The Open Forum at YES was a diverse and interesting group, brought together to discuss the annual festival, Queer Contact, celebrating LGBTQ+ culture through the arts. The festival replaced its predecessor – Queer Up North – and is usually a 10-14 day event. However, building work at Contact Theatre means it will only be a weekend event in 2019.
The forum was made up of young people involved in Contact projects, performers, producers, and other organisations. The discussions focused on experiences as a participant/audience member of Queer Contact. We discussed the past, present and the plans to reimagine Queer Contact in 2020.
The moderators of the forum and other Contact representatives were keen to stress that the involvement of young people is integral to the work of Contact Theatre. Honesty was stressed in responses to different questions about what has been enjoyed about Contact work and what needs to be improved.
Whilst Contact’s building (situated by the Students’ Union) is being refurbished, Contact shows have kept going in different venues. The Contact in the City concept means that Contact shows have been in venues across Manchester, allowing audiences a chance to explore the city whilst experiencing the different performances
For the future of Queer Contact, comments were made about the accessibility of venues and events, as well as the representation and diversity that is needed. As mentioned, Contact Theatre is so close to the Students’ Union that it is the perfect place to escape to on university campus. The new Contact building (which will open in early 2020) will be a place to relax even when you are not attending a specific event. You won’t need a ticket to enjoy the recording studio and other creative spaces planned for young people.
The new building is putting even more emphasis on young people and their involvement with Contact. This is something Contact is already known for, with multiple projects for young people to get involved with, as well as Young Board Members.
Contact also currently have two major commission opportunities aimed at BAME performers and theatre-makers, responding to the need for better representation in the arts. The two opportunities are the Diverse Actions Artist Commission and the Queer Contact partnership with Black Gold. Again, Contact’s young people are heavily involved in the decision-making process.
Contact will clearly continue their strong focus on diversity and young people, whilst being open to constructive criticism and praise to shape future projects.