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Keisha Thompson 'My activism cannot solely be artivism'

Last year, I was asked if I would be interested in developing some Anti-racism training for Contact.

Immediately, I knew the answer.

It would be a daunting task, but I was up for the opportunity to use my skills to contribute to the movement.

Sometimes it can difficult when you know that you are passionate about a political movement but haven’t found the right way to demonstrate it. Following the guidance of Nina Simone, I often use my artistic platforms to shed a light on issues that are close to my heart, and hopefully allow marginalised voices or ideas to be given some space. But I’m not just an artist.  

I am producer. I have a background in education from my secondary maths teacher training and workshop facilitation. I am currently working at the Arts Council doing policy work in the Children and Young People’s department. My activism cannot solely be artivism. Developing this package has allowed me to wear all my hats which has been a great experience.  

Firstly, I was able to return to a lot of literature and theory with a new lens. I discovered new writers and concepts as I researched and formulated the structure of the training. I tapped into material from GCSE psychology, A level Critical Thinking, Logic and Epistemology from my university days studying Philosophy and Politics. Basically, my geek glands were swollen.  

Secondly, I had the opportunity to connect with other brilliant people. As a part of the package, I recruited and trained a pool of amazing facilitators: Audrey, Lehin, Caitlin, Nikki, Hamdi and Jack. It was so wonderful to share the package with them, get their responses and give them space to bring them skills and artistry to it.  

So far, we’ve tested the training with three different organisations, and it has been going really well. Better than I anticipated. We’ve put safeguarding things in place to ensure that we are all ok as we deliver this work. I feel so supported and galvanised. I know it is not going to be easy going forward. The first organisations that engage with us are already having difficult conversations and are generally receptive to the idea of anti-racism. That is not going to be the case all the time but I’m up for the challenge.

You can also read our latest news feature which outlines more ways we have redoubled efforts to become an anti-racist organisation, written by our Artistic Director and CEO Matt Fenton here.