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Powerful pop up artwork in the city centre sparks debate

Powerful pop up artwork in city centre sparks debate ahead of The Royal Exchange International B!RTH Festival

This week (19-22 October) Manchester plays host to the innovative international B!RTH theatre festival developed by the Royal Exchange Theatre and The Oglesby Charitable Trust. The festival aims to provoke debate on a global scale and question one of the key issues of our time: the vast inequality in antenatal and postnatal healthcare within the UK and across the world.

As part of its support of the festival, leading Manchester healthcare creative agency, Havas Lynx, has master-minded a striking visual “stunt” to be revealed on the day of Manchester’s Olympic Parade on Monday 17 October.  Designed by legendary Manchester designer, Trevor Johnson, the powerful “pop up” artwork is available to view from Monday 17 until Sunday 23, before it is removed.

Emblazoned on a 20 ft metal fencing panel along the city’s busiest thoroughfare, Market Street, adjacent to the prominent M&S building, 3000 postnatal hospital wristbands have been tied to the fencing to form the shape of a number: 3254. Each of the tiny wristbands bears the name of a fictional child – a familiar, but a heartbreakingly poignant illustration of antenatal death.

A small sign at the base of the artwork reveals that this is the annual number of stillborn births in England and Wales – a shocking figure which represents amongst the highest stillborn rates in Europe.  The stunt links closely with last week’s Baby Loss Awareness Week, but is aimed to ignite interest in the wider B!RTH debate, which explores the attitudes, inequalities and politics which affect lives.

Commenting on the “guerilla” style stunt employed, Trevor Johnson said:

“We wanted to fully capitalise on the many thousands of visitors there would be in Manchester for the parade, and in the days leading up the festival, to find a way to make a powerful visual statement that was both simple and impactful.  The statistics which informed the idea are shocking, so our pop up artwork “stunt” was frankly unsubtle, but hopefully deeply thought-provoking.

“We’re encouraging people to come down and have a look at the visual, take pictures, share on social media and generally spread the word about the festival.”

Dr Carol Bedwell, Lecturer in Midwifery, University of Manchester, said:

“The health and wellbeing of women and children is vital for the wellbeing of society as a whole. The B!RTH Festival inspires essential and long overdue debate around controversial issues.”

Share your views and your pictures on Twitter – #BIRTHDebate

For tickets and information on the Royal Exchange B!RTH Festival go to: https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/brth

24th April 2019

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