Contact Theatre

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Contact Theatre 2009.jpg
Address Manchester
Type Theatre
Capacity Space 1: 300 seats
Space 2: 70 seats
Opened 1965 (The University Theatre), 1999 (Contact, current building)
Architect Alan Short

Contact is Manchester, England's provocative and innovative performance venue, and multi-disciplinary arts centre. Originally a traditional theatre, Contact relaunched in 1999 as a space specialising in producing work and providing opportunities for young people.


Contact is located in the heart of Manchester's Oxford Road Corridor between Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery, on the site that was originally the University Theatre (est. 1965).

The University Theatre was home to The Century Theatre Company from 1965 to 1968 (who went on to become resident company at The Duke's in Lancaster from 1971), and 69 Theatre Company from 1968 to 1971 (which later became The Royal Exchange Theatre Company). In 1972, Contact was founded as Manchester Young People's Theatre by Barry Sheppard (General Manager of the University Theatre) and Hugh Hunt (Professor of Drama), as part of the University of Manchester.[1]

Following a £5 million investment from Arts Council England, Contact was reopened in 1999 as the national arts organisation that places young people's decision-making and leadership at the heart of everything it does. Young people aged 13+ work alongside the staff in deciding its programme, making staff appointments, and are part of its Board of Trustees. The result is a remarkable. diverse and exciting programme for anyone - whatever your age.

Contact is funded by Arts Council England, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, Manchester City Council and the University of Manchester, but it is independently run. Diversifying its work away from traditional theatre, Contact's remit also covers dance, music, spoken word, cabaret, comedy and visual art. Its annual programme includes touring work and in-house productions, co-productions and collaborations developed with artists, companies and young people.

Contact is a registered charity, number 501953.

Artistic Directors[edit]

  • John McGrath 1999–2008
  • Baba Israel 2009–2012
  • Matt Fenton 2013-current


  • Stirling Royal Institute of British Architects Building Of The Year (1999)
  • Arts Council Breakthrough Award: In Recognition of the Pioneering work achieved with Young People
  • TMA Eclipse Award for Cultural Diversity
  • Arts Council England Art04 Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Arts Council England Art07 Rising Star
  • TMA Award for Diversity 2013
  • Co-operative RESPECT Inclusive Venue of the Year 2013
  • Lever Prize Winner 2014


Contact's distinctive building was designed by architect Alan Short and Associates as part of the venue's 1999 redesign. Arts Council England put up £4.5 million toward the building with the money being matched by English Partnerships and land donated from The University of Manchester. It is located on Devas Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, near the university's departments of education and drama. The main 300-seat auditorium (Space 1) was refitted and an 70-seat studio (Space 2) was added in the newly built turret.

The nine huge stacks crowned with H-shaped chimney pots assist with the building's natural ventilation.

Current workshops[edit]

Alongside its artistic programme Contact runs a number of other regular workshops.

  • Contact Young Company (CYC) (formerly known as Contact Young Actors Company (CYAC))

An in-house company of young people aged 15 to 25, CYC puts on three productions a year, each directed by a guest director or company. Auditions are held three times a year with members rotating out after one year.

  • Technique

Runs parallel to CYC teaching young people aged 15 to 25 the skills used backstage at the theatre including lighting, sound, and stage production.

  • Monday Drop, Level Up & Media Drop

Weekly workshops allowing DJs, MCs, actors and poets aged 13+ to learn about different performance styles and techniques; explore creative writing and develop physical performance skills.

Contacting The World[edit]

Since 2002 Contact has hosted Contacting The World, a biannual international project which brings together young people from around the world to create new theatre. Twinning companies so they can collaborate, exchange members and share ideas Contacting The World culminates in a Festival Week in July.

Contacting The World has featured companies from Malaysia, Trinidad, Nigeria, Rwanda, Palestine, Brazil, Poland, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Jordan, Bangladesh, Syria, Iran, South Africa, New Zealand, The Philippines, Nepal, Zambia, Germany, Turkey, the UK and USA.


  1. ^ Manchester Theatres, Terry Wyke and Nigel Rudyard, ISBN 0-947969-18-7

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°27′47″N 2°13′55″W / 53.46306°N 2.23194°W / 53.46306; -2.23194