Manchester Theatre Awards

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New artistic directions around Manchester

The Royal Exchange in Manchester has announced plans for a new artistic direction under a newly restructured leadership team, and unveiled a bold and dynamic programme for their early 2013 season, while the city’s Contact venue is set to bid farewell to its artistic director.

Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom will take the lead in driving the new vision, which will champion new ways of theatre making.

She will be opening the theatre to bold new artistic energy and imagination, nationally and internationally, to create work across all the theatre’s platforms.

She comments:  “I am excited about presenting original work, telling new stories and exploring new ideas inspired by the city and communities of which The Exchange sits at the heart.”

The Spring/Summer 2013 season launches the new vision. Inspiring new writing and collaborations sit alongside classic plays, presented by some of the best new talent in British theatre. The season includes three world premieres,  the Royal Exchange debut of four of the UK’s most exciting young directors and the launch of the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

The announcement follows the retirement of Braham Murray in July, the last of the theatre’s Founding Directors.

Sarah is part of the artistic leadership team which also includes Greg Hersov, artistic director, who will lead on delivery of the theatre’s artistic programmes, including supporting and mentoring new talent and ensuring the theatre continues to deliver outstanding work, and Fiona Gasper, executive director, who leads on strategic direction and management of the company.

The Spring / Summer season begins on February 20 with To Kill A Mockingbird, directed by rising star Max Webster, a trainee of the 2011 Regional theatre Young Directors’ Scheme at The Exchange.


Baba Israel will be resigning as artistic director of Contact in Manchester in December for personal reasons.

Baba has been at Contact since June 2009. During that time he has led the organisation through a period of intense change, involving new digital and international platforms, as well as initiating new money-making opportunities. 

Charles Lauder, chair of Contact’s board said: “Contact would like to be pay tribute to the tireless effort Baba brought to his role. Contact has exciting adventures ahead, which I am sure Baba would have loved the chance to share. We would like to thank him and wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Baba himself said: “When I first came to Contact on tour with my father in 2005 I was amazed at what I found, a theatre that was so much more. Contact is a dynamic social space full of creativity and diversity where young people hold real influence. My father passed last summer and I am returning to New York to look after my mother and to begin a new journey as an independent artist. I know that Contact will only grow stronger because of the staff, board, partners, funders and young people who keep Contact’s vision clear and expansive.’

David Upton