nature of the festival, with the 2019 programme taking on the question from three key perspectives: Disability, Young People’s Mental Health and End-Of-life Care; the latter being the Week 2 Festival focus.

The launch event for SICK! Festival 2019 took place on the evening of the 5 September in the Bright Building at Manchester Science Park,  featuring a speech from Jon Rouse, Professor Mahesh Nirmalan of Manchester Royal Infirmary reflecting on his experiences of End-of-Life Care and Creative Director Tim Harrison introducing the themes of the Festival. There was also insightful reflection from speakers including Lucy Burke, Barbara Wolfensberger of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture & Science, Amy Vreeke, David Gaffney and more: a combination of artists and individuals discussing their work in light of the festival.

Here at HAUNT Manchester, we have put together just some highlights that make up SICK! Festival’s Death & End-of-Life Week 2 programme (some of the events listed below are running throughout the festival duration):


This Grief Thing by Fevered Sleep: a shop and Grief Gatherings come to Manchester city centre

This Grief Thing

A beautifully-curated shop designed to help facilitate conversations about grief, death and dying – is coming to 58 King Street in Manchester, 18 September until 5 October. Hosted by Fevered Sleep’s artistic directors Sam Butler and David Harradine, this will be a welcoming and friendly space offering specially designed clothing, badges, bags and condolence cards at a pay what you want price. Having previously hosted a This Grief Thing shop at The Whitworth in Manchester, the new temporary shop on King Street will be a creative place for reflection as well as conversation. Read more about Fevered Sleep, their This Grief Thing project and our HAUNT interview with the Artistic Directors here.

Why not get involved in a Grief Gathering in Manchester too? There will be four free small group conversations about grief in the This Grief Thing King Street shop on:

Thursday 19 September 6.30-8pm

Thursday 26 September 10-11.30am

Friday 27 September 6.30-8pm

Wednesday 02 October 6.30-8pm

For more information or to sign up email: or Tel: 020 3815 6430/ 07493 750427


Let’s Talk About It… Death, Grief and End-of-Life Care

The public are welcome to come along to a day of conversation with clinical practitioners, academics, artists and people with experiences of the End-of-Life Care system. This will be an opportunity to explore the emotions, ethical dilemmas and other issues that emerge around death and dying. (Begins 10am at The Bright Building in Manchester Science Park, Saturday 28 September)

The Director

The Director

What happens when an artist and an ex-funeral director come together to create a performance? The Director is the result: starring artist Lara Thoms and former funeral director Scott Turnbull. In this humorous yet hard-hitting piece they invite an audience to dig a little deeper into thinking about what happens after we die – and why. (At Z-arts Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 September, 8pm start, tickets available online)



A powerful film created with first-hand accounts of hospice users on the Isle of Wight – focusing on four individuals and their lives coming to the end, filmed over the course of a year. Created by Steven Eastwood (who previously spoke at a Death and Performance Symposium at The University of Salford, as covered by HAUNT Manchester here), emotive documentary-like footage follows illness progresses, relationships and even the most intimate moments of the death experience. (ISLAND is showing at Manchester Medical School, 26 September, 6.30pm start)

Death & Birth in My Life – Mats Staub

Death and Birth

A specially-created video installation about the most challenging experiences of life is coming to The Whitworth. Created by visual artist Mats Straub and developed with staff from the Intensive Care Unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary, the film footage will feature a range of medical professionals and individuals discussing experiences of birth, death, grief and more, in honest and frank conversation. Powerful and profound, this is a chance to hear perspectives from both sides of the hospital system – patients as well as professionals - and to encourage conversations too. (At The Whitworth 18 September – 5 October)

Workshop opportunity: explore thoughts and feelings about death through a unique visual art technique

What would you like to talk about on the topic of dying and death? A 3-hour workshop coming to the Yard Theatre in Hulme on Saturday 28 September (2-5pm) will provide an intimate and relaxed setting to share stories, engage with art techniques and consider our relationship with death.

Led by Joanna Rosenfeld, this workshop will also introduce participants to one of her visual art-based techniques: allowing participants to plunge into a meditative space beyond the thinking self. Engaging with colour, shape, free writing, light and dark, this is on opportunity to engage with artistic materials and immersive practice on a life-size scale.

To book a place on the workshop please email:  - for spaces are limited to 15 participants

Dying Together

Dying Together

A deeply moving and profound physical thought exercise inviting the public to reflect on recent situations where many people have died together. This is an opportunity to consider how death is treated in the media and how we value the lives and deaths of other people around the world. Created by Amsterdam-based artist Lotte Van Den Berg, Dying Together seeks to explore and raise awareness around how death is treated in society. (Taking place at STUN STUDIOS in Hulme, 26 & 27 September, tickets available online)

Plus... a Radio Presenting opportunity!

Part of SICK! Festival 2019, there is now the opportunity to get involved in a one-day workshop, incorporating a whistle-stop tour of the world of radio presenting! Join the self-taught innovative Radio Presenters Hunt & Darton (a decade-long Live Art collaboration between Jenny Hunt and Holly Darton, known for their Radio Local project), and learn how to host a show on the radio. Discover the art of jingles, on-air banter and create your own bespoke broadcast: with the workshop taking place on the 15th September at The Lowry (10am-6pm). There’s even a chance to have your vocal stylings from the workshop included in an upcoming Hunt & Darton live show (on Radio Local, 28 September, live from Manchester City centre).

To book for the 15th September workshop and for more information, contact or call 0161 696 6410

For the full SICK! Festival 2019 programme and more Week 2 highlights, visit the website:

By Emily Oldfield

Images with thanks to SICK! Festival 




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