Manchester’s annual celebration of LGBTQ+ arts and culture, Queer Contact returns with a packed weekend of events across the city, kicking off with trail-blazing new play ‘No Kids’, from Bristol-based theatre company, Ad Infinitum at The Lowry.
We meet Artistic Director of Contact Theatre, Matt Fenton to find out what’s new for Queer Contact Weekender 2019.
The Queer Contact Festival has a long history in the city, but for those who are new to it, can you explain what to expect?
Queer Contact Festival is Contact’s vibrant annual celebration of LGBTQ+ Arts and Culture across Greater Manchester. It always features a mix of theatre, dance, cabaret, visual art, music and comedy, usually at the Contact theatre building on Oxford Road, as well as at partner venues. This year is a bit unusual as we’re working from outside of our building while it’s expanded and refurbished, so it’s a very compact version of the festival.
Are there any free events?
Free events this year include Performing Borders, an in-conversation between two brilliant artist/activists, Nima Sene from Glasgow and Tuna Erdem from Istanbul. We also try to keep general ticket prices low across the festival.
It must be a fantastic job to travel around finding the right mix of acts for the festival. What act or who is your most exciting discovery this year?
What’s great about Contact’s programme is that lots of people feed in, including young people. We’re very excited about the spoken word event we’re running this year, Outspoken, curated by the poet Mandla Rae. Spoken word is massive right now with young audiences, and Mandla has invited poets Ella Otomewo, Bryony Bates, Afshan D’Souza Lodhi and Maz Hedgehog to perform alongside her.
The Queer Contact Festival this year is a weekender rather than a week-long festival – how does that change the focus for you as the curator?
We wanted to introduce some new elements of discussion and debate, present some new artists, as well as keeping two of our most successful festival events alive – the Manchester Vogue Ball, and our regular collaboration with cabaret superstars Mother’s Ruin. To do that in a single weekend was a challenge to say the least!
How has it been to work with other venues on the festival this year?
It has been fantastic to work with other venues – in fact for the whole year we’ve been out of our building. They’ve all been generous and welcoming. We’re especially happy to be co-presenting the festival opener, No Kids, at The Lowry – a brilliant piece of theatre performed by a same-sex couple exploring their decision whether or not to have kids.
The festival marks LGBT history month 2019, which has the theme of Peace, Activism and Reconciliation. How is this theme reflected in the festival programme?
Themes of activism and understanding run throughout the festival. That’s really apparent in the Performing Borders discussion where we’ll be exploring the queer migrant experience, and the experience of queer people of colour, but the whole festival is concerned with ideas of representation, understanding and a celebration of the diverse spectrum of LGBTQ+ experiences.
On Sat 9 February you are hosting an Open Forum for the public to have a say on the future of Queer Contact. How can people share ideas?
The open forum is a chance for artists and audiences to feed into our plans for Queer Contact 2020 and beyond. We’d like to hear what’s been good about the festival in the past, but also what’s been missing, or hasn’t been as strong. Debates around gender and sexuality have moved on in recent years, for example around transgender people’s representation, and young people are more questioning, non-binary and gender-fluid, so we hope the festival will reflect that.
The Vogue Ball has been described as club culture meets high art, can you tell us more about it?
The Vogue Ball is always a massive highlight, and a fitting finale to this year’s programme. It takes the form of a catwalk stage on which Vogue Houses (dance troupes specialising in the different styles of vogue dancing) from across the north compete in front of a panel of judges. It features stunning and provocative dance, extravagant Carnivalesque costumes, and great club music. We’ve also commissioned the choreographer Darren Pritchard to create a special introduction to the art-form, to be performed by his brilliant House of Ghetto dancers on the night.
Do you have your outfit yet and can you tell us what it will be?
I’m so unflamboyant it’s embarrassing, but I’ll definitely make an effort for the Vogue Ball.
Queer Contact’s Festival Weekender 2019 runs from Feb 8-9 across the city with a trailblazer event – NO KIDS – at The Lowry on 1 February 2019. For all show bookings call 0161 274 0600 or book online at contactmcr.com.