Fertility Fest 2019

Everyone has a story

Fertility Fest changed my life. It sounds hyperbolic, but it really did. I came to the first Fertility Fest in 2016 with my friend Johanna: both of us unsure what to expect, but both knowing that it felt Important and Relevant — and Very Much Needed. We were both vulnerable and raw from the miscarriages we’d each suffered a matter of weeks earlier— and I also had the added bonus of resembling a bloated space hopper thanks to the egg collection for my 3rd IVF cycle that I’d had 48h previously (watching my phone like a bomb detonator, anxiously waiting for an update from the embryology lab). We were blown away by the incredible experience of so many artists coming together with some of the UK’s leading fertility professionals — for a day of performances and discussions about fertility, infertility, modern families and the science of making babies. 

Solidarity, acceptance & understanding

We both came away feeling like we’d been part of something extraordinary. I laughed, I cried – but most of all, I felt like I was with my tribe. With people who just got it. Finding support and comfort from other members of the club no-one wants to join.

The people

The shared emotions

The honesty

The love

In 2018 Fertility Fest returned with a bang: bringing together art and medicine in a dazzling week-long programme of events, entertainment, discussion, debate, support and solidarity. Writers, visual artists, theatre-makers, film-directors and composers came together with fertility experts to explore every conceivable (and inconceivable) facet of human fertility: asking big societal questions like, ‘what should come first, career or egg?’ and ‘does motherhood make you happy?’ as well as talking about more intimate stories about loss.

How to find acceptance

How to discover our worth

How to leave a legacy

Without giving birth

Whereas in 2016 I’d been in the hope zone, hoping with every fibre of my being that one of our embryos would become a much-longed for baby —  in 2018 I was coming to terms with saying out loud ‘We can’t have children’. And I felt very, very alone.

Taking part in Fertility Fest 2018 wasn’t just interesting, informative, or inspiring. It was the opportunity to be amongst my people. Where I felt like I was part of something much bigger than me. Where I felt less alone.

Because I wasn’t alone.

Some of the feedback from other attendees beautifully articulates this tremendous sense of togetherness; cultivated in a shared conversation about what it means to make (and sometimes not make) babies in the modern world:

The feeling of community was palpable. I felt able to speak to anyone as I knew that there would be some form of shared experience. I made several connections and came away with some new friends.

I no longer feel so alone in my own journey. It was amazing to be with people and feel like one of the crowd rather than on the outside of everything.

I met really interesting people. I learnt new things. I felt that ‘fertility’ stopped being a rather dark and difficult thing and that it became something which could be discussed in new and more positive ways.

From small acorns mighty oaks do grow: from a day experience at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park in 2016 —to a month-long programme of events at the Barbican in 2019, as part of their Life Rewired season. From 23rd April — 18th May, Fertility Fest will explore what it means to be human when technology is changing everything; including the world premiere of the stage dramatisation of Julia Leigh’s tender and illuminating memoir about infertility, ‘Avalanche’.

Jessica and Gabby have knocked it out the park once again, with a spectacular line-up of theatre, comedy, dance, music, visual art, film and literature, coming together with fertility professionals, patients and the public – for what promises to be the biggest and best Fertility Fest yet. After coming to Fertility Fest as an attendee in 2016, then a volunteer in 2018, I’m absolutely thrilled to be participating as writer-in-residence for Fertility Fest 2019. I’ll be blogging in the lead up to and during the festival, to highlight the best of the fest, and a perspective on some of the key themes that this year’s festival will explore. With subjects as diverse as race, religion & reproduction; donor conception & surrogacy; queer families & alternative routes to parenthood; egg freezing & solo motherhood, and the gamut of emotions when you’re struggling to conceive, it’s going to be an absolute belter. Strap in!