About the project
It’s 11am, on New Years Day. The date and time when, every year, there is a peak in suicide rates. It is at this moment in time that we want to engage in a collective act of listening and contemplation. We will do this by making all 34,000 public pay phones across the UK ring at the same time; a nationwide call for connection. The story begins when the first call is answered.
Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) is theatre and digital art company ZU-UK’s most ambitious project to date - and we need your help to make it happen. If we can raise the minimum funds of £15,000 to deliver the pilot we will secure the backing of a major technical partner - which will guarantee the delivery of the pilot in 2019 AND a nationwide launch in 2020.
“Innovative, ingenious, challenging, life-enhancing are all words that should be applied sparingly unless describing the 'real deal'. Having watched and been part of this company's work I've been amazed by the depth of their imagination and their ability to bring it to fruition through their theatre practice.”
Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, on ZU-UK.
As a company, we don’t confine our artwork to conventional venues and spaces. Because we want everyone to be able to take part in what we do. As such, we have staged overnight performances, driven our audiences around in taxis, boats, trains and set them up on blind dates in shopping centres. In the 15 years since we formed, we have become known for the time and imagination it takes to make our work, and the care we put into looking after audiences to make communities out of strangers.
This project is very close to our hearts. Like many of you reading this, we have known close colleagues, friends, students and heroes who have died by suicide. And in the UK today, suicide is the most common form of death for men aged 20-49, whilst mental health issues will affect 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives. Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) offers an opportunity to engage in an act of listening, remembrance and compassion. An opportunity to reflect on when we stopped asking the question “what is life for?”
"It really makes you think about what it means to be a human being, what it means to make contact with other people.”
ZU-UK audience member after 'Binaural Dinner Date'
When Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) begins with the UK’s public phones ringing in unison at 11am on the first of January 2020, the person picking up will receive an interactive audio experience. The phones that aren’t answered will continue to ring every Monday at 11am until someone does eventually pick up.
For those who can’t be at a public pay phone on New Year’s Day morning, Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) can also be experienced online via an audiovisual map that will track - in real time - which phones have been picked up and which ones are still trying to make a connection.
Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) is not a suicide prevention project. Nor are we trying to ‘make sense’ of why, at a particular moment in time, it may feel like the right choice for someone to end their life. Through this nationwide invitation, we want to give people the chance to reflect, remember and gather in a mass act of contemplation about changes in the fabric of our communities, the shrinking of public space and contact between fellow humans.
Since the idea was born in 2015, we have been collaborating with a range of mental health researchers and experts to help us realise Pick Me Up (and hold me tight). We have already had interest from several major festivals and commissioners, and as mentioned previously we will have backing from significant technical partners to secure the delivery of the pilot in 2019 as well as a the full nationwide project in 2020 - provided we can raise £15,000 now.
THIS IS WHERE WE NEED YOUR HELP.
You can either throw whatever spare cash you have at us, or you can claim one of the rewards - all created in the name of thoughtfulness, reflection and connection. For example, you will be able to dedicate a phone box to a loved one - and that dedication will remain on our online map forever.
"This project is dedicated to Mark Fisher. An author, cultural theorist and thinker who had a way of plugging in to the 'critical admixture' by taking ideas from music culture, philosophy and social movements, and using the whole lot to mount a challenge to the mainstream. His thinking has been a main source of inspiration since we started developing PMU in 2015, so it feels right that the work should be in his memory."
Persis-Jadé Maravala, Artistic Director of ZU-UK and creator of Pick Me Up (and hold me tight)
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Where will the money go?
The money will be used to engage an extraordinary team of professionals, with the skills required to pull off this ambitious project over a 5 month period leading up to 1st January 2019. ZU-UK are very experiened developing technically and artistically complex artworks in smaller scales, but reaching our £15,000 target will allow us to pay technologists to create a pilot version of the interactive platform, cover all audio and studio costs for the writing, directing, recording, editing and implementing a fully interactive audio script to be tested across controlled geographical locations on the 1st January. The costs also include the development, design and management of an online map platform where individual dedications will be posted, and we will be able to show in real time which phones have been picked up and which phones are still ringing. Finally, we will also continue to engage mental health advisors and an engagement officer who will organise ongoing relationships with people who have been bereaved or affected by suicide in the UK.
What happens when I pick up the phone?
When you pick up the phone you will be able to participate in a gentle but thought-provoking audio experience that exposes the edges of our humanness. It's an invitation to pause and take stock of what it means to be alive.
What happens if someone contemplating suicide decides to pick up the ringing phone?
Throughout every step of this process, we are consciously working to deliver this project with the utmost sensitivity and respect for its topic. Every phone will have a direct connection to the Samaritans, and listeners will be offered to be connected as soon as they pick up the phone.
Doesn’t ZU-UK get funding from Arts Council England for this kind of thing?
We are very fortunate to have been awarded Arts Council England’s Elevate fund (2016-19), which means we receive a funding contribution towards our core staffing and running costs. However, this funding covers less than half of our total expenditure every year so we still have to raise a lot of additional income for the company and the projects we want to create.
If you need money, why do you offer rewards?
We want everyone contributing to this project to have a lasting memory of the process - whether or not you end up directly experiencing the final artwork. A large number of the rewards offered have been kindly donated to us by ZU's staff, artists and collaborators, or in some cases they are special experiences that we can deliver at a small cost.
If you raise this money now, will it mean that Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) will be made in full?
Pick Me Up (& hold me tight)'s future is strong, and we are doing well in identifying further income sources for the full project. So if we manage to raise these initial funds for the 2019 pilot, we are very optimistic about the delivery of the full version in 2020.
ZU-UK are renowned for their distinctive personal, political and sometimes humorous approach to creating interactive performance. Known for their care and complete respect for audience members, the company are leaders in participatory theatre and performance art.
Previous productions include the widely acclaimed Hotel Medea (2009-2012) which was performed at LIFT Festival, the Hayward Gallery and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it won a Prix Ars Electronica Award; a Herald Angel Award, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2011; and was Time Out Critic's Choice - Pick of the Fringe 2011.
From June to December 2015, 7000 visitors experienced #RioFoneHack in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; where three iconic Brazilian phone boxes rang as visitors walked past. Those who dared to pick up were treated to an interactive and humorous audio experience.
More recently Binaural Dinner Date (2017) enjoyed sold out previews and an extended run at Theatre Royal Stratford East, eventually transferring to Stratford Shopping Centre.
ABOUT THE REWARD PROVIDERS
Jacky Fleming is a cartoonist, whose work first became known through her pre-internet postcards, which reached women around the world by snail mail. She studied at Chelsea School of Art, followed by Leeds University - where her contemporaries formed bands like the Mekons, and the Gang of Four. Her first published cartoon, which appeared in Spare Rib, was a university essay which she handed in as a cartoon strip. Since then her work has featured in many books, exam papers, and publications which include The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman, New Internationalist, Red Pepper, Observer, Diva, You, and Big Issue. She has published six books of cartoons, five with Penguin, one with Bloomsbury. THE TROUBLE WITH WOMEN is her seventh title, published by Square Peg in February 2016.
Edible Garden workshop
Tanja Raaste started her gardening journey with a basil plant and a potted tomato, after which things got out of hand. She now grows over 70 varieties of edible plant in her small urban garden, using organic, permaculture, no-dig and forest gardening methods - all designed to make the garden as productive, beautiful and low-maintenance as possible. Decisions on what to grow are made on the basis of tastiness - a true stomach-led garden! When not enjoying the garden, she runs the Edible Garden blog and offers a design and planning service. The workshop takes place at the Edible Garden, in SE London, and comprises of a tour where we look at what to grow, where to grow it, how to deal with pests, maintenance and a Q&A over some home-grown herbal teas.
Therese Ramstedt is a singer and performer working extensively with ensemble song as a starting point for creative collaboration and listening. A part of professional choir London Contemporary Voices, Therese's voice has been heard on the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, on BBC and Virgin Radio and at Secret Cinema events. With LCV, she has sung with artists including Imogen Heap, Laura Mvula and Amber Run and her workshop will focus on group singing as a method for communication, reflection and attentive listening to oneself and others. No prior singing experience necessary!
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal - or need someone to talk to for any reason - you can call Samaritans on 116 123. Any time of day, any day of the year, from any phone. Completely free. Callers who are deaf or have hearing or speech impairments can email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Next Generation Text Service.