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UEL academic launches crowdfunding campaign for interactive art project highlighting male suicide 

Every pay phone in the UK will ring at the same time during 'Pick Me Up (and hold me tight)' 

An academic at the University of East London (UEL) is launching a crowdfunding campaign to finance an ambitious interactive art project which will highlight the problem of male suicide. 

Dr Jorge Lopes Ramos, (pictured left), Co-programme leader of UEL’s MA Contemporary Performance Practices course and executive director of the award-winning digital art company ZU-UK, said, “In the UK today, mental health issues will affect one in four people at some point in their lives. Suicide is the most common form of death for men aged 20-49.” 

Dr Lopes Ramos said he and others at ZU-UK have lost close friends, collaborators and heroes to suicide. As a response to this, the company has created what they hope will be a major public piece of art to highlight the issue entitled 'Pick Me Up (and hold me tight)'.

Their plan: in 2020, at 11 am on New Year’s Day (a time and date when there tends to be a peak in suicide rates) all 34,000 public pay phones in the UK will start ringing simultaneously. The interactive audio experience of Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) starts when the first participant answers the first call. The buttons on the phone will be used to direct an unfolding story. 

Dr Lopes Ramos explained, “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.”

ZU-UK are looking to raise £15,000 through a public crowdfunding campaign to fund a pilot on New Year’s Day 2019. The crowdfunding campaign launches 6 June.

The company are also exploring ways to offer supporters the opportunity to dedicate a specific phone box to a loved one lost to suicide. 

ZU-UK themselves are dedicating the project to the late author Mark Fisher, also known as k punk, who took his life in January 2017 following a long battle with depression. The 30-day crowdfunding campaign will culminate on 6 July, just five days before what would have been Mark's 50th birthday.

Dr Lopes Ramos said, “It seems right to be crowdfunding to create this project as it explores issues that are common to all of us. The crowdfunding campaign marks the start of a conversation with thousands of participants, collaborators and supporters. 

“It’s a conversation we hope will remind us to listen differently to those around us.”

To ensure Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) is delivered with the utmost sensitivity and respect, ZU-UK are collaborating with a range of mental health organisations, as well as health activist James Leadbitter, researcher Tehseen Noorani and UEL psychologist Rachel Jane Liebert. Additional organisations dedicated to people who have been bereaved by suicide will also offer support and guidance.

ZU-UK Artistic Director Persis Jadé Maravala (pictured right) said, “Despite the somewhat dark overtones, Pick Me Up (and hold me tight) is really about emphasising the value we each place in life though the smallest of everyday actions. And by joining in a nationwide act of listening we also hope people will get together to mark this moment with those closest to them.”


You can donate to their crowdfunding campaign here