Photo: Lizzie Coombes


Pick Me Up (& hold me tight)

Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) was an invitation for collective listening, experienced through public pay-phones across Leeds. 

Created by award-winning theatre and digital art company ZU-UK in response to rising suicide rates across the country, we made all the working phone boxes in Leeds ring daily.

Through an invitation to answer a public pay phone, Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) was a mass act of contemplation about the relationship between mental health and modern life. 

The gentle but thought-provoking audio experience explored contemporary loneliness was an invitation to pause, take stock, and explore what kind of listeners we are. 

At a time when suicide is the most common cause of death for men in Britain aged 20-49 and 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health issues at some point in their lives, Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) offered an opportunity to reflect, remember and gather.

It has become more important than ever to listen. Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) was an opportunity to reflect on changes in the fabric of our communities, the shrinking of public space and the innate power of listening – on an ambitious yet intimate scale. 

During its run from 19 – 28 March 2020, over 500 calls were answered from people across Leeds. 

Whilst developing this artwork we audited over 300 phone boxes. Visiting each one highlighted not only how neglected these public spaces have become but also how vital their role remains for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Each phone was audited by a Compass Festival Volunteer across a four month period. We went out in all weathers to check if the phones were compatible with the project technology and safe to visit.

In March 2021 we submitted our audit to British Telecom with the hope that they may use our research to remedy some of the issues facing the phone boxes of Leeds. 

The following map was created by ZU-UK for our audience to locate usable phone-boxes and to track how many calls were taken and where.

Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) by ZU UK. Commissioned by Compass Festival.

Many thanks to Mind in Camden for their support in the creation of the pilot of this project, the crowdfunders who made the research and development possible, to local artist Kevin Lycett  and to our team of volunteers who helped audit all the telephone boxes in Leeds.

This whole project is dedicated to Dr Mark Fisher.

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