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Fertility Fest Announces 2019 Programme


Fertility Fest Announces 2019 Programme

Fertility Fest, the only arts festival devoted entirely to the subject of the science of making babies and modern families, is now in its third year. This latest, expanded edition of Fertility Fest runs from 23 April - 18 May and is presented in association with the Barbican as part of the 2019 season, Life Rewired, exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything.

Fertility and infertility take centre stage in a four-week international programme of theatre, film, visual arts, literature, workshop and debate bringing together leading artists, specialists, patients, and audiences to explore what it means to make (and sometimes not make) babies in the 21st century.

Fertility Fest is a rare, open and collaborative platform driving social change, and is at the forefront of how people are thinking about and supporting people to make modern families today. Using the communicative and transformative power of the arts, it has been integral to the explosion of interest in a subject previously largely hidden, but now a growing part of public conversation and popular culture with programmes such as Netflix's Private Life and Nina Raine's play Stories at the National Theatre.

It was founded by author and adventure activist Jessica Hepburn and theatre producer Gabby Vautier, who present two very different stories of IVF: Jessica went through 11 rounds of unsuccessful treatment; Gabby is the mother of 4-year-old IVF twin girls.

Jessica and Gabby said: 'The festival has three important aims: to improve fertility education so that young people are taught more than how 'not' to get pregnant and are given the opportunity of creating the families they want in the future with or without science or children; to enhance mental health support for people going through IVF treatment to ensure they have the best possible outcomes whatever their fertility story, however it ends; and to raise all levels of public discourse about reproductive science - what it can do, what it can't do and how it's affecting the way the human race is being made today.'

Since its inception, the festival has helped bring about tangible improvements in UK healthcare practice including new approaches to providing emotional support for patients going through IVF treatment; developments in mental health care for men experiencing infertility; and improved follow up post treatment - all of which were virtually non-existent when Jessica and Gabby were patients.

Alongside this year's main programme, there will be satellite festivals taking place nationally and internationally including a new partnership with UK's largest patient event The Fertility Show in both Manchester (23/24 March 2019) and London (2/3 November 2019) as well as ESHRE Vienna (24-26 June 2019), the world's largest fertility industry conference attended by 13,000 fertility professionals.

This year also sees the next stage of Fertility Fest's campaign to improve fertility education in schools - The Modern Families Project. Six emerging artists aged 18 to 24 will be recruited to take over the Barbican's new Life Rewired Hub from 6 - 12 May transforming it into an 'installation of ideas' which will result in a new piece of digital campaigning artwork to be launched on World Fertility Day 2019.

Toni Racklin, Head of Theatre at the Barbican, said: "We are thrilled to welcome Jessica and Gaby to the Barbican along with the many artists, speakers, collaborators and funders who are participating to make this the biggest Fertility Fest yet. In our Life Rewired year - an arts and learning season exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything - Fertility Fest reflects the theme perfectly, exploring the complex and evolving subject of fertility and infertility in the inspiring and creative environment of the Barbican. Taking place in our Theatre, The Pit and our specially created Life Rewired Hub on Level G, Fertility Fest really will take centre stage in April and May. We look forward to welcoming audiences to this exciting, multifaceted, month-long event."

Tickets go on sale on 14 January 2019. For full programme information visit: Programme Highlights include...

AVALANCHE: A LOVE STORY (Saturday 27 April - Saturday 18 May, Barbican Theatre)

The centrepiece of the Festival will be the world premiere of a new international theatre production based on Australian writer, Julia Leigh's acclaimed IVF memoir, Avalanche. Avalanche: A Love Story is produced by Barbican Theatre Productions and Fertility Fest and co-produced by Sydney Theatre Company. Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks, Avalanche: A Love Story will play in Australia at The Wharf, Sydney Theatre Company's home, from 29 August - 14 September 2019.


Fertility Fest's signature day will put IVF under a creative spotlight with performances, screenings, talks and panel discussions, opened by actress, author and Celebrity MasterChef Winner Lisa Faulkner discussing the meaning of modern family with bestselling author and wife of McFly's Harry Izzy Judd and Sophie Sulheria, BBC journalist and creator of BBC Radio 4'sThe Long Road To Baby alongside Dr James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist at Lister Fertility.

In The Doctor in the Bedroom, artist Holly Slingsby will look at the female body in relation to fertility myths and medicine in her performance to camera video installation Eastre Eats Eastradiol, and performance poet Kat Francois, winner of the World Poetry Slam championships, will be exploring the impact IVF has on relationships. In discussion and debate with Dr Irfana Koita from IVF Matters a new clinic offering IVF from the comfort of your own home.

Rapping Reverend Elis Matthews will share his experience of being diagnosed with azoospermia and his unconventional route to parenthood, and actor and writer Rod Silvers will talk about his short film England Expects that uses football as a metaphorical symbol for unsuccessful IVF. In discussion with Dr Benjamin Abramov, Medical Director at Gennet City Fertility

Artists Faye Glen and Camilla Lyon will present work inspired by the brutality of going through unsuccessful IVF in When ART doesn't work, joined on stage Dr Vidya Seshadri from the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health and Professor Jacky Boivin from Cardiff University, one of the leading reproductive psychologists in the world.

The Pursuit of Parenthood will show the UK premiere of Anything You Lose by Russian born film director Irina Vodar, offering a remarkable glimpse into Vodar's own seven-year journey through assisted reproduction and the psychological effect of prolonged treatment. In 2018, IVF officially turned 40 and in The IVF Generation writer Lisa Parry and director Zoe Waterman present an extract from their play 2023 exploring what might happen when the first batch of donor conceived children turn 18 and can legally have access to their donor records following the introduction of the UK's non anonymity laws introduced in 2005. Chaired by Kate Brian, Women's Voices Lead at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Fertility Fight Club will close the Big Fat Festival Day with a series of provocative talks by artists and experts that will tackle the underlying issues and emotions regarding fertility, infertility, reproductive science and modern families including Sally Cheshire, Chair of the HFEA, the Government's Regulator of fertility treatment and Michael Johnson Ellis, Founder of 'Two Daddies' the support network for gay fathers through donation and surrogacy.


Liverpool Prize-winning artist Tabitha Moses, creator of some of the most beautiful work on fertility, infertility and IVF including Investment and On Food and Longing will be Fertility Fest's Artist-In-Residence for the duration of the festival, creating a tapestry of fertility stories shared. Writer Katy Lindeman will be Writer-In-Residence, sharing her outspoken views on fertility, infertility and IVF on her blog, from her unique perspective as the 'Barren-ness' of the 'Uber-Barren's Club'. Hits Radio's Natalie Silverman, creator of The Fertility Podcast, will be Podcaster-In-Residence.


The Queer Family (Wednesday 24 April)

Celebrating family within the LGBTQ+ communities with creativity and conversation, including a screening of Altruistic, the award-winning short film by filmmaker Emma Edwards about the first gay male couple to become legal parents through surrogacy in the UK; author of the best-selling Human Book Dimple Devadas on the gift of sperm donation; theatre maker Stella Duffy OBE and her wife playwright Shelley Silas on their family without children; and cabaret artist Jamie Anderson presenting an extract from his new show about becoming a father for the first time as a gay, HIV positive man. In discussion with Carole Gilling Smith from Brighton & Hove's Agora fertility clinic, a leading voice on treatment within the LGBTQ+ community.

The Invisible Man (Thursday 25 April)

Unveiling the male experience of infertility is film-maker Thomas Webb with an extract from his ground-breaking documentary featuring the voices of six men going through treatment; theatre-maker Toby Peach performs from his award-winning solo show about the moment he was told he was going to be infertile aged 22; and singer songwriter Bob Strawbridge shares a deeply personal collection of songs inspired by his and his wife's long fertility struggle. Chaired by writer and journalist Safraz Manzoor.

Pregnancy after IVF (Friday 26 April)

Exploring pregnancy and parenting after successful IVF will be actress Lesley Cook joined by fertility expert Katie Eaves, midwife and pioneer of improving care for patients post successful IVF treatment. In To The Moon and Back, mother and daughter Anna Furse and Nina Klaff present an extraordinary dialogic performance reflecting on the experience of IVF from their respective perspective in conversation with Victoria Macdonald, Health and Social Correspondent at Channel 4 and record-breaking polar explorer Ann Daniels and mum of IVF triplets.

There's More to Life than Children (Saturday 27 April)

For some a life without children can feel like a glorious decision, for others it can be a dream snatched away. Artists sharing their unique stories on childlessness include Italian Scottish singer songwriter Chiara Beradelli with tracks inspired by the loss of her dream to become a mother, Yorkshire based theatre-maker Victoria Firth with an extract from her hit 2018 Edinburgh Festival show How to Be Amazingly Happy, along with actor and writer Rod Silvers on his play Terry and Jude looking at the lives of two older, childless single men. With provocative Fertility Fight Club talks from journalist and broadcasters Bibi Lynch and Sheridan Voysey and Yvonne John, the leading voice on childless women of colour. Chaired by Jody Day, Founder of the global friendship and support network for childless women and produced in association with the national charity Fertility Network UK.

Trying to Conceive (Sunday 28 April)

Who said getting pregnant was easy? Visual artists Jon Barker and Anna German share how their journeys through fertility treatment have inspired their creative practice, including plasticine sculptures and pop-up picture books. Also featuring movement artist Avni Trivedi and leading natural health specialist Emma Cannon and IVF Consultant and ITV's This Morning's resident fertility expert Dr Larisa Corda. Produced in partnership with the national charity Fertility Network UK and IVF Babble magazine and sponsored by myLotus fertility monitor.

Miscarriage (Monday 29 April)

Miscarriage is brought out from the shadows into the spotlight with Julia Bueno introducing her new book The Brink of Being (Virago, May 2019) together with visual artist Foz Foster on his extensive body of work Labour of Love that commemorates the three children he has lost, and theatre company Open Sky will present a scene from their new show Cold, the story of a pregnancy that doesn't go to plan. In conversation with Ruth Bender Atik from the Miscarriage Association.

Young, Gifted and Infertile (Tuesday 30 April)

Breaking the silence on what it feels like to experience infertility at a young age with a performance of Flushed directed by Catherine Cranfield and presented by Theatre Unlocked; Natasha Bishop, founder of The Pants Project, on how underwear became her tool for empowerment after being diagnosed, aged 16, with a condition which means she has no womb; and a Q&A with Andreia Trigo, Founder of Infertile Life and Marie Gerval, Co-Chair of the Daisy Network, supporting women with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Race, Religion and Reproduction (Wednesday 1 May)

Infertility doesn't discriminate according to your socio-economic background, gender, race or religion. Discussing the different pressures and prejudices depending on community will be artists including Valeka Holt, Kat Francois, Yvonne John, Satinder Chohan, Rod Silvers, Ariella Eshed, Rachel Giles together with fertility experts Benjamin Abramov and Shaun Rogers from Gennet City Fertility, Marion Wilson from Centre for Genetic and Reproductive Health and the midwife Fatimah Mohamied amongst others. Chaired by Farrah Nazir from the Wellcome Trust and Sarah Douglas from The Liminal Space.

The Big Fertility Questions (Wednesday 1 May)

CNN News Anchor Hannah Vaughan Jones asks the 'Big Fertility Questions' to an expert panel of fertility specialists, artists and public figures including Professor Geeta Nargund (Medical Director of Create Fertility) and Ricky Martin (Winner of The Apprentice and IVF Patient). Expect fertility treatment add-ons; the postcode lottery; and the business of fertility to come under scrutiny.

Fertility Freedom Scratch Night (Thursday 2 May)

A host of performers will be showcasing new and emerging work, including theatre, film, poetry and more from the likes of Angelica O'Reilly (The Adoption Diaries), Linn Johansson and Matthew Coulton (Made With Love) and Simona Hughes (About 500).

What comes first the career or the egg? (Saturday 4 May)

Considering our modern obsession with procreation are theatre-makers Anna Bliss Scully and Nina Davis with an extract from their show The Non-Parent Trap and Paula Varjack with her new show The Baby Question. Brew-makers Theatre Company unveil the truth behind egg freezing with a taste from their musical comedy The Egg Rumour alongside Pepper Binkley's web-series It's Freezing Out There. Journalist and author Genevieve Roberts and writer and performer Claire Taylor share their journeys into solo motherhood in discussion with Tracey Sainsbury, Senior Counsellor, and Cindy Charles, Fertility Coach at London Women's Clinic amongst others.

The Gift (Sunday 5 May)

A celebration and exploration of families made through donation and surrogacy, in a specially curated family event created by Theatre Director and mum through donation Sarah Esdaile and visual artist and mum through surrogacy Fiona Duffelen. Produced in association with the Donor Conception Network and Surrogacy UK.

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