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Iconic theatre sets out plans to tackle rising costs and place it on sustainable financial footing.

Exterior of Contact Theatre, Manchester lit up at night

Adrian Lambert

Contact Theatre in Manchester is introducing a new leadership and business model, with Artistic Director Keisha Thompson switching roles and cutting her hours to one day-a-week as part of efforts to tackle rising costs.

The theatre, which reopened two years ago following a £6.75m refurbishment that began in 2017, said the resulting expansion of the building has led to "major increases in the costs of running the building". 

"The business model produced many years ago to support the capital development no longer functions for the current economic climate," a statement said. 


"This, combined with the cost-of-living crisis, and changing patterns in theatre audience attendance post-Covid has impacted revenue costs."

Artistic Director Keisha Thompson has recommended to the board and senior leadership team that she reduce her working hours from four days to one day a week and that she switch role from Artistic Director to Director of Contact Events for the remainder of the current 2023/24 financial year.

For 2024/25, Frankie Bradley will be appointed as new Director of Finance while Jack Dale-Dowd, currently Head of Operations, will become interim Executive Director.  

A change to the board sees Chair Ali Wilson completing her term with a new Chair to be announced soon. The structure of the creative leadership team and business model will be under review for 2024/2025 and beyond. 

Contact said that while the senior leadership team and board work on a new creative leadership and business model there will be reduced programming from spring 2024, with an increased focus on commercial activity. Contact will continue to prioritise its creative engagement work with local communities, schools and supporting local artists. 

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."

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.”