In the Spotlight introduces you to someone who’s working on the project. Keisha Thompson has worked for Contact, our Venue Partner in the North West, in several capacities including as a Creative Consultant. She is also a member of  Young Identity, a performer with Contact Playback and a facilitator.

What inspired you to work in the arts?
I must say it is a privilege to live in a vibrant city like Manchester that makes the arts seem integral to life. From a very young age I was introduced to dance, drama, poetry, circus skills, Indian music, DJing, VJing, gospel choir, African drumming and more. I have quite a strong academic background but my artistic side has always be treated with equal importance. It was never a decision for me: engaging in something artistic makes you whole and rounded. At this point in my life I am mainly focused on poetry, playback theatre and singing. From my perspective, there is no question in what I am doing. If I was not engaged in anything creative then I would expect to be questioned.

What do you love about your venue?
Contact has a unique vitality and commitment to provocative theatre and young people. The people at Contact are constantly working to support developing artists, they provide great leadership opportunities and understand the need for artists to receive paid work.

Tell us about how your venue works with young people.
There are too many groups and events to mention but the most prominent groups are CYAC (Contact Young Actors’ Company), Future Fires, Young Identity, Media Drop… All those named and not named give artists the opportunity to learn and hone a host of skills, from writing to acting, music production to project management. Moreover, Contact has a wealthy educational branch, I have been sent into schools as a Creative Consultant and I have provided workshops for school children visiting the Contact. Finally, I do not believe there is another theatre in Manchester that compares to Contact in terms of exhibiting shows and events targeted at young people.

Why are you excited about Shake the Dust?
I am excited because I adore poetry. I have been to Brave New Voices poetry festival in America twice which was an amazing experience (both times). I was an Ambassador at Apples and Snakes Wordcup last year held at Contact which again was an amazing and vibrant festival to be a part of and I have been a workshop leader for Wordsmith 2009/10 & 2010/11 (an inter-school poetry showcase held in Manchester) which was an intriguing time (again both years). I can only imagine that Shake the Dust will match, if not surpass my previous experiences. It is a joy to see young people coming together in a positive manner, especially with a common love for language and performance. Secondly, I am excited because I have the privilege to contribute since I am in the Steering Group. I will certainly relish the opportunity to create an environment for young poets to celebrate in the same way that I have.

Visit Contact to find out more.