Manchester's Contact Theatre to reopen after two-year hiatus


Contact Theatre - major refurb. Pic: Contact
Contact Theatre - major refurb. Pic: Contact

Manchester youth theatre Contact is to reopen its Oxford Road doors this month after a two-year hiatus for a £6 million transformation.

After closing in December 2017, the building – one of the UK’s leading theatre and arts venues for young people – reopens on September 20, with performances starting on October 6.

The redesigned and brightly-coloured main foyer. Pic: Adrian Lambert
The redesigned and brightly-coloured main foyer. Pic: Adrian Lambert

Contact returns with improved performance spaces; a purpose-built recording studio for young people’s music projects; a health and science development space created in partnership with the Wellcome Trust; new offices for artists and cultural organisations to hire and work alongside Contact staff; an improved public bar; free work and social spaces and other interesting features and associations.

“We are overjoyed to be reopening,” said Matt Fenton, Contact’s chief executive and artistic director, “and it feels right that our first show is from the Contact Young Company. “We believe young people deserve the very best resources to create and imagine.”

Since the building was handed over by the contractors some months ago it has been used by young artists, some of whom fill the opening programme.

Contact Young Company. Pic: Dom Varden
Contact Young Company. Pic: Dom Varden

The season begins in October with Contact Young Company’s Everything All of the Time, directed by Matt Fenton, a “physical and visual journey through a new world, squashed into an hour of hedonism, love, anger, nostalgia and hope”.

Contact and Black Gold Arts will team up fo Black History Month to offer Black-led art, performance and film featuring the live world premiere of mandla rae’s As British as a Watermelon, and films from Chanje Kunda and Mele Broomes.

ERGON Theatre presents The Wicked Problem, where audiences act as the jury in the world's first ecocide trial; Mika Onyx-Johnson’s Pink Lemonade combines original beats, poetry and movement in an autobiographical journey of sexuality, identity and self-discovery, while Dibby Theatre and HIV+ theatre-maker Nathaniel Hall – star of hit Channel 4 series It’s a Sin – present First Time, an award-winning autobiographical show about growing up positive in a negative world.

The Black Pride Manchester Vogue Ball will be hosted in December, and Contact will also be home to Dick Whittington and his Cat, Eight-Freestyle’s upbeat telling of the classic rags-to-riches story.

Throughout redevelopment Contact has worked with local, national and international artists to create new models of arts engagement, and supported the expansion of a youth enterprise project, The Agency, that works with young people to create social enterprises, events, projects and businesses.

The organisation also presented Contact in the City, a year-long programme of performances in partner venues and unexpected spaces, and, throughout the COVID-19 crisis, has​​ continued to host long-running music, drama and youth leadership programmes and provide rehearsal space for early-career artists in Greater Manchester.

The project was funded with a £3.85 million investment from Arts Council England and grants from other supporters, trusts and foundations.

Full season details here