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Making Contact city-wide in Manchester

Published: 18 November 2017
Reporter: David Chadderton

Contact Credit: Joel Chester Fildes
Dancing Bear Credit: Benji Reid
Handlooms Credit: Benji Reid

Contact theatre in Manchester has announced a programme of events at major venues across the city while its £6.75M refurbishment is carried out during 2018.

The current building will close in December as the staff move to the Millennium Powerhouse in Moss Side, which already houses various services for young people, where Contact's packed programme of free participatory projects will also take place throughout the year.

The first event out of the theatre will be the annual Queer Contact Festival, celebrating its tenth anniversary. Its headlining events will be queer musical Dancing Bear produced in association with Jamie Fletcher and Company at Manchester's Palace Theatre and House of Suarez's Vogue Ball, which will take place round the corner from the theatre at Manchester Academy 2.

Contact Young Company will celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act with "a humorous and political reflection on votes for women and working-class men", She Bangs the Drums, at the Museum of Science and Industry.

In a co-production with Rasa, Rani Moorthy will take audiences to the "Curry Mile" for Handlooms, performed in a working sari shop and focusing on the cultural associations of that garment and a generational gap between mother and son. Also, Sophie Willan will return to Contact with her hit show Branded, performed at The Lowry in Salford.

The refurbished building, scheduled to reopen in early 2019, will feature a new performance space, a recording studio for young people, new offices and rehearsal spaces for artists and other cultural organisations and a new café and bar. Access throughout the building will also be upgraded as well as improving its environmental performance.

The project will be funded by more than £6 million of investment from Arts Council England and Manchester City Council with grants and donations from local and national trusts and foundations. Corporate and individual supporters and a public fundraising campaign will raise the remaining £600,000 during 2018.

Artistic Director and Chief Executive Matt Fenton said, "This is an incredibly exciting and important time for Contact. While our building is expanded and improved, 2018 will see us present a year-long programme at partner venues and found spaces across the city, taking Contact productions to new communities and letting new audiences experience our work. Contact productions will also be touring nationally, and a recent show will be broadcast on BBC TV and iPlayer.

"We’re also thrilled to be relocating our staff and all of our participatory projects to the Powerhouse in Moss Side. As a team, we’re really looking forward to forming new relationships with the organisations there to provide new opportunities for young people in the area.

"We are extremely grateful to Arts Council England and all our other funders, trusts and foundations, and our partner venues for their support on this project which will enable Contact to offer even more life-changing opportunities for young people, sustainably and for many years to come."