Earlier this year, Manchester’s hub of forward-thinking performance art and youth-led creativity, Contact, returned after a three-year closure.

During its closure, the venue on Oxford Road underwent an impressive £7million renovation.

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

After having had such a long break from bringing accessible and progressive entertainment to this city of vibrant culture, the institution is thrilled to be back and better than ever.

Boasting a vibrant reopening programme to support the next generation of audiences, artists and young people, first in the line-up is Manchester's local panto, Dick Whittington and his Amazing Cat.

The theatre invites you to put on your favourite Christmas clobber and join them this festive season to experience a modern and upbeat re-telling of the classic and widely-loved rags-to-riches story.

Kids, and those still young at heart, will be on the edge of their seats
Kids, and those still young at heart, will be on the edge of their seats

Join the young protagonist Dick and his loyal cat Scratch on their exciting quest for fame and fortune, and discover whether or not he can defeat the evil King Rat and his rat hordes, to win the love of the beautiful Alice Fitzwarren.

Kids, and those still young at heart, will be on the edge of their seats as they find out if he has what it takes to survive shipwrecks, magic, pirates, ghosts, sharks and Freda the cook’s terrible pies.

Featuring a multi-talented, all-singing, all-dancing cast made up of local drag queens, this lively production is the ideal Christmas treat for children of all ages and adults alike.

Contact is dedicated to providing young people with a first look into the arts, as well as nurturing their talents and interests.

As pantomime is often considered a gateway into theatre for young audiences, Manchester's phenomenal and progressive theatre is excited to introduce what they describe as the "funniest, flashiest and funkiest pantomime of them all".

Join the young protagonist Dick, and his loyal cat Scratch on their exciting quest for fame and fortune
Join the young protagonist Dick, and his loyal cat Scratch on their exciting quest for fame and fortune

Contact and the young generation

Contact is an incredible place, committed to helping young people change their lives through the medium of the arts.

Based in Manchester, the theatre is a vibrant, professional and contemporary arts venue, with young people driving every aspect of its work.

After being first established in 1972, Contact reinvented itself in 1999 as a multi-disciplinary creative space specialising in producing work with, and providing opportunities for, young people aged 13 to 30.

Today, Contact is recognised nationally and internationally as a leader in the field of youth leadership and creativity.

Young people work alongside staff in deciding the artistic programme, making staff appointments and act as full board members - they even have the youngest board member in history.

This model is seen as a national exemplar of best practice in relation to young people and diversity, influencing organisations nationwide.

Junior Akinola, chair of the board of trustees at Contact said: “After such a long time away from our building it’s a great feeling to know our doors are finally ready to re-open.

"I believe our ambitions are limitless and I can’t wait to see how this new chapter adds to the legacy of our great building.

"As always, the development of young people and the community are at the heart of everything we do, and we plan to continue our rich history in thrilling, challenging and entertaining all our audiences.”

Nathaniel Hall, star of 'It’s A Sin', theatre-maker, HIV activist and creator of First Time explained the impact that Contact Theatre had on his career.

He said: “Contact is where my journey as an artist really began.

"Their young company nurtured my talent, and having access to the diverse creatives with a passion for community-led arts that inhabit the building made me into the artist I am today."

Manchester's progressive theatre are excited to introduce what they describe as the "funniest, flashiest and funkiest Pantomime of them all"
Manchester's progressive theatre are excited to introduce what they describe as the "funniest, flashiest and funkiest Pantomime of them all"

Contact continues to work with our young generations, fostering new talent, building skills and ambition and creating important new productions that tour nationally.

What you experience when you visit the theatre is merely the end product of a lot of hard work and dedication, with much going on behind the scenes, including programmes that help young people from underprivileged backgrounds.

Their outstanding programme, The Agency, aims to help young people from marginalised backgrounds to creatively develop their ideas for social enterprise.

Originally developed by Brazilian theatre maker and journalist, Marcus Faustini, The Agency uses development principles founded in theatre to develop social enterprises and work towards the programme's three visions, which are: To change the relationship between young people from deprived areas and their city, to discover a new role for art and to create projects that construct lives.

Matt Fenton, chief executive and artistic director at Contact said: “We believe young people deserve the very best resources to create and imagine, and over the last year, our new building has been full of early-career artists making use of our brilliant new spaces.

"We have also renewed our vision and mission to reflect the new reality facing our communities, and to ensure all young people are empowered by the arts and creativity.”

Today, Contact is recognised nationally and internationally as a leader in the field of youth leadership and creativity
Today, Contact is recognised nationally and internationally as a leader in the field of youth leadership and creativity

Queer Contact

This well established, nine-day celebration of all that is queer takes over every corner of the theatre, and will explore themes surrounding sexuality, gender, community and self-discovery.

From Friday, February 11 until Saturday, February 19 2022, Contact will be hosting a range of incredible artistry designed to bin the binary and celebrate queer culture.

Next year's festival was curated in consultation with young queer communities across Greater Manchester and was built to meet the needs of the next generation of LGBTQ+ artists and audiences.

Through in-depth consultation, Contact has aimed to ensure that the festival truly speaks to a young, queer audience in the city.

The programme for the festival is jam packed with incredible artistic performances, which endeavour to provide a broad range of shows that ooze all that is queer culture.

The current listings for the Queer Contact Festival are:

Emma Frankland: Hearty - Tuesday, February 15 - £8 - £15

Ell and Mary: Fitter - Wednesday, February 16 - £8 - £15

Glamrou: From Quran to Queen - Thursday, February 17 - £10 - £20

The Vogue Ball: A Night at the Poseum (at Manchester Academy 1) -

What else is on in 2022?

News News News - Saturday, March 5 2022

The Bread We Break - Thursday, March 24 – Thursday, March 31 2022

Frankenstein: How to Create a Monster - Monday, May 9 – Saturday, May 14 2022

The Glad Game - Monday, May 16 – Tuesday, May 17 2022

To find out more about Contact , please click here.

To book tickets to see the outstanding Eight-freestyle production, Dick Whittington and his Amazing Cat, please click here.

To get the latest email updates from the Manchester Evening News, click here.