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Contact Manchester bosses to hand over leadership

Suzie Henderson and Matt Fenton: handing over the reins at Contact Manchester
Suzie Henderson and Matt Fenton: handing over the reins at Contact Manchester

After overseeing the multi-million-pound redevelopment of Manchester’s Contact Theatre, artistic director Matt Fenton and head of creative development Suzie Henderson have both announced they are moving on.

Matt – also Contact’s chief executive – will leave next year after eight years at the city’s young people’s theatre, and is moving to Belgium.

Suzie, who has been at the theatre for 15 years, is to be the new creative director at Chester’s Storyhouse complex, (replacing Alex Clifton, who is moving to Hong Kong to work for Disney).

Matt and Suzie have recently steered Contact through a £7m capital project, reopened the building in a pandemic, launched a new season and appointed Junior Akinola as young chair of Contact’s trustees.

In their time with the organisation, Matt and Suzie have produced scores of shows for national touring, developed youth social enterprise programme The Agency as a national force, reimagined the Contact Young Company, and nurtured generations of artists and emerging leaders, such as Sophie Willan, Haiesha Mistry, Adam Ali, mandla rae, Afreena Islam and Keisha Thompson.

Matt Fenton said: “I’ve loved every minute at Contact. Our unique approach to working with young people as decision-makers, trustees, artists and activists has inspired and rejuvenated me. But it’s time to create some space for new voices and experiences, and I can’t wait to take what I have learned to Belgium next year, where Contact’s approach remains highly regarded and influential.”

Suzie Henderson said: “It’s been an honour to work with the dedicated team, brilliant young people and talented artists that make Contact what it is. I am excited to take what I have learned to Storyhouse and begin a new adventure with them in January”.

Junior Akinola, chair of the board at Contact, said: “A big part of Matt’s legacy will be the completion of the capital project. This will allow us to continue our impact on the lives of young people all over the city, which will create more great moments and achievements for Contact’s long-lasting legacy.”

First established as a theatre in 1972, in 1999 Contact reinvented itself providing opportunities for young people aged 13-30. Today Contact is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of youth leadership and creativity.

Contact is unique in placing young people’s decision-making at the heart of its work: young people work alongside staff in deciding the artistic programme, making staff appointments and act as full Board members.

Contact closed its doors in December 2017 for a major building redevelopment. The £6.75million project has transformed the building for the next generation of audiences, artists and young people – not to mention the next generation of leaders like Matt and Susie

Find out more about Contact here


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