Transformation of Contact theatre secures planning permission

7th January 2016

Sheppard Robson has secured planning permission for the transformation of leading young people’s arts venue, Contact, on Oxford Road, Manchester. The design includes the significant remodelling of the existing accommodation as well as creating 300m² of additional space.

Areas redeveloped will include the entrance, box office, café and bar to provide a much-improved visitor experience and fully accessible circulation to all public areas and performance spaces. The design provides additional performance and conference facilities, new office accommodation and significant opportunities for increased community and hires activity. New facilities are also included for the expansion of Contact’s young peoples’ talent and leadership programmes.

Sheppard Robson’s proposals are designed to sit respectfully alongside the distinctive 1990s building designed by Alan Short and Associates, whilst providing an eye-catching addition to the south-facing elevation; this will make the building and the activities that take place inside it much more visible from Oxford Road. The new three storey extension adopts a pitched roof form with individual elements of the new accommodation carefully articulated, and will be finished in pearlescent metal. This material will change in character reflecting different qualities of light throughout the day.

Contact is currently waiting for final confirmation of its Arts Council England Capital funding. Fundraising will take place over 2016, working with Contact’s partners including The University of Manchester, Bruntwood and Manchester City Council. Project completion is targeted for spring 2018.

James Jones, Associate Partner at Sheppard Robson, said:

“We are delighted to have achieved planning approval on this unique project.

“Corridor Manchester is becoming the scientific, educational and cultural spine of the city. It is important that Contact, with its international reputation, is properly visible in this setting as an organisation uniquely able to bridge these activities, and to provide access for young people and local communities. Our design for Contact seeks to build on the existing building’s distinctive character whilst providing better space for Contact’s artistic programme for years to come.”

Matt Fenton, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Contact, said:

“It’s vital that local young people get to experience the benefits of the cultural and artistic boom currently taking place in Manchester, both as future audiences and as the workforce that will drive the North’s creative industries. The expanded Contact building will cement our national role as a hub for the training and development of future talent, on and off stage, with a focus on working with young people from the widest range of social, racial and economic backgrounds. It will also provide the best possible environment for audiences to experience our diverse public programme.”