Image for Supported Artists Page, Royal Exchange Theatre

Each year we welcome up to three artists/companies to become Open Exchange Supported Artists. The aim of the scheme is to empower artists to develop their practice and create work with the support of the Exchange and ultimately, we hope, to support and propel artists beyond the walls of our organisation. Supported Artists are chosen by the core Artistic team and the Open Exchange team, who each year will meet and have conversations with dozens of emerging theatre-makers who are creating their work in Greater Manchester.

These artists are invited to create a wish list, or bespoke timetable of activity which we discuss before selecting three artists to be on attachment with us for a year as we endeavour to honour their expectations. These can range from mentorship with a particular artist of interest, dramaturgical support, the covering of course fees, seeing shows or the commitment to the development of an idea.

Their year with us focusses on interrogating them as artists and supporting their development. Each artist receives a £2,000, no strings attached bursary and access to seed funding for projects. 

Current Supported Artists

Hafsah Aneela Bashir

Image of Supported Artists Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Royal Exchange Theatre

Hafsah Aneela Bashir is a Manchester based, writer and performance poet with an MA in Postcolonial Literary and Culture from the University of Leeds. She delivers creative writing workshops with a strong focus on identity and empowerment and her work has been published by Crocus Books in the anthologies, When Saira Met Sarah, Elevator Fiction, 80 Decibels Above Sound and Shots In The Dark.

Co-director of the arts collective, Outside The Frame Arts, she is passionate about platforming voices outside the mainstream, working with marginalized and underrepresented communities. Through the support of Future’s Venture award supporting radical artists making work with a conscience, Hafsah wrote and performed a work-in-progress, 'Cuts Of The Cloth' exploring the links between Muslim women's relationship with the Hijab and the war on terror.

A TOAST2016 poet and one of six recipients of Manchester International Festival 2017 Jerwood Fellowship Awards, Hafsah wrote and performed a monologue based on her grandmother’s experience of the1947 India/Pakistan Partition with The Royal Exchange Theatre as part of the 'Memories Of Partition' project.

She is currently a ‘Leader of Tomorrow’ with the Artistic Director’s Leadership programme, has performed for numerous festivals and is creating theatre work of her own exploring womanhood and faith. Her debut poetry collection ‘The Celox And The Cloth’ published by Burning Eye Books launches October 2018.

She blogs at hafsahaneelabashir.wordpress.com and tweets at @Hafsah_A_Bashir.
Outside The Frame Arts @artsOTF outsidetheframearts.org.uk
'Platform For Palestinian Arts' project: FILM HERE


Ransack Theatre

Supported Artists Ransack Theatre

Ransack Theatre are an award-winning company based in Manchester founded in 2014. They work with local artistic associates to create imaginative and entertaining drama with an immersive aesthetic.

Ransack engage in three main overlapping practices: site specific theatre, immersive experience and new writing. The company often combine these elements to create ambitious events in cellars, office blocks, abandoned school houses, railway arches, old Victorian residences, disused mills and studio theatres.

Most recently, Ransack presented the Northern premiere of Moth by Declan Greene at Hope Mill Theatre. It was their most ambitious production to date, combining state of the art lighting with their immersive style, and won them a Manchester Theatre Award for Best Fringe Production 2018.

Ransack's interest in new writing and playwrights has resulted in the company curating local events profiling new short scripts, Northern premieres of international plays, devising original scripts and developing local playwright's work ready for production.

But it all started with a revival of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. Staged in an abandoned vault under a pub in Salford, the production sold out for three weeks and won a GMF Award for Best Production in 2014 before being selected for Re:Play festival at HOME and the National Student Drama Festival.

Website: ransacktheatre.co.uk

“We’ve been making theatre together and with a variety of local associate artists for 4 years in Manchester. In all that time the Royal Exchange have played an influential role by inspiring and supporting our development, so we’re very excited to continue this by being a part of the Open Exchange’s Supported Artists Scheme. Over the next year, we’ll be using this opportunity to finish developing our first original devised piece of theatre, nurturing new artistic relationships and taking the next tentative steps towards expanding the ambition of the company.”  Ransack Theatre 


Ali Wilson

Supported Artists Ali Wilson Image

Ali Wilson is a theatre-maker with a focus on collaborative devised performance. Her practice celebrates mundanity and often employs humor, irony and minimal theatricality. With an interest in human experience, Ali presents stories, problems and provocations on stage and in other performance spaces. Her work has so far involved 5 cheerleaders struggling to keep it together, a long list of lies, diving into the deep end and imagining her Mum’s future funeral. Making performance is an extension of her desire to celebrate the habits and behaviours that make us who we are.

Ali has previously worked with Facade Theatre, I Don’t Love You Anymore, Tin Can People and has performed with Quarantine. Her work has been presented at Royal Exchange’s Co:Lab Festival, Contact, Battersea Arts Centre, Lancaster Arts, Flare Festival and more.

Alongside making and performing, Ali is also a dramaturg and creative producer. As part Contact’s young programming and producing team, Ali designed and delivered Temporary Monument, Permanent Protest: a project to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Manchester’s Section 28 protests. She is also creative producer for I Don’t Love You Anymore’s upcoming project Even Flies Get Frustrated in residency at PACT Zollerverein, Essen and is executive producer of Colectivo Gamera’s Berlin-based dance participatory project BAILACOMOQUIERAS.

Ali has a BA and MA in Contemporary Peformance Practice from University of Salford and was a finalist for Young Creative of the Year at Manchester’s Culture Awards, 2018.

www.aliwilsonfishnsauce.wordpress.com / @aliwil267

“As I continue to develop my practice as a creative, the appointment of Supported Artist will offer incredible support. Access to resources such as rehearsal space and tech support will allow me to focus on the artistic development of projects, as well as share my practice with others in a professional environment.

I plan to use this year to design and produce new work as well as develop an existing project and move towards making larger-scale work. I plan to professionalise my practice, develop my portfolio as a mutil-faceted creative, connect with the many networks engaged with REX and make the most of this positive working relationship!

Importantly, this appointment allows me to feel recognised and valuable in the artistic industry. In order to support other creatives at a similar career level to myself, I plan to share as much of this opportunity as possible; allowing insight into my process with open rehearsals, inviting others in for conversations and offering my own time as much as possible.

Royal Exchange’s REACT and Co:Lab opportunities have been central to my development as a maker, which makes it feel particularly special to return to the building as a Supported Artist. I’m incredibly excited for the potential of the next year ahead and am looking forward to delving further into the fantastic art scene that Manchester and the North West has on offer!” Ali Wilson


Michael-Jon Mizra

Image of Michael Jon Mizra, Supported Artists, Royal Exchange Theatre

Michael-Jon Mizra (b.1991 – Cape Town, South Africa) is a multimedia artist. He studied Music at the University of Leeds (2009) with a focus on technology and aesthetics. His interest is in story-telling and the narrative of cultural traumas. He presents a diverse body of performance art, installations, compositions, and applications. He connects his practice with a technical and conceptual consideration of interface. This is the question of how to dissolve the virtual and non-virtual body into a unity. He exhibited work in the Design Museum, London (‘Sounds of a People – 2017) and presented work internationally (‘Displacement Native’ – 2018). He currently resides in Greater Manchester where he works with youth organisations as an educator in digital arts.

@lowpowerstate (Instagram)

“Every year is a year for growth. Yet, instead of pushing forward I want to refine. I want to step back and think about what I am making, and why. This opportunity is the space I need.

This year I will integrate myself into the mechanics of the RET. I will explore the possibility of sound and perception in the theatre. I will learn from a team of expert individuals. And I will foster long-lasting relationships." Michael-Jon Mizra

Benjamin Spiro-Hughes

Supported Artists Benjamin Spiro Hughes Image, Royal Exchange Theatre

Benjamin "grew up" with the Royal Exchange having participated in the Young Company back in 2005. His creative practice thus far has included the exploration of short film, music videos and co-wrote a sitcom about his time working in a restaurant. It wasn’t, however, until he attended an Introduction to Directing workshop for disabled theatre makers and directors co-run the Exchange and Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme that he began to reengage and focus on theatre.

AMAZED! It will give me the courage to explore my ideas to their fullest potential with the support of incredible theatre practitioners." Benjamin Spiro-Hughes


Previous Supported Artists

  • Supported Artists Amy Lawrence Image

    Amy Lawrence is a Manchester-based interdisciplinary artist, curator and facilitator. Amy is the co- director and founder of ‘LEGROOM’ a nomadic space for expanded approaches to liveness through the boundaries of movement and visual arts, having recently directed a space in Manchester City Centre with an 8-month programme of events from international and local platforms for sharing and artist residences to public workshops, with support from Castlefield Gallery. Amy also works as a freelance facilitator and academic educator and is actively involved with inclusive projects and conversations and is also the Emerging artist and Youth Board representative for Manchester International Festival and a freelance producer/facilitator within projects that are also influenced by an all-encompassing, diverse and socially engaged approach. This activity is part of all-encompassing creative and producing practise that questions the body as a political site in the creation of playful, sensitive and satirical situations.

    Creative projects have a visceral, fleshy and conversational liveness, often multi-faceted amongst live-edited visuals and interrupting soundscapes, resulting in situations and events across various settings from the gallery to site specific settings and theatre spaces. Hybrid visual and physical works incorporate choreographic structures and exploit the intricacies of liveness within playful narratives of identity and social politics Projects span a range of outputs with a wide approach to conversation in a practice that exists in the convergence of the workshop, curatorial and creative structure, with low-fi visuals and choreographed physicality. Projects explore improvisational processes and form playful ethnographic discussions situated alongside everyday experiences of objects, space and other bodies in situations that are self-reflexive upon the structures of art, sharing the glitches in these frameworks. Amy manipulates the notion of ‘performed liveness’ and play and creates works that merge in and out of a recognisable narrative and process, often working with varied groups of participants, performers or artists to create hyperbolised social representations.


    Portfolio: alawrence.cargocollective.com
    Vimeo: vimeo.com/amylawrence

    LEGROOM (Curatorial Project with Juliet Davis)
    LEGROOM Portfolio: legroomspaceformoving.com
    Facebook: facebook.com/LEGROOMManchester

    “The opportunity to one of the Supported Artists provides me with the support, time and space to develop my practise which is an invaluable asset for an artist! My work often involves moving bodies so having access to space at the theatre to make work is amazing. I also feel free and supported to investigate and explore within my own practise, and this is vital for me. I am so thankful to the Royal Exchange for this opportunity and over the year I hope to professionalise my making process and create a series of new live works, leading towards a larger choreographed project at the end of the year. I will also use the opportunity to create networks and space for others by bringing artists into the space for conversations, making, collaborations and sharing whilst developing my approaches to directing, writing and dramaturgy using the wealth of knowledge and support within the Theatre.”  Amy Lawrence 

  • Knaïve Theatre

    Supported Artists Knaive Theatre Image, Royal Exchange Theatre

    Knaïve Theatre are Tyrrell Jones, Sam Redway, Alice Barber, who seek to inspire, connect, challenge and empower audiences by making risk-taking political and immersive theatre across a range of styles and genres responding to the world and the communities around them. They experiment to find new and exciting ways to affect, transport and transform audiences and themselves.

    Their work exists to challenge each other as much as their audience and seeks to poetically express the political dialectics of our time. In the year ahead, they will also be developing the education arm of the company and gaining insight into the more technical aspects of theatre.

    Website: knaivetheatre.com

    “Thanks to the Open Exchange we have become Supported Artists at the Royal Exchange and our work within the network will be a significant part of what we explore over the coming twelve months. This is undoubtedly the most important part of our journey as a theatre company to date. The Royal Exchange has been a game changer for us in just about every way. It is difficult to contain our excitement about the year to come. It will undoubtedly be an incredible opportunity for growth and development.” Knaïve Theatre

  • Testament's year of residency was from October 2016 - October 2017.

    During his time as Supported Artist, he created a one-man show WOKE, a co-production between Royal Exchange Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Roundhouse and CPT. 

    He also wrote BLACK MEN WALKING, based on a real-life walking group, directed by Dawn Walton, Artistic Director of Eclipse Theatre. Click here to read The Stage's review.

    Image of WOKE, Testament, Royal Exchange Theatre

    Testament aka Andy Brooks is a rapper, singer, and producer. Beatboxing since he was 11 and rapping since he was 14, Testament is the creator of highly successful work in theatre and spoken word, including West Yorkshire Playhouse co-commission Blake Remixed. His credits include performances on BBC, ITV, MTV, BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. He also holds the Guinness World Record for leading the world’s largest human beatbox ensemble and is a frequent collaborator with beatbox pioneer Shlomo. In 2009 he released debut album No Freedom Without Sacrifice to widespread critical acclaim and successfully toured the UK.

  • Mighty Heart Theatre's year of residency was from October 2016 - October 2017.

    During their time as Supported Artists, they developed BINGE, a new piece of work about disordered eating. They were also artistically leading some aspects of LOCAL EXCHANGE, a Royal Exchange Theatre outreach project in Cheetham Hill and Rochdale.

    Image of Mighty Heart Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre Supported Artists

    Mighty Heart Theatre are Sam & Lisa, a couple of twenty-somethings who love leopard print, discos, people & community. The company was born in September 2014 on a crisp autumn evening over pizza, wine and chats about making art that might change the world.

  • Josh Coates’s year of residency was from 2015 – 2016.

    During his time as a Supported Artist, Josh developed his one man show Get Yourself Together, which was presented at the Royal Exchange as part of a national tour.

    Josh Coates is a solo artist who creates solo work the explore the intersections between the personal and political. He has collaborated with Ali Pidsley, James Varney and Anna Ryder to create one man performances. He is a founding member of award winning Powder Keg and has created work with Dan Bye, Blast Theory and Belarus Free Theatre.

    Image of Supported Artists, Josh Coates, Royal Exchange Theatre

Open Exchange provides a series of developmental opportunities for emerging artists of all disciplines, rooted in the belief that collaboration creates great art and brilliant theatre doesn't always begin with a script. Sign up here for opportunities.

Image of Open Exchange Visual Identity, Royal Exchange Theatre