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An update from health and science producer Chloe Courtney. Find out what we've been working on so far, and what we'll be announcing in 2021

When I started at Contact in 2018, I wasn’t sure what it meant to be a ‘Health and Science Producer’ for a theatre and arts venue. My role was new, and it took me some time to work out what my job actually was. I was lucky to be able to speak to Contact’s young people and artists, to find out what they thought our health and science programme should look like, and what they cared about most.

In Autumn 2020 we planned to open Contact’s new Wellcome -funded space to the public, as a place to explore health, science, and wellbeing creatively. We wanted to ask questions.

  • How can we be healthy when things aren’t equal?
  • How do we understand the world around us?
  • How should we look after each other, and ourselves?

The pandemic completely changed our plans, but it has made asking these questions more important than ever. It’s also completely changed my job – not only because we’re all working differently (digital, online, remote), but because the conversations we’re having about health are different now too.

What are we working on?

At Contact we’re fortunate to be in conversation with artists and activists who are exploring care, intimacy, and solidarity in the moment. We’ll soon be announcing more details of our co-commission Sex With Cancer, a project led by Joon Lyn Goh and Brian Lobel (taking a closer look at ideas Brian explored with CYC in award-nominated collaboration There is a light). Meanwhile Suriya Aisha is creating her Sickbabe podcast – a series of frank chats between people who exist and resist everyday with invisible health conditions. Our Manifesto of Care continues to develop with help from artists including Demi Nandhra, Nasima Begum, and Audrey Albert. And we’re glad to be supporting Fabiola Santana with the next stage of her project A Home for Grief, which asks how we can take care together after bereavement and loss.

Queer Contact artists Mandla Rae and Mark Croasdale are making work exploring the intersections of queerness and mental health, with a focus on trauma and anxiety. In upcoming months we’ll also be announcing new collaborations with Amy Vreeke, Drawn Poorly, and Uniquely Us, and further events as part of Nathaniel Hall’s In Equal Parts project. We’ll share more details of research and development work with artists including CHUNKY, Ali Wilson, and Cheryl Martin and Alix Harris.

Our participatory health and science work has also been continuing during the last year. Re:CON young producers have commissioned Ergon Theatre to create an interactive performance exploring climate justice and equity, which is currently in development. A new young people’s project All the things they’d never teach us ran for the first time in 2020, with lead artist Abigail Conway asking a group of Year 11s ‘what science would you like to learn, that you wouldn’t be taught in school?’

Throughout all of this work, we’ve been trying as best we can to look after each other, our artists and young people, and ourselves. Making work that discusses lived health experiences – opening up about trauma and grief – is difficult and risky at the best of times, and even more so during a global pandemic. We want to find spaces for joy and celebration too. And we’re still looking forward to welcoming you into our new physical space, when it’s safe to do so.

Keeping in Contact

Throughout the past year, we’ve been posted blogs from different Contact staff members about their jobs, their lives (and even their favourite recipes!) Check out some of our 2020 blog posts – here’s Suzie’s WFH day in the life, and Rose’s tips for staying occupied in lockdown.