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17th July 2022

Contact welcomes Keisha Thompson with Cocktails and Cinquains

Secoura Grim attends the welcome party for Contact’s new Artistic Director and CEO, Keisha Thompson – which included a special performance called ‘Cocktails and Cinquains’
Contact welcomes Keisha Thompson with Cocktails and Cinquains
Photo: Contact.

Contact celebrated Keisha Thompson taking over as their new Artistic Director and CEO with a wonderful celebration, which included a welcome party, an after party, and a performance called ‘Cocktails and Cinquains’: a carnival-themed night full of cocktails, dance, music, poetry and cinquains!

Keisha Thompson has been actively involved with Contact Theatre for 15 years, and it was great to be part of welcoming her as the youngest, first Black, female leader, and even first Mancunian head of the organisation.

Keisha certainly knows how to throw a party: on arrival, guests received a complimentary cocktail, a tasty Rum Punch, one that was produced by ingredients that were nostalgic for Keisha (including a nutmeg garnish, which Keisha admitted was one of her favourite spices) and set up the theme that inspired the structure of the night. Split into 4 parts (just like a cocktail), the night unfolded in 4 sections: mixer, spirit, flavour and garnish.

Cocktains and Cinquains opened with both Keisha and writer, singer, and actor, Rory Aaron, another creative who is very involved with Contact Theatre. Rory and Keisha bounced off each other in an entertaining open conversation as Rory attempted to recreate the Rum Punch cocktail live on stage.

The first dance performance we had was by the Manchester based dance academy, Jet Black, who gave an excellent performance of Caribbean and Carnival inspired dance. It was great to see performances from all ages really demonstrating how Contact Theatre provides opportunities to make the arts more accessible to the youth.

Rory Aaron then gave an exceptional spoken word performance focusing on modern life and the gentrification of the modern city landscape. 

Then it was the audience’s turn to write a cinquain! With many participants, there were great pieces that took to the mic, following a cinquain’s unique form of 2,4,6,8,2. It was lovely to see the night bringing so many creatives together, sharing their talent through the cinquains to celebrate the talent on the stage.

Keisha Thompson headlined the show with original songs that were emotive, followed by some more upbeat songs that shaped her childhood. Keisha then performed her poem ‘Algebra’ which was moving as she challenges the problems within the curriculum and it’s censorship of Black history; she rewrites the algebraic formulas of what should be taught in schools and what society should be acknowledging in history.

The closing act was a video performance of the mixology of the rum punch cocktail that was offered to us on arrival. It focused on the components that this cocktail was made up of, but dived deeper into the cultural origins of the ingredients in our hand that we have been sipping all night and taking for face value. It delved into the origins of the rum, the sugar canes, the fruits, and the garnish. As an audience member, this made me reflect upon the many ingredients whose cultural heritage are forgotten in the booming party of Britain’s drinking culture.

It was a brilliant evening with fabulous energy: Manchester’s iconic Mr Scruff and DJ Sequinella then took the party into the night. 

Not only was it a great celebration of Contact’s new CEO, it showcased the theatre’s real sense of community as it radiated from the theatre on Friday evening from both the acts and audience.

Be sure to check out Contact’s Autumn 22/23 programme – which includes the return of Cocktails and Cinquains!

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