CAN has worked with thousands of people since its inception in 1978: as community members, young people, artists, and partner organisations, often building deep and lasting connections. We asked people to share their CAN stories with us – read some of them here.
My first involvement with CAN was when I was a member of Afrocats as a dancer, when I was 15…
My first involvement with CAN was when I was a member of Afrocats as a dancer, when I was 15 or 16, back in 2005 and 2006. We performed at CAN’s Exodus Festival, alongside lots of other refugee community groups. Afrocats created and performed in Where Is Home? in partnership with CAN, directed by CAN’s then Creative Director, Cilla Baynes. Where Is Home? was performed at the greenroom and it was a huge success.
CAN helped me to develop as an artist. I discovered how art can be used to highlight socio-political issues. CAN’s projects also really gave me first-hand experiences of working with refugees and new migrants to this country. I feel strongly about the hostility and racism they face, and I’ve included their stories in some of my work ever since.
Now I work mainly in theatre, music, spoken word, and as a Producer. I’ve toured my work nationally; I’ve supported the Mercury Prize nominated spoken word artist and poet Kae Tempest, collaborated with theatre companies including Eclipse; and been part of the British Council’s platform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. You can find more about me at keishathompson.com
CAN does a great job of bringing local and migrant communities together. It showcases and commissions high-quality art that serves various communities – CAN contributes to social cohesion. Anyone who connects with CAN develops skills and has experiences that will help within and beyond the arts sector.
I first got involved with CAN in 2012 when I worked alongside Magdalen Bartlett, who was CAN’s Children and Young…
I first got involved with CAN in 2012 when I worked alongside Magdalen Bartlett, who was CAN’s Children and Young People’s Creative Producer, to establish CAN Young Artists. I led CAN Young Artists for seven years. The relationship with CAN and their young people’s programme is one of the most significant of my career. CAN appointed me as a Lead Artist, giving me the confidence to see myself as the artist I wanted to be. CAN believed in my ideas and trusted my artistic vision.
CAN Young Artists and I built something very special, making some incredible, high-quality pieces of work together. Young people describe the company as a family with the trust and understanding of each other. It’s a fantastic first introduction to the arts for many of the young people. CAN Young Artists offers quality training for young artists to develop their skills in performance. Many have gone on to join other companies or to study performance.
One of my proudest moments was seeing one of the members of the company perform at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 2019 in his first professional show – a work-in-progress with the award-winning theatre company YESYESNONO.
CAN stands out as a pioneering organisation in the UK because it actually listens to the people taking part, its artists, and audiences. Genuine consultation happens. CAN acts on those conversations., it’s not a box-ticking exercise. The work is for real.
Wigan Music Service
Wigan Music Service has been proud to work in partnership with CAN over the past six years on the Kámoši…
Wigan Music Service
Wigan Music Service has been proud to work in partnership with CAN over the past six years on the Kámoši Juniors Performing Arts project in Leigh, in the borough of Wigan, to bring high-quality musical engagement to culturally diverse and host community families in Leigh. Through our work with CAN, we’ve learned the true meaning of inclusivity and come to appreciate the value of engaging children from all communities in meaningful and focused artistic activity.
We know the importance and value placed by the children of the Kámoši Juniors Performing Arts project and their families on building friendships with children from Leigh’s diverse communities by using music project work with direction and focus. It’s been a wonderful vehicle to build the relationships that are so desired by families for them to feel truly accepted and a part of our community.
The partnership working between my colleague here at the Music Service, CAN specialists and school colleagues is a model of effective sharing of knowledge, expertise, and experience for the good of children and young people.
The Continuing Professional Development opportunity for Wigan Music Service through this project has also been immeasurable. It’s given us the opportunity to upskill expert music practitioners in the wider context of delivering music to less familiar minoritised groups and has helped the service to forge links with the Wigan Council’s EMAS service which will develop future collaborations.
I worked for CAN as a Project Manager for 10 years, and I had the honour of contributing to its…
I worked for CAN as a Project Manager for 10 years, and I had the honour of contributing to its women’s and youth creative development programmes.
Souk Kitchen was the project that had the biggest impact on me. It was an exciting and memorable live theatre performance that brought together over 60 refugee, asylum seekers and local women. Souk Kitchen was developed through outreach workshops and supported by a talented team of artists. Eight women’s groups shared stories and experiences from their cultures through music, dance, singing, food, fashion, digital media textiles and visual art. The project revealed hidden stories of refugees and asylum seekers, it opened up avenues for new connections, built friendships and grew support networks.
The growth of CAN’S Exodus programme left a lasting impression on me and all those who were part of it over the years. Working for CAN instilled continuing confidence in me and showed me endless possibilities in artistic and community collaborations and raising awareness of global experiences.
I’m Pat Mackela, a musician, I play drums and percussion, and I’ve been involved with CAN since 2005. I’ve been…
I’m Pat Mackela, a musician, I play drums and percussion, and I’ve been involved with CAN since 2005. I’ve been part of Exodus from the beginning as a Volunteer and then a Trainee Music Workshop Facilitator. This training helped me become a Music Workshop Leader and Facilitator.
I’ve been involved in lots of different CAN projects over the years. A highlight for me was working on the Lisapo: The Congolese Tales project in 2014. This project brought Greater Manchester’s Congolese community together, to share our stories, and we held the most amazing Congolese event.
CAN has been so helpful in many aspects of my life in Manchester. As a musician from a refugee background, the support I’ve received was on so many levels supporting me as an individual as well as an artist.
What CAN brings to the arts is beyond comparison. CAN has helped so many artists from asylum-seeker and refugee backgrounds, to find their place in the arts and music scene in the UK.
I’ve gained so much from my involvement with CAN. I always say I’m part of the CAN family.
I’m a Digital Artist, Filmmaker, Theatre Maker, Writer and Creative Producer. From 2010, CAN has supported my ambitions and made…
I’m a Digital Artist, Filmmaker, Theatre Maker, Writer and Creative Producer. From 2010, CAN has supported my ambitions and made them real by valuing me as an Iranian refugee. I’m now an artist with a thriving career. I’ve received fantastic mentoring for my creative practice, which introduced me to new creative areas like animation. CAN gave me confidence and leadership skills, which have meant I’ve worked internationally through TANDEM with the European Cultural Foundation.
I talked at the World Health Organisation about the impact of community art on mental health in society. The co-creation at the heart of CAN’s work inspired me to form my own organisation – DIPACT, which is a platform for diverse artists to explore and experiment with creativity, working with organisations such as CAN, Commonword and The Whitworth.
It’s not just me, there are hundreds of artists and thousands of people from different communities who’ve come together through CAN to make art to say what needs to be said to the world.
Seyed Ali Jaberi and Hamdel Ensemble
I was a CAN Artist-in-Residence in 2019. CAN helped us to make an application to Arts Council England’s Grants for…
Seyed Ali Jaberi and Hamdel Ensemble
I was a CAN Artist-in-Residence in 2019. CAN helped us to make an application to Arts Council England’s Grants for The Arts to develop a tour of All Because of Love to seven cities in England and an appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
CAN helped us develop skills in marketing, budgeting and project management.
Every concert on the tour was a huge success in terms of both ticket sales and audience feedback. 98% of audiences rated the concerts as “amazing” and “fantastic”.
Sashwati Mira Sengupta
When I first moved from London to Manchester, I took part in CAN’s In the Mix training programme for emerging…
Sashwati Mira Sengupta
When I first moved from London to Manchester, I took part in CAN’s In the Mix training programme for emerging Music Workshop Leaders. It was a turning point in my career, and through this, I was introduced to the richness of Manchester’s creative scene. To this day, CAN is a sounding board if I want to explore creative or project ideas.
I’ve met many Artists, Producers, and Cultural Organisations through CAN’s extensive networks and cultural events, which has helped my career immensely. Working in partnership with CAN to fundraise, and produce workshop and arts events has been a huge education for me, and now I support others in writing their funding applications!
One significant project was working on the Kámoši Juniors Performing Arts Group. At the time, the young people mainly had Czech and Slovak Roma heritages and my DJ crew delivered workshops with a group of young Kámoši MCs. They then performed on stage with the iconic Serbian “Rock n Roma” band KAL at Manchester Academy. The project was amazing because of the confidence it gave young people.
In 2019, using my knowledge of touring, I worked on the hugely successful tour of Seyed Ali Jaberi and The Hamdel Ensemble to seven venues and one festival – the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s something I’m really proud of.
CAN is part of my extended arts family. I first got to know CAN when it was called Community Arts…
CAN is part of my extended arts family.
I first got to know CAN when it was called Community Arts Workshop back in the late 1980s. I met them as a young person taking part in a music project in Ashton-under-Lyne and I’m really proud to have been involved with CAN all these years.
Now I’m a professional Musician and Composer. My work with CAN has ranged from running music workshops, composing music and directing music for theatre performances and installations, sound recording and lighting. In 2019 I even redecorated the CAN office.
CAN’s work with the communities that face barriers to creative opportunities is second to none. It’s one of the most inclusive organisations I’ve ever worked with.
In the early 1980s, I began volunteering at Community Arts Workshop, as CAN was known then. I then got some…
In the early 1980s, I began volunteering at Community Arts Workshop, as CAN was known then. I then got some paid work on projects, and later a permanent job as a Community Music Worker. These first experiences were transformative for me. I learnt how to put together and lead major projects, such as the community play Spooky Boogie Bolton, and the fantastic Tameside Asian Music and Poetry Project. Over the years I’ve stayed in close touch with CAN as a supporter and freelance artist.
I returned to CAN for a year-long role as interim Artistic Director in 2007. The highlight of that year was initiating the ground-breaking Beating Wing Orchestra for the first Manchester International Festival.
Hugely influential, CAN has always remained grounded in communities; nurturing talent and cultural expression that is socially relevant and supportive of the issues faced and change needed by any community group. There are so many other artists who, like me, owe a great deal to CAN for being where we are now.