The completion of Contact’s recent capital development project endured substantial delays due to Covid and resulted in major increases in the costs of running the building. The business model produced many years ago to support the capital development is unfortunately not now fit for purpose, in a post-Covid world, in a cost-of-living crisis, and with changing patterns in theatre audience attendance, especially for smaller theatres with a diverse mix of short-run programming and limited resources.
Securing the long-term sustainable future of Contact now requires a new business model and tough decisions including changes to some staff roles, pending consultation. This also includes changes to leadership roles and functions. In addition, there will be reduced programming from spring 2024 and an increased focus on commercial activity. Contact will continue to prioritise its creative engagement work with local communities, schools, and supporting local artists.
The senior leadership team and board are working on the new business model for Contact. Artistic Director and Chief Executive Keisha Thompson recommended to the senior leadership team that she reduce her work to one day/week from January and change her role to focus on her position as Director of Contact Events, Contact’s Trading Subsidiary* working one day per week from January 2024. Jack Dale-Dowd will become interim Executive Director from mid December and a new Director of Finance Frankie Bradley is now in place. Interim Chair Ali Wilson has completed her term and a new Chair of the Board of Trustees has been appointed, to officially take office in December which we’ll announce soon.
Having run Queer Contact for fifteen years, we're taking some time to find out what the festival means to young people today, and how it can best serve them. We're marking LGBTQ+ History Month in February with the GM LGBTQ+ Arts and Culture Network Conference, The House of Suarez x Contact Vogue Ball and consultation with our participants. You can also take part in our brand-new Open Castle LGBTQ+ social sessions in the new year.
And, in 2024, we’re continuing our partnership with The University of Manchester and Lancaster University with The Bell Curves, a new show written by Keisha Thompson with dates to be announced soon.
Keisha Thompson said:
“Like many other cultural organisations in this new and volatile climate, we have some immediate needs that require a shift in focus. For the sake of our future vision and commitment to young people and artists, I want us to be more agile. Thus, it is my suggestion that we make some significant changes including a repositioning of my role within the organisation. I will remain committed to Contact through my role as Director of the Contact Events trading subsidiary and tie up my role as Artistic Director at the end of the financial year.
I am so pleased that we will be able to deliver an exciting Spring programme before pivoting. The Vogue Ball will be celebrating its 10th year, and we will be presenting my new work, The Bell Curves, in association with Lancaster University and the University of Manchester.
We are working to create a new business model that is financially sustainable but continues to serve the needs of our local communities and artists.
Contact holds a special place in many people’s hearts. If you want to help us deliver a sustainable future for Contact, now is the time to reach out and support us.”
Contact's Board said:
“As a Board we want to thank Keisha for her hard work at Contact. She has shared her unique vision, energy and passion with the organisation across her tenure. Her contribution to Contact's mission is deeply appreciated. We are glad that Keisha will remain a Director of Contact Events Ltd, Contact’s trading subsidiary, and will continue to champion the work we do.
Amidst economic challenges across the creative and charitable sector, we are keen to ensure Contact's work can continue. We intend to take the opportunity to focus on becoming more sustainable to ensure Contact's future, and continue its unique offer for young people, local communities, artists and audiences.”
Jack Dale-Dowd Said:
“These are extraordinary times, and we have all worked hard to sustain Contact during the challenges faced through the capital redevelopment during the pandemic, and now with the effects of the cost-of-living crisis.
I respect Keisha for her commitment to the organisation, leadership, and the bold decision to pivot her role. I will do my best to support and sustain Contact during this time of change and work closely with the Board of Trustees in planning for 2024-2025 and beyond.”
Throughout this period of change, Contact remains steadfast in its commitment to our values, which you can read in full on our website here.
* Contact events Limited is a company that is owned solely by Contact. It exists to generate income through the hire of spaces and by delivering consultancy packages, such as Contact’s Anti-Racism Training. This income supports us to deliver all our participation and artistic activities.