ABOUT DEVOTED AND DISGRUNTLED
"I resisted going to D&D for the first three years. When I come to write my memoirs, these will be known as "The Stupid Years." D&D is one of the places I go to learn how to live in the future that I want."
Improbable have been running D&D, a conversation using Open Space, since 2005. Artistic director Phelim McDermott writes:
Devoted and Disgruntled was born out of frustration. I was frustrated both with theatre and with myself. I knew things could be better in theatre and I also knew the way I responded to that situation could be more creative. I wanted to stop moaning and actually do something about it.
The Devoted and Disgruntled events and the community that has developed around them involve people taking responsibility for making better theatre and making theatre better. D&D has become a way to engage with the stuff in the wider theatre world I only knew how to complain about before.
The events are liberating because they create an environment of possibility. A place where we are confronted with the refreshing yet challenging realisation that things will only change if we decide to make them. Often this situation can leave us feeling that we have to do everything on our own. However D&D offers immediate access to the people who might support and help us do it.
Another great thing about D&D is that it is a very different kind of conference. A place where we meet each other outside of our usual roles. Conversations happen, not mediated through the usual hierarchical structures, but through our passion. Because of the "Law of Two Feet" the people who are not interested are not there to hold us back.
"D&D is genuine horizontal engagement!(No -not that kind …unless I’ve been going to the wrong sessions). I genuinely thought I wouldn’t like D&D. It sounds too good to be true. I won’t start wheeling out the cliches but D&D is the biggest circle of people I have ever sat in. And that’s worth something."
Neil Murray cited ”D&D Scotland” as instrumental at the beginning of their journey setting up the NTS.
Over the seven years that D&D has been happening in all it's different forms. Numerous conversations have happened and lots of change and action has come about. But most inspiring of all is the building of a passionate community of people prepared to support each other to ask difficult questions about theatre, how it is made, presented, received and what we are doing about it.
"Don’t waste time resisting, like I did. Resistance is futile; presence is fertile. You should come."
“ ... everyone is there on equal terms, whether you're the artistic director of a major regional theatre or a first-year student just beginning to make work. In a theatre world that is often competitive and jealously guards knowledge like a miser, this is a place where expertise and experience are shared with real generosity and no strings attached. Devoted and Disgruntled is not just a talking shop – it actually spurs action and initiatives such as mentoring schemes, the sharing of skills and spaces, and people coming together creatively and making work.”
WHAT IS OPEN SPACE
Open Space Technology (OST) is a form developed to support groups to self-organize and collaborate around any question of shared concern. It gives all participants the chance to propose a starting point for discussion, take part in any of the conversations or flit between them all. It is particularly effective in dealing with complex issues where diverse and conflicting views are present.
Over the last 25 years OST has been used across the world in an incredible range of contexts: to design aeroplane doors, resolve land disputes, address economic, environmental, social, political and artistic issues of every kind. Groups of six and of six hundred have used it with equal success.
"In 1985 Open Space was born. It emerged not so much as a product of intentional design, but rather as an outgrowth of frustration and at some level…laziness. The frustration appeared as a result of my having spent an entire year organising an international gathering for 250 people, only to discover that the best part, as judged by myself and all the participants, were the coffee breaks. It was during the coffee breaks where the real juicy stuff happened. All the rest (featured speakers, panel discussions and the like) seemed almost an interruption to the core activity."
There are five principles that describe what happen in OPEN SPACE:
Whoever comes are the right people.
Wherever it happens is the right place.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Whenever it starts is the right time.
When it is over, it is over.
THE ONE LAW of OPEN SPACE is THE LAW OF TWO FEET or THE LAW OF MOBILITY: If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing use your two feet to take yourself where your time will be better spent – only you know where this is.
During an Open Space you might see "bumble bees" going from group to group spreading and connecting ideas, or "butterflies" hanging out at the coffee stall or random places doing very little except having great conversations. All this collective activity adds up to a system of self-organization that is highly creative and effective at dealing with real issues in a remarkably efficient way.