TO THINK DIFFERENTLY- KEISHA THOMPSON -Containing verbatim text from GMAH attendees 

On Friday 19th the Greater Manchester Artists Hub hosted a group Zoom session bringing together 120 people- including leaders of artistic buildings and organisations and freelancers across Greater Manchester. Questions and comments were shared anonymously by all participants- and session chair; writer, performer and producer Keisha Thompson shared the below new poem- created from verbatim text. We’re delighted to have her permission to share it here with you. 



Containing verbatim text from GMAH attendees 


I’m taking it day by day

I’m trying to think differently


Normally I’m buoyed and hopeful

but I have to be honest

I feel like I’m fighting for survival


venues are the castle

and I’m at the moat


it feels like the ground

has fallen away from under me

I feel like I’m in a bubble

a safety net of an emergency

feel like I’m a bottleneck

like I don’t have a seat at the table

feel invisible

falling through cracks

picking up scraps


just keeping myself afloat

feeling a little deflated


and now… I’ve lost touch

feel like I need a backup

I was just getting my foot in the door

I feel good amidst the storm


which is surprising


feel like I’m hanging in


I’m taking it day by day

I’m trying to thinking differently


But how many funding rejections

can you take with no feedback?

should I focus my efforts short term?

on micro-commissions?

why am I having to prove my worth again?

will my career exist after this?


are we really tackling industrial racism?

or will things will go back to how they were before?

I know this is no one’s fault but why doesn’t that

stop these personal feelings of failure?

my fears for the future?

can I trust venues and organisations to adequately support me?

how can work together to be a voice for the community?

how do to integrate myself back into a community?

how do you produce online work?

if we are going to work virtually can you give me some time to get up to speed?

can you stop sending me surveys?

or can you stop asking the wrong questions?

should I accept that this year is a write off?

should I focus on long term goals?

I’m taking it day by day

I’m trying to thinking differently


lockdown has provided me with

a most valuable resource – time

for me to live in a cave (aka my flat)

and challenge myself

reform my unconscious biases

these are failings of systems


these are failings of organisations


not the people who work in organisations


the systems have failed artists to begin with


I want to see more artists being on salary in buildings

I want to see less questions around how venues can alleviate

health anxieties and just do more to improve and support the

health and well-being of local communities

organizations wanting more black people

I want to emerge as a true anti-racist butterfly

we have a great opportunity

to genuinely change the industry

see it evolve for the better

I am so afraid we will squander it all with our fear

I want to listen to cultural leaders not only for career


but to know what else is out there and how they are coping


I want to talk about how to create theatre in a different way


because I’m ready to wow the world

tell our stories

determined to create bigger and better opportunities

for myself and for fellow artists

I want audiences to feel safe and ready before anything else


a new model that is radical and transgressive


I want to democratise the industry


link up in ways that have been impossible before


I want more intimate & personal connections with audience


I have been welcomed warmly by this city


I am incredibly keen to repay the favour


I want to see more resources with fewer strings attached


I want to see more space and control given to artists


I want us to still be completely liberated to fail utterly


The Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester are joining forces with our fellow GM arts organisations to support the freelance artists of our city-region’s vibrant artistic community with the GM Artist Hub.

Learn more and sign up for sessions with artistic development producers and directors at

In these unprecedented times, we are coming together to offer our support to the independent practitioners, artists and companies of Greater Manchester.

These times call for new ways of thinking and new ways of working.

We’re with you as you make sense of things. Head over to our surgeries page to sign up for a free half-hour surgery session where you can talk your questions through with two of us at a time.

We’re with you as you take the lead. We’ll listen when you tell us what you need and we’ll try to meet those needs as best we can.


‘It means so much to be a part of the GM Artist Hub. We are here to be a community for the incredible artists and freelance creatives of Greater Manchester, and stand side by side them and our fellow arts organisations and venues – together, we will get through this.’


Zak Khan (Royal Exchange Theatre Producer) 

With best wishes,

Community Arts Northwest, Contact , hÅb & Word of Warning,HOME, Manchester International Festival, Octagon Theatre Bolton, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, SICK! FestivalSustained Theatre Up North, The Lowry, Waterside Arts & Creative Industries Trafford, Z-arts


Published on:
24 Jun 2020


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