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Interview with the head of creative development at Manchester’s Contact

With a major revamp of Manchester’s Contact planned, Georgia Snow finds out what this will mean for Suzie Henderson, one of the key members of staff.

What does your job entail?
I’m head of creative development, which means I manage the artistic teams. We have one artistic team that brings together our participatory work with young people, and then we have our programming team. I work across all different areas, so that might mean heading up work on the roll out of some of our leadership programmes, or working directly with artists and companies and talking about the latest co-productions or commissions that we’re doing. There’s a lot of organisation in my role, so it’s great that I still get to sit in a rehearsal room or have a one-to-one with an artist.

How will Contact’s forthcoming capital project affect your work?
It’s really exciting. We’ll be out of the building for 12 months – we are moving out next April. We have a full offsite programme during that time. Our participatory work will continue, as well as site-specific productions and working with other Manchester venues. What the development is giving us is the space that we really need. All of our projects are oversubscribed and we are running out of space, so having the redeveloped building is really exciting.

What is your career background?
After I graduated from university in Bristol, I worked for [venue and gallery] the Public in West Bromwich, and then for Multistorey, which is the charity that came out of the Public. I was their creative learning manager before coming here, where I have been since 2007. I’ve always had the same job title, but the role has grown massively because the organisation has.

Have you always had an interest in theatre?
I always wanted to work in the arts and was in a youth theatre as a teenager, which had a really big effect on me. I went to the Edinburgh festivals from the age of 15 until I finished uni. When I first went, I had no idea all this stuff was going on, it was so exciting. I originally wanted to be an actor but I’d always taught younger children drama alongside my own drama degree and I realised, probably in my second year, that I was more interested in developing other people, and the producing side of things. I enjoyed performing, but it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in. But it was a really useful grounding. Having an understanding of what goes into making a performance has been crucial to what I do now.

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