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By Kate Campbell-Payne on

Keisha Thompson Q&A

Maths, science and Afrofuturism sit right at the heart of Keisha Thompson’s award winning show Man on the Moon.

She’s delivering three workshops as part of this year’s Manchester Science Festival to give you the chance to explore these ideas in more depth. We caught up with Keisha to give you an idea of what you can expect from her events.

Keisha Thompson

What inspired this series?

Whenever I’m working on something new, a poem or a show, I like to share the making process with people. I have a lot of workshop experience. I’m always keen to connect with people on another level, in addition to just having them as audience members.

When creating the show and book, these three strands stood out to me as distinct and key parts.  So I decided to create three workshops to encourage others to 1) grapple with mathematical ideas and poetry, 2) think about the aesthetic of afrofuturism and apply it to an everyday story, and 3) use music and loop pedals to explore emotion and storytelling.

What is Afrofuturism?

I think the best answer I’ve given to this question so far can be found in a Guardian article that I was interviewed for earlier this year:

At its core, afrofuturism uses the black experience to create work that is otherworldly, cosmic and surreal. For me, it’s about creative freedom. Using political pain and channelling it. Taking the experience of being ‘othered’ and subverting it into something otherworldly. It’s about using the knowledge of our ancestors to battle the erasure that we experience on a daily basis.

What is your favourite example of Afrofuturism in fiction?

At the moment it is Black Panther.

How are the themes of your show relevant for Britain today?

The show is a Manchester story. It takes place in my local supermarket, on the bus, at Piccadilly. I’ve had audiences say that they really enjoyed all the geographical references. Even when I’ve taken it to other cities, it is still relatable on that level. Also it comments on society in terms of people from different races, religions and classes living together and interacting.

In talking about my dad, it touches on what it means to be a Black British man and poignantly chimes with the Windrush scandal that has come to light this year. My dad is part of the Windrush generation. The story touches on what it means to be told that you’re British, but still feel like an outsider as a British person.

When did you first become interested in science?

Since I can remember. I think most children are. Most children are curious and investigative. They want to know where things are from. How things are made. What’s beyond the stars. All of this is scientific thought. I used to love doing mini experiments like using vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to make rocket ships.

In what ways are mathematics and music linked?

Loads. More than I am aware of. I know that for sure. When you learn about time signatures, rhythm and chord progressions it is all linked to numbers. Pythagoras is known for his contributions to geometry but he was heavily interested in music. He had a deep understanding of harmonies through his knowledge of ratios, weight and distance.

If you could meet any scientist, living or dead, who would it be?

That is a tough one. Unfortunately I’ll have to be really clichéd and say Einstein. I just think he had a great understanding of how education works. He had a passion for creativity and curiosity that is vital to learning. And I would love to hear him play the violin.

What do you think is the most amazing scientific event, discovery or advancement of recent years?

I’m going to take the opportunity to be a proud Manc here and say the (re)discovery of graphene.

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