Thousands of payphones to ring simultaneously on New Year’s Day in audio artwork

Thousands of payphones across the UK ring simultaneously on New Year’s Day in large-scale audio artwork

  • Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) is a five-minute audio artwork from theatre and digital arts company ZU-UK 
  • The phones will ring at 11am on New Year’s Day 
  • The pilot on New Years’ Day 2020 saw 176 phones across Leeds ring simultaneously, and the project will return for Compass Festival 2021 

@iamzuuk | | #ZUpickmeup 

Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) is a national project aiming to make every phone box in the UK ring at the same time: 11am on New Year’s Day. Those who pick up the ringing phone will hear a five-minute audio artwork designed to encourage us to think about our ability to listen – to ourselves, to others, to our surroundings – in a world which is growing louder by the day. At a time of year when mental health struggles can be more pronounced, especially in a year such as 2020, the audio is a gentle reminder to listen and of the power of simple connections. For those unable to get to a payphone, an online map will show in real-time all pay-phones being answered, and those that are still ringing. Theatre and digital arts company ZU-UK ran a successful pilot that took place at the same time last year, making 176 payphones in Leeds ring with the artwork. 

Whilst the exact number of working payphones in the UK is unknown, in 2018 it was recorded as 34,000. ZU-UK are currently crowdsourcing payphone numbers, and already have thousands of numbers ready for 1st January. Audiences who want to make sure their nearest phone is on the list can request a call, by nominate  their pay-phone number at: 

At a time of global isolation, the work is inspired by ZU-UK’s research into mental health, and is an invitation to think about how we listen. Leeds was selected for the pilot as the area with one of the highest suicide rates in the country. The artwork will revisit Leeds in March as part of Compass Festival 2021 with phones ringing every day throughout the festival.  

Anna Turzynski, Compass Festival Senior Producer, said “The Leeds pilot transformed my relationship with the public phone box, turning it into a site of gentle activism and a reminder of our responsibility to take care of one another.”  

Persis Jadé Maravala, ZU-UK’s Artistic Director and writer of Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) said, “Many of us are touched, through bereavement, ideation or survival of suicide – an epidemic that has national resonance. Responding to a national crisis through a national call to action via a gentle artwork, we present Pick Me Up (& hold me tight) as an invitation to explore what kind of listeners we are and could be.” 

Formerly known as Zecora Ura and Para Active, ZU-UK is an award-winning theatre & digital arts company ZU-UK is based in Newham and led by immigrant working-class artists Persis Jade Maravala and Jorge Lopes Ramos. Persis is a disabled artist, ethnically Persian, originally from Yemen and raised in East London. Jorge was born in one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas to a Polish-Romanian family. In a world where mainstream narratives normalize hate and fear, where contemporary loneliness is a new epidemic, we believe in the need for shared rituals, new narratives & experiences that empower those most vulnerable to experience and make excellent art. ZU-UK creates interactive experiences using games, performance and technology. They can happen anywhere including on your phone, in your house, on a stage, in a shopping mall or a field. Previous projects include VR experience Goodnight, Sleep Tight, the immersive Binaural Dinner Date, and #RioFoneHack at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

Supported by Arts Council England and 309 individual supporters (via Crowdfunding)