Manchester has been a powerhouse for the arts for sometime now, praised for its award-winning public institutions and world-class events. The city is a regular stop for international touring acts, but it is perhaps most reputed for its rich grassroots scene. Many top artists across the field of performing arts have called the city home, which is why Manchester’s cultural venues and organisations are dedicated to pursuing its local talents.
But no one does so quite like Contact – continue reading to find out why.
Celebrating over four decades of delivering a varied artistic programme to Mancunians, Contact has always been more than just a theatre. It first opened in 1972 as part of the University of Manchester, under the name of Manchester Young People’s Theatre. Shortly before the turn of the millennium, it reopened and rebranded as Contact, keeping the youth community at the heart of its activities. Artists to develop in the building as young people include poets Lemn Sissay and Louise Wallwein, actors Zawe Ashton and Fisao Akinade, and Manchester music collectives Levelz and Cul de Sac.
Contact’s core purpose is to use the arts to develop the skills of young people and simultaneously deliver exciting and relevant entertainment to them, as well as a highly-diverse audience of all ages. Young people are not only the end users, but are also involved in the entire organisation of the venue. From being involved in programming to discussing architectural designs with planners and stakeholders, every major decision is influenced by them to ensure an authentic relationship is held between the theatre and Manchester’s young people.
Having such a strong focus on people aged 13-30 years old falls in line with their overarching mission. Contact wants to empower future artists and creative leaders, which in turn means more engagement, more respect for diversity, and more accessibility throughout the spectrum of performing arts. Whether it’s events that evoke discussions on mental health issues, or staging performances that are more representative of Manchester’s diverse communities, Contact continuously strives to use the arts as a transformative and relatable platform to inspire and bring about social change.
The company does not just confine itself to one location. Having many different partner venues across Manchester and the UK allows their productions to travel across the nation, spreading their messages further and broadening their reach. Current partner venues located around the city include the Palace Theatre, The Lowry, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester Academy and various other sites, while they have also been known to use surprising, adventurous and interesting locations, such as a sari shop in Rusholme.
The team at Contact are proud of what has been achieved so far:
“For the past 20 years Contact has had a commitment to placing young decision-makers at the heart of the organisation; appointing staff, deciding the public programme and informing all key decisions. We’re so pleased to continue working with inspiring artists and companies with a long history with Contact, presenting their incredible performances at unexpected locations across Greater Manchester as work continues on our building on Oxford Road.” Matt Fenton, Artistic Director
Keisha Thompson: Man on the Moon (16th – 20th October, 2018)
A creative and honest approach to exploring the impacts of mental health; Man on the Moon tells the tale of Keisha’s struggle to communicate with her father, and her journey through emotions and cultural discourses in order to reach him. Her celebrated and award-winning performance delicately explores important themes, such as black identity in Britain and political paranoia, using poetry and metaphors to do so. Keisha will be performing at STUN Studio, 335 Stretford Road, Manchester, M15 5ZA.
Rent Party (10th – 13th October)
Rated 5 stars by The Stage and Gay Times, Rent Party is vibrant medley of cabaret and colour. It creatively and energetically shows us what it’s like to be ”˜young, gifted and black, and poor, and gay’, taking inspiration from 1920’s Harlem society who put on shows to tackle the sky-high rent prices. A century ago, Harlem’s black musicians, poets, playwrights and other artists would club together to create unforgettable parties, charging their friends to hear or see their work while having a fabulous time. The money from the party would then go towards rent – hence the name, and keep them going for another month! Rent party is produced by artists Sonia Hughes, Darren Pritchard and Cheryl Martin, who have enjoyed a long collaborative relationship with Contact, and is showing at The Klondyke, 1 Burnage Range, Manchester M19 2HQ.
Contact and Jackie Hagan: The Forest of Forgotten Discos! (11th – 23rd December, 2018)
A perfect way to immerse the little ones in the Arts for the festive period. The loveable characters of the forest, such as Bear Hug, Bear Minimum and Bear Grills, and Alexa – the rainforest’s virtual assistant, make it a lively and entertaining event for the whole family to enjoy. The colourful show is geared towards children from the age of 5 upwards, and will take place at Hope Mill Theatre, 113 Pollard St, Manchester M4 7JA.
How can I get tickets?
TickX helps you find the best deals for the shows performed at Contact or produced by them and shown at partner venues.
Where is it?
The Contact Theatre is located on Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6JA. It occupies an optimal spot close to Manchester’s universities and Manchester Academy, and sits across from Manchester Royal Infirmary.
During refurbishment, Contact’s team are based at one of their partner venues, so performances will be located across the city.
How do I get there?
Considered one of the busiest bus corridors in Europe, Oxford Road is populated by many bus services and public transport routes. There are also many car parks, however efforts to make the road more environmentally-friendly have incurred changes for motorists, and it is important to check your journey before hand.
Many buses operate down Oxford Road. From Piccadilly gardens, services 14, 16, 41, 42, 43, 43a, 44, 45a, 48, 111, 140, 142, 157, 250 are fairly regular. If you’re getting a bus from Piccadilly Train Station, take the 147.
There are three train stations within half an hour walking distance of the venue (approximately two miles). Victoria Station is the furthest, around 1.9 miles away, followed by Piccadilly, which is 1.3 miles away and then Oxford Road Station; just under a mile from the venue.
The venue is surrounded by a number of carparks, such as Dilworth Street, Dover Street, Cecil Street and Booth Street West. Prices and availability may vary, so it’s advisable to plan ahead.
Please be aware, the Oxford Road venue is currently under refurbishment until 2019, and the Contact team are currently housed at Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse on 140 Raby St, Manchester, M14 4SL.
The Contact Theatre is due to open in 2019, following over £6 million in funding by the Arts Council England and Manchester City Council, among others, to improve its facilities. The redesign has multiple aims, ranging from enhancing accessibility and expanding its creative development opportunities, to improving its environmental and financial performance.
There will be a new performance area, recording studio, rehearsal space, arts and health development space, offices, a cafe and a bar. The overall layout and quality of facilities will also be enhanced, making it more accessible and interconnected.
The city is bustling with a thriving food and drink scene. Whether you’re in the mood for some five-star fine dining, or simply want to grab a quick but tasty snack, there’s plenty of choice around. Close to Contact, Kro Bar is an award-winning bar and restaurant serving food all day, or walk ten minutes down Oxford Road towards the centre and you’ll find Chinese restaurant, Benka, and the Eighth Day Cafe, which boasts a variety of vegetarian fare, alongside many fast food eateries. There’s also a wealth of bars nearby, including the popular Big Hands.
If you’re coming from out of town and looking for somewhere to stay close to the venue; you’re in luck! The Contact Theatre is surrounded by many hotels in the vicinity. Travelodge is only an 8-minute walk away, located on Upper Brook Street, while the Staybridge Suites Manchester – Oxford Road is just ten minutes by foot heading into the city centre. With only a short walk or bus ride into the centre, you’re close to Manchester’s countless number of places of stay.
Find all of Contact Theatre‘s below.