Contact returns with its annual vogue ball as part of 2023’s LGBTQ+ festival

Continuing its 50th birthday celebrations, Contact celebrates the UK’s most extraordinary LGBTQ+ talent with the Queer Contact festival.

By Emma Davidson | 24 January 2023

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Contact Theatre’s new interior fitout by Architects Sheppard Robson

Image: Contact

Running from 4 – 18 February, Contact’s annual Queer Contact festival returns for 2023 with Drag Race royalty and its annual show-stopping Vogue Ball, presented by House of Suarez, to kick start the two-week celebration of queer artistry. 

This year aims to be bigger, brighter, and more beautiful than ever before, with highlights including Drag Race UK’s talented queens Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister, and an evening in conversation with Heartstopper actor and Contact alumni, Fisayo Akinade.

Also returning for 2023 is the cabaret vogue ball, that’s a yearly highlight for fans of Contact. Taking place at Manchester Academy, this year’s ball travels back to the glorious decade of disco for a night of glitter and glam MCed by the iconic Rikki Beadle-Blair. 

Houses from across the UK compete for the much coveted titles, including 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.

Breakout stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 2, Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister, make their debut at Queer Contact festival 2023 by bringing, in their words ‘the most disappointing drag show you’ve ever seen’ as part of their You Keep Me Hanging On tour. This marks the duo’s first joint stage show, which promises to be hilarious.

Heartstopper and Cucumber actor Fisayo Akinade will also explore the many different elements that have influenced his life and career in another festival highlight. In Conversation with Contact’s artistic director and CEO Keisha Thompson, they will talk about the 50 things that shaped his career – inspired by Contact’s celebration of its 50th-anniversary

Image: François Pandolfo
Image: Cocoa Butter Club

One of Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s breakthrough acts, François Pandolfo makes his debut here with his “one-man-cat-drag-late-night comedy show” as Milly-Liu. Join her as she is ready to spill the beans on all your favourite celebrity pussies.

Joining Milly-Liu and the rest of this year’s talented performers, Carrot and Friends’ brings its Doctor Who inspired entertainment to Contact this year. Jump aboard the queerest Tardis in time and space for cosmic comedy as you travel through the vortex and experience dimension-defying drag, stratospheric stand-up, burlesque, and an oncoming storm of many other surprises.

Image: Lady Bushra

For lovers of Drag, Queer Contact 2023 is also delighted to bring the hilarious and iconic drag comedian, Lady Bushra to the stage. Hailed from the exotic land of Bradford, and 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 lip sync 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. 

Image: Contact

CEO and artistic director, Keisha Thompson, commented: “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 all events are on sale now.