Contact will close the doors of its iconic Oxford Road building at the end of December 2017 ahead of a major £6.75million capital redevelopment. During this time, the organisation’s staff will relocate to the Millennium Powerhouse in Moss Side, with a year-long programme of performance and participation activities taking place in partner venues across Greater Manchester.
Contact has announced the first part of its exciting year out programme, which will see it forge new creative partnerships with venues including the Palace Theatre Manchester, Manchester Academy, the Museum of Science and Industry and The Lowry, as well as various interesting and unexpected spaces, including a working sari shop on Manchester’s Curry Mile.
The season will kick off in style in February with two high profile shows as part of the annual Queer Contact Festival, beginning with Dancing Bear at the Palace Theatre Manchester (Tue 6 – Wed 7 February). Produced by Jamie Fletcher & Company and Contact, Dancing Bear flips between dramatic storytelling and catchy pop songs to explore personal, social and mental health issues experienced by LGBT+ people. This will be followed by club culture meeting high art at the House of Suarez and Contact Vogue Ball at Manchester Academy 2 (Sat 10 Feb).
Queer Contact Festival marks its 10th anniversary year with its biggest line-up of events yet. A packed programme of theatre, music, cabaret, film, clubbing, dance, spoken word and visual art examining gender, sexuality, health, religion, politics and more, will be hosted at venues across Greater Manchester (Sat 3 – Sat 24 Feb). Partner venues include: Palace Theatre Manchester, Manchester Academy, Manchester Central Library, People’s History Museum, Waterside, Texture and 53Two.
The award-winning Contact Young Company will present Manchester’s rich social history in a celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act (1918). She Bangs the Drums will take place at the Museum of Science and Industry (Thu 8 – Sat 10 Mar) in a humorous and political reflection on votes for women and working-class men. Following this, Contact and Rasa co-production Handlooms by Rani Moorthy shifts the scene to a working sari shop, Alankar House of Saris on Wilmslow Road (Tue 13 – Sun 25 Mar). Handlooms explores the generational gap between a mother and son, who are both seeking solutions to a business crisis. Finally, as a teaser for what’s to come later in the year, Contact is delighted to announce a one-off gala performance of Sophie Willan’s smash-hit Contact commissioned show Branded at The Lowry (Thu 31 May).
Contact is thrilled to be relocating to the Millennium Powerhouse in Moss Side for the duration of 2018. This will not only be home to staff, but will also be a venue for Contact’s regular programme of free participatory activities throughout the year. The building is operated by Manchester Young Lives, and houses a number of other young people focused organisations, services and activities. As a company, Contact will be working with these organisations to increase the numbers of young people using the building. Contact’s other arts and leadership projects such as Contact Young Company, Future Fires and The Agency will continue to engage and inspire young people whilst the building on Oxford Road undergoes its transformation.
Contact will continue to regularly announce performances, projects and activities for the rest of 2018. Contact’s young producers group Re:Con are currently working on a project in response to the anniversary of the anti-Section 28 protests in Manchester in 1988, and a brand new Christmas show written by the award-winning Jackie Hagan will be taking place at a partner venue during December.
Working alongside a dedicated team of local young people, Con:Struct, and with architects Sheppard Robson, Contact will re-open in 2019. The refurbished building 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. The project aims are to increase the number and range of creative opportunities for young people and to strengthen the organisation’s financial sustainability. Access throughout the building will also be upgraded as well as improving its environmental performance.
The project will be funded by over £6million of investment from Arts Council England and Manchester City Council with generous 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.
Matt Fenton, Artistic Director and Chief Executive at Contact 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.
Jane Beardsworth, Director North, Arts Council England said: Working with children and young people is an absolute priority for the Arts Council. Contact has always put the needs of the young people at the forefront of its work and we’re delighted that they will benefit from these improved facilities. I look forward to the re-opening in 2019.
Paul Fletcher, Chief Executive at Manchester Young Lives said: Manchester Young Lives is delighted to welcome Contact to the Powerhouse; this will open up opportunities for talented young people in Moss Side and surrounding neighbourhoods to engage with the arts.
Alistair Cox, Powerhouse Board member added: We are delighted with this new collaboration with Contact, which has for many years engaged young people from Moss Side and surrounding communities in its artistic activities. This is a real opportunity to broaden this work and to open increased cultural, social and educational opportunities for young people using the Powerhouse.