The Big Anxiety Festival

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The Big Anxiety Festival




13 October - 14 October 2017

Event Type

Live Event

12-21 October 2017

The Big Anxiety Festival, the biggest mental health and arts festival in the world, will explore and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century with a major hub in Parramatta from 12 – 21 October.

Spanning across venues including Riverside Theatres and Parramatta Park, The Big Anxiety Festival is set to transform the ways people think about and deal with mental health via innovative experiences that include state-of-the-art immersive, international art exhibitions, theatre and performance, contemporary dance, interactive media events and public forums for the entire family.

The Big Anxiety Festival vision is to create opportunities for meaningful encounters that increase curiosity and empathy, decrease stigma, support neurodiversity and promote psychological and emotional well-being in our society.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety. – ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007

Featured events at the Parramatta Riverside Courtyard include:

Virtual Reality

– ‘DREAM3D’ is a virtual reality platform and experience that utilises sound and 360 film as a tool to alleviate anxiety, improve the recovery process and reduce the need for additional medication and pharmaceutical treatments.
‘Liminal’ draws on neuroscientific research to create a variety of calm and energy experiences not only generate instant emotional change, but also positively influence moods for at least 30 minutes after use in the majority of users.
– ‘Hue’ is an immersive interactive film about a man who has lost the ability to see colour. This allows viewers explore an emotional and character-driven narrative, using empathetic touch to help reawaken his senses.

On October 21, join a panel discussion exploring the existing landscape and future possibilities of immersive technologies as a therapeutic and educational tool. Led by virtual reality experts across neuroscience, film, contemporary art and user experience, you will hear about a number of works designed to challenge cognitive bias, decrease pain and anxiety, influence mood and energy and develop empathy through experience visualisation. Speakers include Nick Busietta Managing Director- Liminal VR, Joseph Purdam – Co-Founder and Director, DREAM3D, Phoria, Rick Martin – COO Equal Reality, Volker Kuchelmeister – Art Director and Production Design – Parragirls, Past, Present, Marilyn Le Tran – Founding Partner and Industrial Designer – Company of Unicorns.

The Mobile Mood Lab by George Khut is a converted ambulance that uses new technology to explore the influence of stress and relaxation on our bodies. The experience is immersive, intimate and mesmerising, accompanied by a live soundtrack of your own heart beat, and sounds that rise and fall with changes in your breathing and heart rate. Afterwards visitors are invited to draw their own maps as a way of processing your experience.

Neural Knitworks is based on the principle that yarn craft, with its mental challenges, social connection and mindfulness, helps keep our brains and minds sharp, engaged and healthy. Join founding artists Pat Pillai and Rita Pearce to make textile neurons in your hands following scientifically informed patterns as you forge new neural pathways in your brains. The installation also includes a knit-in workshop with the artist on Saturday 14th October.

With Mental Health Pods, The Big Anxiety asked the question: Can we design a pod to support good mental health, and calm, focused attention, for use in public schools? Supported by the NSW Minister for Mental Health, the Hon Tanya Davies, in association with PTW Architects, two mobile ‘pods’ were created by design students to address the needs of school students who may experience mental health or attention issues, or who may simply benefit from a calming environment.
Inside the Parramatta Riverside Courtyard, visitors will also be directed to projects situated around the wider Parramatta:

Parragirls Past, Present unlocks memories of institutional ‘care’ in a deeply moving immersive 3D Virtual Reality experience, presenting former residents’ visions of the Parramatta Girls Home today. Up until the early 1980s, ‘children at risk’ were held at Parramatta Girls Home and subjected to unwarranted punishment and abuse. Returning after 40 years, the Parragirls seek out traces to substantiate what really happened here. This groundbreaking immersive experience is accompanied by a self-guided audio walk at Parramatta Girls Home on 14 & 21 October.

Apocalypse Anonymous takes us into the strange yet unnervingly familiar world of Doomsday Preppers, whose activities focus on surviving a range of apocalypse scenarios. Installed next to the water in Parramatta Park, the work features first-person accounts and interviews, and responds to increasing anxiety about climate change and its social and personal repercussions.

The Petition Never to Die by Vicki Van Hout and Marian Abboud is a physical and visual performance that takes place on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th October at 7pm on the banks of the Parramatta weir. Participate in re-imagined clinical trials consisting of outdated unethical medical procedures accompanied by jargon filled with never-ending numerical scales exploiting fallibility.

Showing at the Parramatta Justice Precinct’s Heritage Courtyard Pavilion Everything is Connected With Everything Else: Myco Logic is an exhibition facilitated by Elizabeth Day with the recovery team and carer networks at Cumberland Hospital. The installation brings together fungi-inspired artwork made in a new rehabilitation arts program with two wards of Cumberland Hospital, connecting audiences outside of the hospital.

All events at The Big Anxiety Festival Parramatta hub are free. Full program here.

Audio Description, AUSLAN and Accessibility
On Saturday 14 October AUSLAN will be available for all events, projects and tours. On Saturday 21 October, Audio Description will be available for all events, projects and tours. All of the venues and events in the Parramatta program are freely wheelchair accessible with the exception of Petition Never to Die.

The Big Anxiety Festival is an initiative of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in association with the Black Dog Institute and over 25 partners across Greater Sydney. The principal Festival partner is The Bridging Hope Charity Foundation; Major partners and supporters include Australian Government, Department of Communication and the Arts: Catalyst – Arts and Culture Fund; The Neilson Foundation; Australia Council for the Arts; City Of Sydney; Mental Health Commission of NSW and the NSW Government.

The Parramatta events for The Big Anxiety Festival are supported by Riverside Theatres, Parramatta and Parramatta Park.

For more information visit


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