Why I am Launching a Festival on Infertility
As someone who has been through eleven rounds of unsuccessful IVF myself including multiple miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy that almost took my life, I’m conscious of the fact that people coming to terms with involuntary childlessness often want to do nothing more than move on.
So, as the Founder of Fertility Fest, the UK’s first arts festival on fertility, infertility and IVF which takes place in Birmingham on 28th May and London on 11th June, I always wonder – will anybody come?Even people I know who have been through IVF successfully want to put it behind them and pretend that this nightmare was never part of their lives. And for those who are still struggling to conceive the subject is shrouded in secrecy and shame. So getting all these people to come to a festival together - well, that’s impossible, isn’t it?
What about professionals working in the fertility sector? Surely they’d have a lot to learn from writers, visual artists, composers, theatre-makers and film directors who have expressed the impact that infertility has had on their lives. But sadly many doctors are guilty of being dismissive about the emotional effect of going through treatment, preferring to put their faith in a science that often doesn’t work. Although the UK Government regulator of fertility treatment, the HFEA, recommends that all patients should be offered counselling, my own experience is that very few clinics do. And although IVF is undoubtedly a modern miracle responsible for 3% of all children now born in the UK, it staggers me that the success statistics haven’t changed much since Louise Brown, the first IVF baby was born in 1978. Roughly two thirds of all IVF cycles fail. The psychological impact of this even if you do have a baby in the end is devastating. But very few people in the fertility sector are willing to talk about it – why would they, they’re involved in a fast-growing and profitable business which deals in the marketing of hope.
So Fertility Fest is a groundbreaking event. It will bring together over 20 of the UK’s leading artists who have made work on this subject with some of the biggest names in the fertility industry for the first time. They’ll be sharing the stage discussing topics which include facing the infertility diagnosis, IVF, donation, surrogacy, the male experience, involuntary childlessness, alternative routes to parenthood and the future of fertility in the modern world. IVF is one of the most important scientific and societal developments of our times and for a growing number of people, it’s success or failure, is fundamental to their pursuit of happiness.
I passionately believe we all need to talk about this more to make it better for those going through it. That includes those people who are on the IVF roller coaster, those people who have got off - whatever the outcome - and those who are working in the field. Fertility, infertility and IVF is one of the last great taboos and the thing about taboos is that they rarely make life better for the people living them. That’s why the world needs a festival on infertility and I hope you will come.
Tickets to Fertility Fest cost £35 and include a performance of The Quiet House a new play by award-winning writer, Gareth Farr about a couple’s experience of going through IVF. For more details and to book go to www.fertilityfest.com