The theatre has raised over £6 million towards its ambitious redevelopment, now for the final round…

Contact theatre has become an iconic Oxford Road institution, renowned for the diversity of its shows and its work with young people. But, while its turreted building may be eye-catching, growing demands from audiences and participants mean it’s no longer fit for purpose.    

That’s why last December saw the trailblazing arts venue close its doors until summer 2019, as it undergoes an extensive £6.65 million redevelopment. With just over £6 million currently in the pot, staff recently announced their campaign to raise the final £500k during a rousing ceremony at Manchester Art Gallery.

Introduced by ambassador Julie Hesmondhalgh (best known as Corrie’s Hayley Cropper), Contact's CEO and artistic director Matt Fenton and an inspiring performance from Contact Young Company’s radical five star show, She Bangs The Drums, the event revealed new plans for the building; which last underwent development in 1999, 27 years after Contact was founded. 

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CGI of ground floor
2018 04 17 Contact Cgi 2
CGI of a new extension
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CGI of upper floor

These include new and improved performance spaces; a purpose-built recording studio for young people’s music projects; an arts and health development space; new offices for artists and cultural organisations to hire and collaborate with Contact staff; plus a new café and bar.

Some of the most prolific artists I’ve met started out at Contact

Central to the campaign is ‘Con:Struct,’ a dedicated team of young people aged thirteen to 30 leading the project to transform the building for the next generation of audiences, artists and young people. Having attended more than 50 meetings and sessions since June 2016, they've enlisted Sheppard Robson as architects and F Parkinson Ltd as building contractors, with progress now well underway.

Its Oxford Road home may be closed but that hasn’t stopped Contact hosting performances across the city: from the Palace Theatre to the Museum of Science and Industry and even a sari shop on the Curry Mile. 

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The theatre's trademark turrets

Future plans include a TV co-production with 20 Stories High based on their hit theatre show I told my mum I was going on an R.E. trip - a frank, warm verbatim drama about young people’s experiences of abortion. Broadcast on BBC Two in January to huge critical acclaim, it will be screened at HOME as part of May’s Pilot Light TV Festival.

Matt Fenton, CEO and artistic director at Contact said: “We are incredibly grateful for the generous support we have received so far…to have raised over £6 million in the last eighteen months is testament to how much people value what Contact does with and for the young people of Greater Manchester, the kinds of radical new performance we produce with them, and the many communities we reach. However, our challenge now is to raise the final £500,000 to finish the job, and to do that we need people who care about what we do to support our campaign now.”

Julie Hesmondhalgh, Contact advocate, said: “I know more lives transformed because of Contact than I can count. Some of the most prolific artists I’ve met started out at Contact…it has always championed young people, and were years ahead of everyone in promoting diversity. I’m delighted to support this new era in Contact’s life in our glorious city, bringing that wonderful building bang up to date to host the next generation of exciting, vital, diverse and ground-breaking work.”

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Contact fundraising to date:

A new arts and health space has been funded by a Wellcome Trust grant of £500,000. This will provide a dedicated space to develop new partnerships and relationships with NHS, patient groups, young people, local communities and artists. Additional funding will support a three-year post of Health Producer to lead on projects and produce new theatre shows that explore health inequalities and other current issues. 

Generous donations have also been made by Duchy of Lancaster, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Granada Foundation, G S Sanders Charitable Settlement, Morrisons Foundation, The Oglesby Charitable Trust, Sylvia Waddilove Charitable Foundation, Viridor Credits, Wolfson Foundation, W O Street Charitable Foundation.

Support from trusts and foundations follows initial grants from Arts Council England and Manchester City Council. Contact's own funds and individual donations brings the total secured to date to £6,161,133.