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Learn all about the speakers from our fantastic 50 Hours of Focus programme below!

Keisha Thompson 

Keisha is Artistic Director and CEO of Contact theatre, Manchester, Chair of radical arts funding body, Future’s Venture Foundation, an ITC board member and recipient of The Arts Foundation Theatre Makers Award 2021.  

Recent works include children’s show, Issy, BOSSS & Fractal.  Commissioned by Fuel Theatre. Directed by Alan Lane (Slung Low); The Bell Curves supported by Eclipse, York Theatre Royal and Pilot. An all-female show that clashes science and culture by looking at the medical ethics linked to CRISPR-Cas9 technology; and 14% supported by Talawa Firsts, an immersive theatre piece looking DNA tests and structural racism particularly within the context British football culture. 

In May 2022, she completed a residency with Esplanade Theatre in Singapore. Her focus was on her on-going project, DeCipher. The expansive educational project, looks at mathematical pedagogy and how it can be taught in a creative way in non-educational spaces. She is working to find out how it can be decolonised, democratised and dismantled. The goal is to create interactions that allow for agency, joy and discovery. A maths lesson that feels like a poetry workshop, a dance class or an interaction installation.  

In 2020, she finished touring award-winning solo show, Man on the Moon. Her debut book, Lunar, features her poetry and the show script. This book has recently been reprinted after selling out 250 copies. Whilst Moonwhile is a poetic mini album featuring music from the show. 

In August 2020, she released a new mini album, Ephemera, in collaboration with Tom “Werkha” Leah and featuring riveting cellist, Abel Selaocoe. Performances of the album have included We Out Here Festival and Timber Festival. It was named as album of the week by Jazz FM DJ Tim Garcia.  

She has supported artists such as Kae Tempest, Hollie McNish, The Last Poets, Saul Williams, Amiri Baraka and has performed in Brave New Voices festivals 2008 & 2009. Her work has been presented at venues high profile venues and platforms such as Tate Modern, Blue Dot Festival and the British Council Showcase in Edinburgh. 

“From the mundane to the spectacular, I will use my body, my voice, my vernacular.” – Keisha 

Faidat Ope

Faidat is currently a third year Psychology student and involved with multiple youth organisations across Manchester. She is a freelance project coordinator/manager, artist liaison/stage manager and facilitator. She also DJs occasionally. She runs EmpowHERR which liberates females to participate in sport, compete and highlight current inequality in sport.

Faith Yianni

Faith Yianni (she/her) recently started as Contact’s Assistant Producer – yey! When she thinks about the arts and creativity, she gets especially excited by: Young People’s leadership, authentic co-creation work, affecting change through ‘sneaky art’, and ultimately, people having loads of fun!

Julia Samuels

Julia Samuels is a freelance theatre and film-maker. Previously Co-Artistic Director of 20 Stories High (Liverpool), where she made a range of award-winning work through collaboration between artists and young people. 20SH highlights include: Buttercup (20SH/Tigerlily Films/BBC Arts), Offie/Oncomm award-winning Touchy (20SH/Unity/Wellcome Collection) I told my Mum I was going on an R.E. Trip…, (20SH/Contact/BBC & Toronto’s HotDocs festival selection) and She’s Leaving Home (20SH/Phelim MacDermott/Culture Liverpool). Freelance projects include directing Glowing by Amy Vreeke (Contact), and developing new collaborations with artists Brodie Arthur (Everyman Playhouse), Saphena Aziz (Unity) and Afreena Islam-Wright (Contact).

Roxy Daykin-Moores

As Creative Producer at Contact Roxy produces Contact commissions and co-productions. This has included working with artists ranging from early career to internationally renowned: Looking Forward to Tomorrow and Chim↑Pom: A Drunk Pandemic (with MIF); I Told My Mum I Was Going On An RE Trip… (with 20 Stories High/BBC); The Forest of Forgotten DiscosRITES (with NTS); The Bread We Break (Miray Sidhom); and Under The Covers (CYC, Wellcome Trust).

Lisa Hallgarten

Lisa is Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Brook the national sexual health and wellbeing charity where she advocates for young people’s rights to accessible sexual health services and sex-positive, inclusive Relationships and Sex Education. She has spent her career championing reproductive rights and justice; starting and amplifying conversations that challenge abortion stigma: in politics, in the public sphere, at work, in the arts and everywhere.

Dr Penny Trayner

Dr Penny Trayner is a Chartered Paediatric Clinical Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist in the United Kingdom. She commenced her career in clinical psychology within community child mental health, working in early intervention across a number of Sure Start Children’s Centres in central Manchester.

In 2009, she founded a specialist community-based neuropsychological rehabilitation service for children and young people with acquired brain injury, which serves patients and families from across the UK. Alongside her clinical work, Dr Trayner is also a lecturer in Clinical and Health Psychology and holds an honorary post at the University of Manchester, and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK (FHEA). Dr Trayner has co-authored articles in leading international journals and has been an invited speaker at national and international conferences on a range of topics related to neuropsychology and mental health.

Penny is also the creator of Goal Manager®, an award-winning cloud-based software application designed to facilitate effective goal setting in rehabilitation. Goal Manager® has received a national award for innovation in brain injury rehabilitation and is now being implemented in services across the UK and the USA. When she is not being a neuropsychologist, Penny is also a professional DJ and has used these skills to co-design a DJing for rehabilitation programme as a vehicle for helping children and adults recover from catastrophic brain injuries.

Matt Fenton

Matt Fenton is a Belgium-based theatre director with a specialism in engaging local communities as decision-makers and curators. From 2003-13 he was Director of Lancaster Arts (Nuffield Theatre Lancaster, Peter Scott Gallery & Lancaster International Concerts). As Artistic Director of Contact (2013-22) he oversaw the £7m redevelopment of the Contact building and commissioned scores of new productions including for national touring and BBC TV broadcast.

John McGrath

John E. McGrath is Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Manchester International Festival (MIF), the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events, staged every two years in Manchester. As Chief Executive, John leads the artistic and strategic vision for the biennial Festival and Factory International.

Afreena Islam-Wright

Afreena Islam-Wright is an artist from Manchester. Her recent work includes ‘Meet Me at The Cemetery Gates’, an audio tour exploring grief, and her previous work ‘Daughters of the Curry Revolution’ toured nationally and internationally for 2 years. She has sat on a number of boards, including Contact’s, and is currently a school governor.

Josh Wilkinson

Josh Wilkinson is a Manchester-based performer, arts facilitator and film/theatre maker. His current work with theatre company Malandra Jacks explores youth voice and what it means to be working class. Josh uses theatre, digital arts and online video content to explore and amplify voices that often don’t get handed the mic. Josh sits on Manchester International’s youth forum and is also a board member at Contact.

Mahboobeh Rajabi

Mahboobeh Rajabi is a British-Iranian Artist and Creative Producer from Manchester. Mahboobeh has been working in the Arts sector for over 11 years, empowering communities through art and culture, working with different organisations and universities across Greater Manchester, North West and internationally.

Clare Patterson

Clare Patterson is a writer based in Manchester. They are currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester on the North of England, the climate crisis, and queer temporality.

Simon Parry 

Simon is a Senior Lecturer in Drama and Arts Management at the University of Manchester.  He was a board member of Contact (2011-2018) and continues to work closely with Contact on the development of the health and science programme. He is also working on an AHRC project exploring a GM-wide approach to creative health. He is the author of Science in performance: theatre and the politics of engagement (Manchester: MUP, 2020).

Rose Sergent

Rose Sergent is Contact’s Health & Science Producer. Her role focusses on developing a wide range of opportunities to explore health and science for artists, young people, communities and audiences. She is dedicated to investigating accessibility to the arts and centring care within this work.

Caitlin Gleeson

Caitlin is Contact’s Senior Programme Producer. She leads on the curation and producing of the cross-art form artistic programme, and puts care, connection and community at the centre of her work. She was previously a theatre maker, facilitator and writer: works include Pour and Serve, a site-specific solo performance on the language of sexual harassment; A Show About Plants, a performance about care, queerness and nature as resistance against capitalism; and ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER, an audio series about walking.

Secure your slot at 50 Hours of Focus here.