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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

Toni-Dee Paul

Toni-Dee (she/they) is an independent artist, writer, workshop leader, collaborator, access and wellbeing consultant, and ‘thinker-in-the room’. Their current body of work exploring body politics made with ‘infectious warmth’ (Exeunt) is a series of performances & installations made for cemeteries, refugee centers, kitchens, bedrooms, churches and theatres. Since 2015 she has been commissioned by Fuel Theatre for The New Theatre In Your Neighbourhood project, been a contributing story group writer for climate justice project Hello X, created performance as public intervention, and presented works in SICK Festival, Queer Migrant Takeover, Queerly Departed and Works Ahead. She is Associate Artist and Access Assistant for award winning artist lead company Selina Thompson Ltd, and makes intimate and wildly entertaining live imaginative events for children and families as an associate of  One Tenth Human. Toni is a Trustee of International performance festival Transform. They graduated from the University of Central Lancashire, BA (Hons) Contemporary Theatre and Performance, in 2016

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.

Baba Israel

Baba Israel is a Hip Hop/theater artist, poet, educator and consultant raised in New York by parents who were core members of the Living Theatre. He has toured and developed projects in thirty four countries, often working as a cultural ambassador. Baba is part of Bronx Banda with  Arturo O’Farrill and has shared the stage with artists such as KRS ONE, Lester Bowie, Outkast, Bahamadia and Medusa. He is a teaching artist in the areas of Hip Hop, music production, spoken word and theater. He works with City Lore and organizations such as BAM, Piano Slam, and Arts Horizons.He is a core member of Hip Hop/Soul project Soul Inscribed who recently completed the American Music Abroad program and released their second album Tune Up on Tokyo Dawn Records.  He holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College and is the Artistic Director of the Performance Project based at the University Settlement. His newest production Cannabis! A Viper Vaudeville premiered in 2022 produced by HERE at the Ellen Stewart Theater at La Mama.

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.

Ameera Conrad

Ameera Conrad (she/they) is a theatre maker from Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently the Associate Director for 20 Stories High, an Associate Artist for the National Youth Theatre, is one of the visiting lecturers for Mountview’s MA Theatre for Community and Education, and the former Associate Director for the Actors’ Touring Company, and LAMDA. They will also be one of the Associate Directors for the National Theatre Connections 2023.

Their theatre credits include Rice (Associate Director – National Tour, Orange Tree Theatre), Emilia, Gloria (both LAMDA), Family Tree (Associate Director, Greenwich Docklands International Festival), In These Four Walls, Totally Over You, Kate Spencer Did A Good Thing (all ArtsEd), Pipeline (Assistant Director – Arcola) The Royale, Towers (both Guildhall School of Music and Drama), The Fall (Co-Curator – Edinburgh International Festival Fringe, Royal Court, St. Ann’s Warehouse, South African State Theatre, Galway International Arts Festival, Melbourne Arts Centre, Festival Arts Bordeaux, Studio Theatre), and Reparation(South African National Arts Festival).

She is an alumnus of the 2017 Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab, and a recipient of the Theatre Arts Admin Collective’s Emerging Theatre Director Bursary. They have won a Fleur du Cap Encore Award, Scotsman Fringe First Award, The Stage Edinburgh Award for The Fall. She has also won the Filipa Bragança award for best emerging solo performer at the Edinburgh Fringe (2019) and the Western Cape Department of Sports and Culture award for her contributions to theatre in South Africa (2018).

Ali Wilson

Ali Wilson is a producer, artist and comedian based in Manchester. She has recently worked with BBC, Silent Uproar, Art with Heart, MIF and more. She is Vice Chair of the Board at Contact and formally a member of MIF’s Young People’s Forum.

Salome Wagaine

Salome Wagaine is a writer and trade unionist based in London. After several years working as a producer and project manager with a focus on new work, she joined Equity’s Live Performance department in January 2021. She works with two Industrial Officials who between them are negotiating five collective agreements for performers, stage managers, directors and designers this year. Outside of union work, she writes nonfiction and recently finished another year of Critmas: an advent calendar of cultural criticism. Her main newsletter, Peeled and Portioned, made Elephant Magazine’s list of the 20 Best Culture Newsletters to Sign up for in 2021.

Naomi Taylor

Naomi Taylor is an official at the media & entertainment trade union Bectu. They represent over 40,000 staff, contract and freelance workers in the media and entertainment industries. Their members work in non-performance roles in live events, broadcasting, film and cinema, digital media, independent production, leisure, IT and telecoms, theatre and the arts. Day to day, Naomi negotiates better terms on behalf of Bectu members, helps union members to organise their workplaces or freelance sectors, and advises/supports individuals with employment issues. Bectu is your union for non-performance theatre workers.

Darren Pritchard

Darren Pritchard is a native Mancunian and is currently a director, producer, and choreographer. Darren has 23 years’ experience in fashion, theatre, TV and performing arts.He is the Co-Artistic Director of Black Gold Arts, a Manchester-based arts organisation working predominantly with working-class people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. He runs Black Pride MCR, a yearly event for the QTBIPOC community that is fierce, flamboyant and fabulous. The extravaganza is the ultimate competition in fashion, dance and performance. One of the main objectives of Darren Pritchard’s work is the economic advancement of the QTBIPOC community and the other is to spread Joy.

Rebecca Swarray

Rebecca is the founder and curator of Manchester based events and arts collective, RebeccaNeverBecky and Co-founder of queer DJ Collective, Queer Latifah. She also is known as DJ Mix-Stress who is a firm favourite on the Manchester music scene and beyond, pleasing audiences and ears with her soulful and uplifting sets. Holding monthly residences at various Manchester venues and more recently Gaydio Radio where she platforms new and upcoming DJs and producers. By day she also works with the GMCA Night Time Economy & Creative, Culture Team as a Senior Policy Officer. Working on various projects and particularly focusing on Creative Industry Districts across GM. She is also curator and programmer within StreamGM, curating streaming partnerships with grass root clubbing events which shine a spotlight on Manchester DJs and local promoters. Rebecca is very passionate about bringing different communities together and creating opportunities for people.

Lizard Morris

Lizard Morris (they/them) is the founder and co-artistic director of Manchester’s Plaster Cast: a trans-led theatre company which centres queer and marginalised voices through verbatim and physical theatre. Plaster Cast’s work includes Sound Cistem (***** A Younger Theatre, Offies Award IDEA Production 2021) a dance show featuring recorded interviews of trans and non-binary people’s experiences in nightclubs, and Delicious Fruit (**** The Scotsman), a queer kink show. Lizard is currently piloting a new archival project with Plaster Cast, continuing to record interviews with the queer community about gender, sexuality and kink, at Contact during Week 2 of Queer Contact. Lizard has also directed for Homotopia, and been active on Manchester’s queer cabaret scene.

Alice Christina-Corriganis

Alice Christina-Corriganis a visually impaired & neurodivergent actor, theatre maker and creative captioner based in Manchester. Alice’s work aims to break the technological trajectory of creative access in theatre, elevating storytelling through multisensory exploration. Alice champions northern disabled artists, providing creative opportunities to the community, championing their stories and being a spokesperson for disability inclusion in the industry. Her first play,Past Life,debuted at Camden People’s Theatre and most recently, the production was part of Bloomsbury Festival in association with Extant Theatre ahead of a national tour this spring. Alice is currently developing her second play Fade, alongside The Lowry as their Developed With Artist 2022-24.

Suriya Aisha

Suriya is an experienced Youth and Community Practitioner and Artist passionate about making spaces intersectionally accessible. Using her background in arts and psychology, she creates spaces for marginalised groups to connect and explore their identities. Suriya is co-director of Colours Youth Network (@coloursyouthuk), Founder of UNMUTED BRUM (@unmutedbrum) and host of Sickbabe podcast (@sickbabepod)

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