Manchester based arts organisation SICK! Productions, also known as the SICK! Festival, who work to amplify the complexities of mental and physical health through the arts, today announced changes to their leadership structure.

At the end of 2023, after 24 years, SICK! Productions’ founder and current Artistic Director/CEO Helen Medland is set to step down. SICK!’s leadership will be succeeded by Tracy Gentles, current founder and Creative Director/CEO of creative structure support organisation Something To Aim For.

The SICK! Festival presents an outstanding international arts programme, weaving in perspectives from researchers, clinical practitioners, public health professionals, charities and those with lived experience of the issues we address. Themes are explored through many art forms – dance, theatre, film, spoken word and through discussion and debate. SICK! Festival presents and commissions powerful, innovative, and engaging work by artists from across Manchester, the UK and the world.

A birds eye view of people in a green field. A red SICK! Festival logo is overlaid along with 'MAY 2022'

Over the years, Helen Medland and her team have commissioned and presented some of the most exciting and emerging artists of their generation including Banksy, Hetain Patel, Bobby Baker, David Hoyle, Mats Staub and Allie Crewe to name a few.

Helen Medland: “After 24 years, I have decided to step down as Artistic Director and CEO of SICK! Festival. I will support the organisation during a period of transition and provide consultancy services to develop the SICK!’s international programme. As the festival’s Founder I have been on a journey lasting more than two decades, and I have been privileged to enjoy incredible experiences with amazing artists and partners from around the world. I believe now is the right time for me to hand over to new leadership, who can bring a fresh perspective and a distinct vision to the SICK! Festival.

I am therefore delighted to announce that Tracy Gentles is stepping into the role of Artistic Director and CEO of SICK! Festival. I am enormously proud of what the team has already achieved, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for the future.

I want to thank everyone who has supported SICK! Festival or who has been our partner on the journey so far. I hope you will stay with us for our next exciting chapter!”

Tracy Gentles and Helen Medland have been working together since February 2023 to craft a succession plan that supports the growing ambitions of the organisation. SICK! has recently appointed new Trustees, welcoming Christine D’Cruz as Chair (former Chair of the organisation during the period SICK! Productions was founded and currently Director of Healthwatch Brighton & Hove) and new trustees Paul Russ (CEO/Artistic Director of Fabric). Whilst Helen will work as International Development Consultant she will support the organisation through this period of change as Tracy embeds her wealth of experience in socially conscious arts development, and systemic change within SICK!, through her role as CEO/Artistic Director.

Tracy Gentles: “I am delighted to be joining SICK! as Artistic Director/CEO. Having grown up in East Manchester and spending the last 15 years working across the UK, I am so excited to be back in the city I love and to deepen SICK!’s work and connections here. Seeing the divide between parts of the city grow over the years, whilst arts and culture remain its beating heart, I’ll be putting particular focus on those often overlooked from the critical conversations that sit between arts and health, and questioning how we can make long-lasting social impact. With a programme generated through listening and collaborating with the new team at SICK! we’ll aim to support capacity building of others, building a vision together, whilst staying true to SICK! purpose of tackling difficult subjects effecting our mental and physical health. I can’t wait to get going.”