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Manchester’s legendary Contact Theatre is celebrating its 50th birthday with a series of giveaways

Contact kick started festivities this week with a fifty hour poet lock-in…

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Adrian Lambert & Drew Wilby

Manchester’s historic Contact Theatre is marking its fiftieth birthday this month and, to celebrate, is throwing a whole host of unique and exciting events and giveaways.

The theatre, which recently underwent a massive £6m refurbishment, opened all the way back in 1972 as the Manchester Young People’s Theatre, with it eventually changing its name to Contact Theatre in the 1990s.

The theatre was made a reality by Hugh Hunt, the man responsible for producing and directing some of the UK’s most successful and critically acclaimed shows throughout the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

After serving in the war, Hunt settled in Manchester and founded the drama department at the university, eventually instigating the University Theatre building which opened in 1965.

Adrian Lambert

Contact Theatre was born nearly a decade later to give students and other young people a chance to ‘change their lives through the arts’, taking on a unique approach of placing the students at the heart of everything, including programming, decision-making and even staff appointments.

It was revolutionary for its time, and still is to this very day, fifty years on. So, to celebrate half a century of Contact Theatre, there’s a whole host of very special events and giveaways… fifty of them, to be precise.

Contact has already kickstarted its eclectic roster of events, activities, competitions and giveaways to mark the special anniversary, with the theatre starting celebrations with its first ever ‘Poet Lock-In’ earlier this week.

This saw poet Georgie Brooke be locked in the building for fifty long hours to write a fifty word poem.

Joel Chester Fildes

Other events on the line up include a 50m walk, which will see the first person seen receive a £50 ticket voucher, and 50% off shows for Contact members.

And throughout November, anyone who calls Contact on the fiftieth minute of the hour gets a 50p ticket to a show and, on National Hot Chocolate Day, there will be a free hot chocolate given to the first fifty people in the building.

Keisha Thompson, Artistic Director and CEO of Contact said: “Contact has been a huge part of my life for almost two decades, but our organisation’s incredible history, and its impact on Manchester, reaches far beyond that.

“I’m so excited to look back at our achievements during our birthday, but even more excited to set the vision for what the next fifty years of Contact could look like.”

For the listings of all of Contact’s 50th birthday celebrations, including exclusive productions, events, workshops and more, head on over to their website.

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Blackpool Illuminations to be extended again after huge visitor surge

You’ll have plenty of time to take your kids and reminisce about school trips.

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Steve Fareham/Geograph & Andrew Hurley/Flickr

Blackpool Illuminations is to have the length of its famous winter illuminations attraction — enjoyed by generations of families from across the North West — extended even further after a surge in visitors.

Blackpool Council have said they saw a ‘dramatic rise’ in visitor numbers in last year’s extension. This year, the iconic lights are set to run for an extra two months starting from September 1st until January 1st 2024.

The local authority said a similar November and December extension in 2022 had seen an 18% increase in promenade footfall compared with 2021, with its leader Lynn Williams saying it had found a  ‘winning formula’.

Councillor Lynn Williams said: “The figures demonstrate the very significant economic impact of the Illuminations extension coupled with the Christmas By The Sea event.”

Kmtextore/Wikimedia

She continued: “All of the statistical and anecdotal evidence from tourism businesses, with some reporting record levels of trading during the winter months, suggests that we have found a winning formula to extend Blackpool’s season.

“That is something we very much want to sustain and build upon.”

The footfall also shows an increase of almost 60 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, when the illuminations season finished in November.

The (what’s now a) six-mile stretch of dazzling displays first began 1879 — when they were just a small number of carbon arc lamps — and have since been enjoyed by generations upon generations of people.

Taking children to see Blackpool illuminations is a tradition that brings grown adults back with littles ones of their own, as they experience nostalgia.

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The haunted hotel room where guests have to sign a disclaimer to spend the night

‘For people who’ve not done this before it could be dangerous.’

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My Haunted Hotel

Guests must sign a disclaimer before staying the night in a room at a haunted hotel in Chester.

The 401-year-old building spooks customers, and they rarely stay more than three minutes inside one creepy room at Ye Olde Kings Head, on Lower Bridge Street.

This one room in particular is so eerie that only experienced paranormal investigators are allowed into it. But the professionals will have to sign a disclaimer to spend the night, according to Cheshire Live.

In room eight lives a doll called Grace, housed inside a special glass case, and guests reportedly can last no longer than three minutes with her before they’re scared out of their wits. A special camera has been set up to monitor it 24/7 after it arrived at the hotel in January.

My Haunted Hotel

Paranormal investigator Danny Moss, one of the team members behind My Haunted Hotel at Ye Olde Kings Head, called the Grace doll the ‘UK’s most haunted artefact’, saying:  “Since it arrived in January we’ve already had people really struggling to stay in room eight. It seems to really affect men rather than women.”

He continued: “We’ve had men go in there and they can’t look at it. They feel anxious and have to get out, struggling to last even three minutes.
People are hearing the sound of three knocks which is meant to signify the mocking of the Holy Trinity. Some people have also experienced their eyes burning.

“That happened to me a few years ago when we kept it at Tatton Old Hall. I heard an entity say ‘burn’ and I said ‘what?’ and my eyes felt like someone was chopping onions. We’ve got video footage showing people really scared to go into that room and others with noises coming from it.

“There are a set of rules outside room eight, including people having to call out an audio disclaimer before they’re even allowed in. Room eight is only open to experienced people. For people who’ve not done this before it could be dangerous.”

My Haunted Hotel

The hotel has gained a very spooky reputation over the years for its paranormal activity and has even featured on TV show Most Haunted as well as Sky Pick’s Paranormal.

It was bought by paranormal enthusiast Harry Achilleos 15 years ago and his dream has been to turn it into a top dark tourism destination.

Harry Achilleos, who runs My Haunted Hotel alongside Danny and Brett Jones, also said: “Having the Grace doll in the building just takes My Haunted Hotel to a whole new level.”

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Contact returns with its annual Vogue Ball for LGBTQ+ festival 2023

Make sure you don’t miss this!

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Contact

For its 50th anniversary, Contact is set to return with its annual House of Suarez’s Vogue Ball, celebrating the most extraordinary and exciting LGBTQ+ talent, as part of the Queer Contact festival.

Running from February 4th – 18th, Queer Contact festival 2023 will be bigger and brighter than ever, with Drag Race royalty gracing the stage and its annual extra, show-stopping Vogue Ball, presented by House of Suarez , kick-starting a two weeks celebration of queer artistry.

Set to be even more fierce and fabulous, highlights will include Drag Race UK’s talented queens Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister, as well as an evening in conversation with Heartstopper actor and Contact alumni Fisayo Akinade. 

Along with the outrageous cabaret Vogue Ball — a yearly highlight for fans of Contact — which will take place at Manchester Academy, it will travel back to the glorious decade of disco for a night of glitter and glam MCed by the iconic, Rikki Beadle-Blair. 

Contact

Houses from across the UK compete for the coveted titles of best choreography and best design — awarded by an esteemed panel of judges — as they pose and perform in an unapologetic celebration of inclusivity, queerness, and diversity.

Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister, the breakout stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK Season 2, will not fail to live up to their reputations as the most despised queens, as they try to bring the most disappointing drag show you’ve ever seen to the Manchester Stage — as part of their, You Keep Me Hanging On Tour.

In their debut for Queer Contact, this will mark the duo’s first joint show, and promises to be hilarious, if average.

 François Pandolfo

To add another festival highlight, Heartstopper and Cucumber actor Fisayo Akinade will also explore the many different elements that have influenced his life and career. Inspired by Contact’s celebration of its 50th anniversary, an In Conversation with Contact’s artistic director and CEO, Keisha Thompson, will see her talk with him about the 50 things that shaped his career.

One of the breakout comedy acts from the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, comedy performer François Pandolfo will make his debut at this year’s Queer Contact as Milly-Liu, with his ‘one-man-cat-drag-late-night comedy show.’ Join her as she is ready to spill the beans on all your favourite celebrity pussies. 

You can also jump onboard the queerest Tardis with Doctor Who inspired entertainment by Carrot and Friends. Be transported through time and space with their cosmic comedy as you experience dimension-defying drag, stratospheric stand-up, burlesque to make a Cyberman blush, and an oncoming storm of many other surprises.

Cocoa Butter Club

Bradford’s bad girl Lady Bursha will bring her hilarious and iconic drag queen comedy to the stage. Shortlisted for the 2021 BBC New Comedy Awards, Lady Bushra is the brainchild of British Asian comedian Amir. His alter ego Lady Bushra is known for her stand-up comedy, ingenious lipsync performances and one-liners, often seen performing her sold out ‘Drag Comedy Cabaret’ across the nation.

Other cabaret and comedy highlights include a night with the Cocoa Butter Club, an evening in the company of The Bitter Peach’s Peach Chutney Crew, and Luke Hereford brings their autobiographical musical adventures on their journey of queer self-discovery. 

CEO and Artistic Director Keisha Thompson said: “We’re so excited to be bringing the best in LGBTQ+ arts and culture together once again for Queer Contact 2023. Our flagship queer arts festival has been central to our mission and vision for over a decade and will continue to cement our spot on Manchester’s cultural map for many more decades to come.

“In 2023, as we celebrate our 50th birthday, Queer Contact is characterised by joy; from a Dr Who-themed cabaret to an evening with Heartstopper’s Fisayo Akinade, we’re here to platform a huge spectrum of queer lived experience; focusing on kindness, community and celebration.”

Tickets for Queer Contact 2023 are now on sale and can be booked via Contact’s website.

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