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The inaugural Big Anxiety Festival is looking to change perceptions around mental health

Big Anxiety Festival Jill Bennett
Photograph: Nick Cubbin Big Anxiety Festival's artistic director, professor Jill Bennett

A stacked line-up of artists, scientists and communities will come together to dissect mental health in the 21st century at Sydney’s inaugural Big Anxiety Festival.

There'll be 60 events across greater Sydney for the festival, which is an initiative of UNSW and the Black Dog Institute. The festival runs from September 20 until November 11, featuring events that will evaluate common anxieties, stresses and strains of everyday life through a radically different kind of arts festival. There'll be immersive environments, international art exhibitions, theatre performances, contemporary dance, interactive media events and public discussions all centred on promoting awareness and action around mental health. 

The events fall into five major themes: Awkward conversations, Lived experiences, Neurodiverse-city, Power, politics and institutions, and Mood experiments. Highlights of the program include: performers Zoë Coombs Marr and Justin Shoulder talking about Performance anxiety; a mobile mood lab with interactive artworks by George Khut; a performance dinner party where the only course is conversation, titled The Long Table; and an exploration of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) through a performance-presentation by research fellow Clive Parkinson.

Festival hubs will be located at Customs House, Riverside Theatres and at UNSW Paddington, with other events taking place at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of NSW and the State Library of NSW.

Most events will be free and wheelchair accessible, and selected events have the option to be Auslan interpreted and audio described. Tactile tours are also available for some events. 

Did you hear? Powerhouse Museum's new exhibition will be like a light-up indoor Vivid.

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