This year’s festival explores sexuality, gender, religion, and history, with local, national and international artists including Erasure’s Andy Bell, US transgender performers and activists Kate Bornstein and Our Lady J, award-winning poet Jackie Kay, visual artists AL and AL (in collaboration with BBC Philharmonic), plus new festival commissions from Debs Gatenby, Laurie Brown, and Jamie Fletcher and Company.
Music opens and closes the festival with a new song-cycle from Erasure’s Andy Bell is Saint Torsten at Contact; Icarus at the End of Time (co-presented with HOME at RNCM) features a new score by Philip Glass, performed live by the BBC Philharmonic with visuals from artists AL and AL; and US transgender singer-songwriter Our Lady J (one of the writers of Amazon’s Transparent) paints the church pink for Valentine’s weekend with For The Love of Gospel at Contact.
Elsewhere, there’s new theatre exploring Black gay experiences from Jamal Gerald in FADoubleGOT, Eilidh MacAskill’s STUD is a comedic look at gender and masculinity from the queer female perspective, legendary trans playwright and performer Jo Clifford leads the congregation in The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, and we explore the history of Manchester drag performance in Life’s A Drag.
Experience alternative cabaret from Mother’s Ruin, A Queer Revue! and The Library; laugh your socks off with some of the UK’s top comics including Tom Allen, Bethany Black, David Morgan, Suzi Ruffell, and Rosie Wilby at Comedy Playground; have your voice heard at LGBT Question Time and the Queer Youth Debate; and join in with workshops led by Jackie Kay and Kate Bornstein.
This year’s visual art programme will feature new work from local and national visual artists - Lee Baxter commemorates the 30th anniversary of North West HIV charity George House Trust in George Turns 30, Glenn Jones depicts Manchester’s thriving drag community in #ManchesterQueens, and there’s photography and film exploring the lives of Black gay sex workers by Ajamu and Khalil West (all at Contact), plus a major new solo exhibition from AL and AL (at HOME) investigating a new era of scientific exploration in Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse.
Take a look at the full programme below!
Life’s a Drag
From the team who brought you Polari Mission Live!, artist Jez Dolan with writer Chris Hoyle present a new theatre piece, loaded with sequins, feathers, lipstick and lights. Life’s a Drag is part of a year-long project exploring the history of drag in Manchester through performance, exhibition, oral history and getting your drag on. Grab your lippy, whisper ‘Sister’ at the door, and dance to the music of the blind accordionist…
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Thu 4 Feb, 8pm. £25 / £20 conc. Over 14s.
Contact and Superbia present
Andy Bell is Saint Torsten
Andy Bell, from pop legends Erasure, takes on the most challenging role of his career as age defying, polysexual Torsten, cursed to love many and get close to no-one. In this bawdy theatrical song-cycle, he delivers musical missives illuminating the extraordinarily mysterious life of a man disconcerted by his own bizarre experience of the nature of passing years.
Supported by Poptastic.
Thu 4 to Sat 6 Feb, 9:30pm. £13 / £7 conc. Over 16s (contains nudity)
Contact and Word of Warning present
Eilidh MacAskill: STUD
An energetic and hilarious solo show in which Eilidh MacAskill works through her penis envy by taking on a range of manly stereotypes while displaying her undeniable womanhood. STUD is an entertaining yet complex attack on gender binaries and masculinity from the point of view of a queer female.
Kate Bornstein: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us
On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us explores the notion of a not-man, not-woman identity in a world that demands we be one or the other. An entertaining introduction to the notion of sex and gender beyond the binary, this autobiographical performance is a deeply moving affirmation of spirit for sex-and-gender outlaws. Kate conveys the experience of her rich transgender life with wit and tenderness, delivering her favorite spoken word pieces from more than a quarter century. Deeply personal and universally accessible, On Men, Women and The Rest of Us will make you laugh, cry, and gasp out loud.
Supported by Superbia, The Sexuality Summer School at University of Manchester, and Humanities in Public, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Fri 5 Feb, 11pm to 3am. £6. Over 18s.
Band on the Wall and Contact present
A Queer Revue!
A Queer Revue! returns for another sensational helping of sparkling fun, experimental performance, avant-garde humour, art, drag and disco dancing on the fringes of the Northern Quarter, to help kick Queer Contact Festival’s opening weekend into gear! Special hosts, guests and artists TBA!
Please note: This event will take place at Band on the Wall.
Sat 6 Feb, 10am to 4:30pm. £90 / £50 conc. Over 16s.
Kate Bornstein: My Gender Workshop
Join author, performer, and gender revolutionary Kate Bornstein for an intimate day-long gender odyssey. This workshop will allow you to explore ways to effectively express your own fabulous gender identity with integrity and sass and help others to do the same.
Please note: This event will take place at LGBT Foundation.
HOME and Contact present
Icarus at the Edge of Time
A futuristic reimagining of the classic Greek myth set in outer space, Icarus at the Edge of Time is based on a stunning book by the world-renowned physicist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Brian Greene. Featuring a spectacular science fiction film created and directed by AL and AL, with a brand new score by Philip Glass, this North West premiere is performed live by the BBC Philharmonic and conducted by Duncan Ward. Narrated live by Professor Brian Greene.
Commissioned by World Science Festival (New York) and produced by HOME, Manchester.
Please note: This event will take place at RNCM Concert Hall.
Sun 7 Feb, 12pm to 2pm. Free. All ages.
Manchester City Council present
LGBT Question Time
Manchester City Council and its partners invite the local LGBT community to discuss the pressing issues of today with a panel of experts.
Please note: This event will take place at the Banqueting Room, Manchester Town Hall.
Mon 8 Feb, 7:30pm. £13 / £7 conc. Over 16s.
Some of the UK’s top comics - Tom Allen, Suzi Ruffell, David Morgan, Rosie Wilby, Bethany Black and Ruth E Cockburn - join MC Jonathan Mayor for an outrageous night of laughter.
Supported by Bar Pop.
Contact and Apples and Snakes present
A special showcase of queer spoken word and literature featuring Jackie Kay, Keith Jarrett, Paula Varjack, AJ McKenna, and more. Hosted by Adam Lowe (Young Enigma).
Supported by the Writing School at MMU.
Tue 9 Feb, 4pm to 6pm. Over 14s. Free with an Outspoken ticket.
Jackie Kay: Outspoken Workshop
Jackie Kay will lead a special two hour workshop for poetry and performance. Call 0161 274 0600 to book.
Tue 9 Feb to Thu 11 Feb, 7pm. £11 / £6 conc. Over 16s.
Jamal Gerald: FADoubleGOT
Supported by Contact Inspired by Black LGBT experiences, this autobiographical piece focuses on the ups and downs of pride and self-loathing, and finding a place where you shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate your individuality. Jamal Gerald develops the courage to tell his story of how he learned to embrace everything thrown his way, and how to wear labels without shame.
Laurie Brown: The Daily Grind
Commissioned by Contact Hi…How are you? … Looking for? A solo show aiming to cruise, confide and query the complexities of love, sex and the internet age. The Daily Grind explores technology, now prevalent every day in young lives through mobile phones. It looks at the consequences and impact on health and wellbeing that the deluge of dating apps, image sharing and instant communication - now an accepted and expected part of how we connect with others – has on young lives.
Wed 10 Feb, 8pm. £13 / 7 conc. Over 14s. Plus post-show talk.
Debs Gatenby: A Place Called Happiness
Commissioned by Contact Lost, Happiness. Can you help? Debs spent a year thinking about happiness. It brought her down. Travelling out into the world, she documented her experiences, and tells us what she found in this comedic and uplifting new solo show from the creator of Hi, Anxiety.
Supported by the Albany and Slung Low.
Thu 11 Feb, 8pm. £13 / £7 conc. Over 14s. Plus post-show talk.
Jamie Fletcher and Company: Dancing Bear
Commissioned by Contact Dancing Bear uses dance, live music, text and drag cabaret to tell a story full of compassion, candour and humour, looking at the often desperate balancing act many gay people continue to face between personal integrity, social acceptance and spiritual peace. A nine-strong cast explore the current tipping point between Christianity and Homosexuality.
Supported by West Yorkshire Playhouse, Theatre in the Mill, Yorkshire Dance, Live Art Bistro, LCI (Leeds Church Institute), Christian SeedBed Trust, Chapel FM & Arts Council England.
Mother’s Ruin: Loved Up
Come get salaciously satisfied! Mother's raucous alt queer cabaret hosted by Mrs Jonjo and starring Mzz Kimberley, Anna Phylactic and some very special guests.
Sat 13 Feb, 4pm to 6pm. £6 / £3 conc. Over 12s.
Queer Youth Debate
Young people from Albert Kennedy Trust, LGBT Youth North West, Rainbow Noir, LGBT Foundation, George House Trust and more come together with local councilors and academics to discuss the issues affecting them. Hosted by Sarah Emmott (Secret Diaries).
Supported by the Sexuality Summer School, the University of Manchester.
Sat 13 Feb, 8pm. £15 / £10 conc. Over 12s.
Contact and Superbia present
Our Lady J: For The Love Of Gospel
US singer-songwriter Our Lady J (Transparent) paints the church pink for Valentine’s weekend with an exhilarating musical celebration of original songs penned by the Lady herself and accompanied by the Train-to-Kill Gospel Choir. Inspired by conventional Gospel music, this show is anything BUT traditional, promising to deliver you from your woes, without the usual dogmatic baggage.
Supported by Richmond Tea Rooms.
The Royal Exchange Theatre and Contact present
The Gospel According To Jesus, Queen of Heaven
Written and performed by legendary trans playwright, performer and poet Jo Clifford and directed by Susan Worsfold, this unique and extraordinary show combines theatre with storytelling, spoken word and ritual. A humane, mischievous and loving show as familiar stories are reimagined by a transgender Jesus.
Please note: This event will take place at St Chrysostom's Church, Manchester.
Mon 15 Feb, 8:00pm to 1am. £12 [meet and greet] / £7 [standard]. Over 18s.
The Library: For The Love of Drag
A celebration of traditional and alternative drag styles. Some of the UK’s best drag artists will be hosting a drag spectacular, on the day that Cupid's arrow may strike.
Please note: This event will take place at Taurus, Canal Street, Manchester.
Ajamu and Khalil West: I Am For You Can
Enjoy An intimate exploration of the diverse backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences of queer Black male sex workers and their clients. Combining photography, personal testimony, and video, this landmark project examines how pleasure, desire, fantasy and sexual agency collide with race, performance, power and commerce.
Thu 4 Feb to Sat 16 April, open daily (not Sun). Free.
Lee Baxter/George House Trust: George Turns 30
A collection of photographs that tell the story of 30 years of the HIV charity George House Trust. Meet some of the people and objects behind the history of HIV activism in the North West.
Thu 4 Feb to Sat 16 April, open daily (not Sun). Free.
Wretched Ginger Boy: #ManchesterQueens
Local artist Glenn Jones presents a selection of portraits and posters inspired by the creative looks and imaginative performances of Manchester’s thriving drag community.
Sat 6 Feb to Sun 10 Apr, open daily. Free.
HOME and Contact present
AL and AL: Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse
Acclaimed British artists and filmmakers AL and AL, alongside some of the world's groundbreaking scientists; Professor Brian Greene, Alan Turing and Dr. Bart Hoogenboom, investigate a new era of scientific exploration, both real and imagined. Commissioned by: Alfred P Sloan foundation, BFI, Cornerhouse, HOME, Royal Society, Southbank Centre, Wellcome Trust and World Science Festival.
Please note: This exhibition will take place at HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place Manchester.