Lee Simpson, 29 January 2013

I called this session on Monday during the “Action Session” period, not so much

because I thought this session would decide on actions to take, but because it would

allow people to look back at (nearly) the whole of this year's D and D and report back

on their experience.

As one of the artistic directors of Improbable I was very happy to hear positive

feedback but I was more interested in focusing on ways in which people felt the event

was not good enough and ways it could be made better.

Of particular interest to me were people's perceptions around the issue of diversity.

Open Space, it is widely accepted, works at its very best when there is a strong

diversity of voices in the room. I asked each person to say what kind of diversity they

would like to see more of at future D and D events.

Here's what people said:-

Audience: Is it possible to get more people who are not involved in the producing of

theatre but in buying the tickets to see theatre? On the D and D roadshow, when we

took this event around the country, we did get a few audience members along. We

speculated that outside London, audiences find it easier to feel a sense of ownership

or genuine participation which perhaps meant they felt entitled to come to a D and D.

Would it be possible to engender that kind of feeling in London?

Influential People: For example politicians, heads of large theatre institutions,

reviewers. In the past we have had some reviewers coming to D and D, and Lyn

Gardner is a regular attender (although not this year). We've had no politicians that I

am aware of. Heads of the large theatre institutions not attending is commented on

very regularly. It was noted that ACE are a regular and very welcome presence but

never anyone from the upper echelons of the National, RSC, Royal Court etc. In fact

we've had more attendance from the heads of the National Theatres of Wales and

Scotland than from any of the English based institutions.

An Old Skool suggestion to get people working at the big institutions along was to put

posters up on green room notice boards promoting the event.

Disability: Previous D and D events have had more disabled artists attending. This

year it may be that the D and D on access held at the Unicorn in mid January meant

that people attending that event didn't have the time to put aside another two days so

soon after. Nevertheless, the reduced number of disabled artists attending was noted

and regretted.

Age: Many people commented that the event this year was “younger”. D and D reaps

so many benefits from the attendance of young and emerging artists. However there

was a desire expressed for more elders. I spoke about “The Eldership Project” which

is an Improbable project that emerged directly from D and D and looks to re-invent the

role of the elder in our theatre community. It as also noted that there was an absence

of artists who might be called “mature”. I said that when we began D and D, many of

the people attending were our (Improbable's) peers. There are now much fewer of

those people who attend D and D.

Commercial Theatre: The D and D constituency remains overwhelmingly fringe /

subsidised. We would love to nurture a better relationship with the commercial sector

and see them attending D and D. At the moment we are not managing to do that.

Cabaret and Burlesque artists: How might we get them along?

Cultural Diversity: This is the area of diversity in which we have been least successful

over the history of D and D. I related the story of something that happened at the first

D and D when Simon Casson from Duckie called a session titled (something like)

Never mind the ‘Right People’ these are the ‘White People’ and I think that is a

session that could have been called at almost every D and D since. It was

acknowledged that this is a difficult area to make progress in but there was some good

discussion about how it might be achieved.

Improbable were urged to think about how the invitation is framed and how the

invitation is communicated. Has the invitation become something that doesn't

adequately introduce the idea of D and D to someone who might be unfamiliar with it

and who might feel that, for a whole host of cultural reasons, “it is not for them”?

We spoke about our attempts to use Ambassadors from different cultural groups to

pass on the invitation, spread the word and encourage participation. This has not been

as successful as we had hoped it would be.

We were reminded that a D and D satellite on Race at the Young Vic (a couple of

years ago?) was very well attended by black theatre artists. We think this was

because the event was hosted by Chuck Mike. So the difference in that case was that

Chuck was not seen as someone passing on an invitation that had come from

someone else, Chuck was seen as the person that was issuing the invitation and also

it was very clear that Chuck was definitely going to be there. This made us speculate

about the possibility of finding Ambassadors for D and D who are closer to the centre

of the event. Perhaps they write their own invitation which is one of the “official”

invitations, and which makes it clear that they are going to be there.

I also had a butterfly session on this issue on Sunday with Anna Coombs from Tangle

and two other people (whose names I have forgotten - sorry - if you know who you are

please post). The one next action from that discussion was for me to have meetings

with Sustain, Talawa and Tamasha to talk about D and D and the ways they might be

able to support it.

Here are some other areas of feedback that came up during the discussion.

The event has become slightly (and only slightly) less “home made”. There are a few

laminated signs and the breakout spaces are signed by animals which are a bit more

generic. It was acknowledged that this helps to reduce the amount of bespoke sign

making, and therefore the time and money that the event costs, but it made, for this

person, the event a little bit less appealing.

There was general agreement that the twitter feed was an exciting element and that

we are still learning to use it to provoke and initiate discussion outside the room. It also

allows non attenders to follow the event. We wondered whether some people might

choose to follow it on twitter rather than attend? Maybe they will, but we did not think it

would be a significant number.

Connected to our discussions about people who used to attend D and D but who don't

anymore was a reported perception that D and D “is all talk and no action”. This is a

perennial response and one that provoked good discussion.

Some said that “just” talking is often exactly what needs to happen. Either for its own

sake or before action could be planned or taken. I continue to believe that the

community building work of D and D is more important than any of the more tangible

actions that have grown out of it.

I said that the idea that D and D is about talking rather than action is one that exists in

the minds of the people who believe it rather than being inherent in the event. In fact, it

is perfectly possible to post sessions such as “Planning action to…”, “Writing a report

on…”, “Organise a protest to…”, “March on Parliament now!” etc. Because there is

clearly a need for people to talk around issues a perception can emerge that talking is

the only thing possible. To counteract this, a suggestion was made that during opening

the facilitator might explicitly state that you do not have to wait for Monday to take or

plan action, you can do so in any session. The facilitator might also state the

possibility that towards the end of your session you think about moving into action


It was suggested that there could be a page on the website specifically for people to

report on actions, projects and tangible outcomes that had emerged from D and D.

This might be a place to direct people if they comment on the talky, non-action nature

of the event. This might also be in the form of a blog that would be open to anyone to

record their stories from D and D.

Another suggestion was to alter the framing of the question to “How might we do

something about theatre?” or “How might we make theatre better?” as the phrase

“How might we…” is considered by many people to be a more effective invitation to


Another suggestion was to create an area of wall at the event for people to post the

actions they were planning to take. This would be alongside, but separate from the

reports posted up in breaking news. Having this area would mean that people could

see actions that had been planned but it might also keep reminding people that action

planning is possible at any stage.

We discussed the timing of the event. Someone wondered whether it would be

possible to open the event on a Friday, allowing the action planning to be on a Sunday

and therefore easier for more people to attend.

Another timing suggestion was to explore the idea of evening sessions. People

behave, relate and think differently at night and this might be a valuable addition to the


This lead to warm nostalgia about the sleepover that happened at the D and D several

years ago at BAC. There was some excitement about finding a way to do that again.

There was strong feedback about the difficulty in hearing discussion in the room. This

came from people who were aurally challenged as well as those who were not.

Suggestions were to either find another space for the event which might be more

acoustically sympathetic or to find someone who might be able to acoustically improve

the York Hall space.

At the end I found myself saying that although Improbable's intentions are good, there

is no way we will have the capacity to solve all these issues before the next D and D.

What I can guarantee is that they will all be discussed and we will take action on those

we feel able to. If others feel able to take action on anything they read in here then

please go ahead and do it. Get in touch with us if you need to, or just get on with it if

you don't.

This was a great discussion, and immensely useful to us at Improbable. Thank you to

everyone who came along.


FEEDBACK, Race, acoustics, RSC, disability, Disability, Feedback, Diversity,

National, feedback, race, diversity, York Hall, D and D, ACE, national

Comments: 1

Li-E Chen, 3 February 2013

Hello Lee,

Thank you for the DandD8 and D&D 24/7!! After being to the DandD8 last weekend, writing up different articles online and

sharing with people, I've just begun learning the beauty of conversations. I'm excited to learn how to have a conversation

with people now after DandD8 experience. I've decided to bring the conversations of "Measuring the weight of silence“ from

DandD8 into the invisible performance project ”n+1" that i am making, and I can have more conversations with people. This

was a great surprised.

I really like this website and the rich resources. I feel it is a lot easier to make theatre now because all the resources can be

found and build from here. I can also connect to people who share the similar posts online that was really useful. Many