Contact’s 50th birthday just keeps getting bigger and better

Contact theatre is a proper Mancunian institution. Spearheaded by CEO and Artistic Director Keisha Thompson, and with a What’s On programme packed with 80s pantomimes, star-studded drag shows and female comedy, it’s a venue that deserves a shout-out at every possible opportunity. 

Our flagship queer arts festival has been central to our mission and vision for over a decade

Earlier this year, some of the Confidentials team went to the 2022 Vogue Ball at this Oxford Road spot, and we’ve not been the same since. So much glitter, so much sass, so many incredible outfits that we’d never be brave enough to replicate. We’re still thinking about the star sign catsuits. 

Every year Contact hosts a flagship LGBTQ+ festival called Queer Contact, and having celebrated its 50th b-day this past year, the festival is back in 2023 with “a bigger, brighter, bolder and more beautiful celebration of fierce and fabulous queer artists”. 

Here’s the low down on the line-up for Queer Contact 2023. 

Ginny Lemon Sister Sister Queer Contact Festival Lineup 2022
Ginny and Sister Sister are set for a headline performance Image: Contact Theatre

Lemons, Cucumber and Spoken word

If you’re into Drag Race, names like Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister should be music to your ears, and the season 2 stars are stopping off at Contact as part of their You Keep Me Hanging On tour. Both queens have performed to sell-out audiences up and down the country since appearing on Ru Paul, and now they’re hoping to “stage the most disappointing drag show you’ve ever seen”. If you’ve ever been to Benidorm, that’s going to be a challenge. 

Fisayo Akinade Queer Contact Festival Lineup 2023
Fisayo is chatting to Keisha about the 50 moments that made him Image: Contact Theatre
Milly Liu Comedy Show Queer Contact Line Up 2023
Milly-Liu does a one-man-cat-drag-late-night comedy show that you defo can't miss Image: Contact Theatre

For fans of Heartstopper and Cucumber (the Channel 4 series, not Kendall Jenner’s favourite snack), actor Fisayo Akinade is exploring the events that have influenced his life and career in conversation with Keisha Thompson. Chatting about the 50 things that shaped him, inspired by the theatre’s 50th anniversary, the talk touches on everything from his varied roles on the small screen, to his experiences at Contact Young Company and the National Theatre. 

Other highlights include spoken word poetry, lip syncing for your life, cabaret, comedy, a night of Doctor Who inspired entertainment from Carrot and Friends, and an audience with Milly-Liu. 

Contact Vogue Ball House Of Suarez Manchester Academy 1 42
All these Contact Vogue Ball pics are still in our camera roll Image: Confidentials

Come on, Vogue

As always, a big spectacle within the Queer Contact festival is the annual House of Suarez Vogue Ball, and this year it kicks off the whole itinerary on Saturday 4th February. It’s promised to be a night of “high kicks, high camp and high energy”, and like we said earlier, it’s life-changing. 

Taking place at Manchester Academy, this year’s ball throws back to the golden age of disco, and MC Rikki Beadle-Blair will make sure everything feels oh-so Studio 54. If you’ve never been to a vogue ball before, houses from across the UK compete for titles like ‘best choreography’ and ‘best design’ and it’s all decided by a panel of esteemed judges. Watch Paris is Burning on Apple TV and everything will make sense. 

Contact Vogue Ball House Of Suarez Manchester Academy 1 29
More vogue pics, soz Image: Confidentials

Other bits

The list of talented folk doesn’t really stop at Queer Contact, it’s a whose who of cool, crazy and queer individuals. 

Other programme highlights include drag comedian Lady Bushra, a "spirited soiree" with Cocoa Butter Club, an evening with The Bitten Peach’s Peach Chutney Crew - the UK’s only gender-diverse Pan-Asian cabaret collective, and an autobiographical musical from Luke Hereford. The acts are “infectiously entertaining” and it’s worth copping tickets as soon as possible. 

Grandmothers Closet Luke Hereford Musical Queer Contact Lineup 2023
Luke Hereford is taking us on a journey of queer self-discovery through the glamorous spirit of his Nan Image: Contact Theatre
Contact Theatre Keisha Thompson Announced As New Ceo And Artistic Director 2022
Keisha is ready for Queer Contact 2023 Image: Audrey Albert

The fine print

Contact’s CEO and Artistic Director is dead excited about Queer Contact, commenting: We’re so excited to be bringing the best in LGBTQ+ arts and culture together once again for Queer Contact 2023. Our flagship queer arts festival has been central to our mission and vision for over a decade and will continue to cement our spot on Manchester’s cultural map for many more decades to come.”

The festival is running from Saturday 4th February - Saturday 18th February, and a full timetable of What's On will be continuously updated on Contact's website. You can buy tickets to some events already, so hop on it quick. 

It is also worth highlighting that Contact has 'The Pinch Ticket' scheme, which ensures that audiences will always be able to access the arts, and there are concessions for anyone who may need them.

Contact Theatre, Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6JA

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