Know your theatre:
The most unusual-looking theatre building you’ll ever come across, Contact has undergone more radical changes of direction than your average performing arts organisation.
Built as the performance space for Manchester University Drama Department, it was briefly used by the ‘69 Theatre Company before that became the Royal Exchange Theatre Company.
In 1972 the building became home to the Manchester Young People’s Theatre, aka Contact, a sadly now little-remembered repertory company under the likes of Richard Williams, that presented many of Alan Bleasdale’s stage successes and gave young actors such as Mark Rylance and Rick Mayall early roles.
The set-up later changed again to take Contact back to its young people's theatre roots, and a rebuild in 1999 produced the highly-distinctive current ventilation chimneys.
Now fully open again after a £6.5m re-vamp in 2020, the emphasis is even more on young people doing it for themselves. Contact’s aim is to enable young people to change their lives through the arts as well as enabling audiences of all ages to experience new shows. Contact is the leading national theatre and arts venue to place young people at the decision-making heart of everything. Young people aged 13-30 lead the organisation, working alongside staff in deciding the artistic programme, making staff appointments and acting as full board members.
Pic: Joel Chester Fildes
Contact Theatre, Devas Street, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6JA
Box office 0161 274 0600 (Mon-Fri 10am-5pm), General inquiries 0161 274 0646.
This fascinating - not to say quirky - architectural edifice near the university has a main 320-seat auditorium (Space 1) and an 80-seat studio. The redevelopment has produced new performance spaces, a new recording studio, an arts and health development space, new offices for organisations to hire and a new café/bar. The work also contributed to the building's emphasis on sustainable development: Contact is reckoned to be in the top one per cent of the North West's most environmentally-friendly buildings.
Contact doesn't have its own parking, but visitors can use the university car park, which is directly outside and subject to charges.