The HOAX Project is a long term, ambitious project that has sought throughout to push the boundaries of engagement, involvement and impact around serious mental illness.

It began with two existing, award-winning Ziggy’s Wish cross-media narratives, created and launched 2012-2014. Both were based on the true story of a young man from Manchester called Rob, his life with schizophrenia, through to his death by suicide.

The first was the stage musical HOAX My Lonely Heart; and the second was its sequel the graphic novel HOAX Psychosis Blues.

Here these are collectively referred to as HOAX.



HOAX 2012-2014


The stage musical HOAX My Lonely Heart


The graphic novel HOAX Psychosis Blues



Qualitative Feedback


It was evident from the qualitative feedback that HOAX had a profound effect on its audiences, suggesting these cross-media narratives held a very real potential to change attitudes, reduce public stigma and reduce self-stigma around mental health.


A hauntingly beautiful masterpiece. (Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier)
This is a moving and important work. (Dr Ian Willliams, Graphic Medicine)
We can only come away from HOAX Psychosis Blues with a fuller and more profound understanding about schizophrenia and its impact. (Glen Downey, Sequart)
With the degree of mystery, stigma, and fear that shrouds mental illness, it’s something special to be understood on the profound level here. (Jules Valera, Mental health sufferer)
Still thinking about HOAX My Lonely Heart last night. Its dark beauty and powerful language reminded me of Sarah Kane. Haunting. (@allthingsdrama)
I can’t really convey how important I believe this project to be, spellbinding in its execution. It gives a voice to those who do not have one. (Matthew Charlton, The Good Review)
It has made me think a lot about people I know who are or have experienced psychosis… and reflect on the way they are treated by people, services and by me! (Sarah Radford)
A powerful window showing the plight of a schizophrenic sufferer. A bold and necessary piece of storytelling indeed. (Jon Turner, Your Days Are Numbered)


The HOAX Project 2015-2018


In 2015, we began working with the Psychosis Research Unit (PRU) – a joint project between Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchesterto explore how PRU might quantitatively harness that potential and test the hypothesis that HOAX could lead to positive behavior change around mental health, and even to self-recovery. Thus we created The HOAX Projecta world-first cross-media narrative, health research study.

The aim was to study the impact of HOAX on audiences, including those who self-identified as having mental health difficulties; and whether this impact was long-lasting.

For this to work, PRU required access to a wide range of members of the public, as well as an optimized way to gather data from them over time. It was crucial this data-collection method supported the HOAX content being studied, to minimise the audience being ‘pulled out’ of their engagement with that content, and therefore to give the truest reflection of its impact.

Thus we developed and delivered a mobile app for the project, using our Applied Narrative Technology, titled HOAX Our Right to Hope.




The HOAX Our Right to Hope App


The HOAX Our Right to Hope app was specifically designed to help people connect to PRU’s mental-health research in a way that showed them why the research was important, and why they should take part in it.

As such, the app not only housed PRU’s study questions, but it also wrapped them in an Applied Narrative. This was a new piece of HOAX narrative that we created to seamlessly dovetail with the original HOAX content. It meant the audience could take part in the study without feeling like they were leaving the HOAX experience.

As this new piece of narrative was digital, built with our Applied Narrative Technology tools, it meant we could provide PRU with highly efficient data-capture, categorisation, and export capabilities.




The HOAX Tour


In order to reach a wide range of members of the public with The HOAX Project, we worked with Arts Council England to tour a pilot of The HOAX Project across the north of England.