Sarah grange, 17 January 2016

Our annual D&D gathering has taken place in London for ten years. We took the

decision to try Birmingham for D&D 11 for a few different reasons.

• The conversation about London-centric funding and culture is becoming

increasingly important.

• Following our D&D Roadshow (part of the cultural Olympiad) in 2012 we wanted to

reconnect with the UK and felt that London put people off coming from elsewhere -

the vast majority of London attendees were also London-based. Birmingham is so

central geographically it felt more accessible to the whole country.

• Our London venue for many years (York Hall) had been problematic for wheelchair

access, and had doubled their hire fee. No other suitable and affordable space in

London was available.

• Birmingham REP offered us a very supportive deal. Not only would we be hosted

by a theatre space (rather than a public hall/leisure centre), but the REP gave the

space for free, asking us just to cover refreshments and the additional staffing

costs incurred by having the event running on a Sunday, when the building is

usually closed.

We went to Birmingham not knowing what the response would be, but also not

knowing what we would do next year, or after that. We had no agenda regarding

returning whether we returned to London, kept moving each year, stayed in

Birmingham, etc.

At the session, we started off talking about the financial and practical issues involved

in putting on the annual D&D. The event costs around £14,000 to put on. This cost

includes hire of a space, staffing, refreshments, BSL/Access provision, stationary,

transport of people and kit, accommodation, printing the final report for Monday

morning, insurance, some equipment hire (depending on where it happens). This

figure doesn't take into account any overheads like office hours producing the event,

equipment maintenance etc.

Improbable subsidises the event with about £8000 of core funding (ie - that's the loss

we accept we will make on the event). We generate about £4000-£5000 on the door.

Whilst we budget for the event cost in our Arts Council NPO application, it does mean

that the event (and the D&D community) relies almost entirely on that funding


Some people said that the event was great value, with tickets priced between £13 and

£26. However, every year we also get people asking why the event isn't free, or saying

that the cost is too much. We need to generate some income to be able to hold the

event at all, so holding it for free doesn't seem possible at this stage. We talked about

different pricing options - perhaps an organisation rate for people who's company pays

for them to attend, an independent artist rate and a concession rate. (For the record,

we always say that price should not be a barrier to attendance, so anyone who can't

afford the concession price should contact us and talk about PWYC or volunteering for

free entry).

We have also found that a fee of some kind helps to increase attendance (if you've

booked and paid, you're more likely to make the effort to turn up on the day. Our free

events always have a very high drop-out rate). Paying something also seems to help

participants value the event (and thus their own time) more.

The kind of space we require is possibly the biggest difficulty. Whilst Open Space as a

process is a very flexible and lo-fi system, it needs a certain kind of space - one which

most UK theatres can't offer. So whilst we get quite a lot of partner offers, or requests

to visit regional centres, it often means hiring another room elsewhere. During this

session, quite a lot of potential host venues were mentioned, but whilst many of them

have large capacity auditoria, those spaces are no good for Open Space. If you're

thinking about a venue we might be able to hold the event at, what we need is:

• A really big room

Without fixed seating or raked seating

• With moveable individual chairs

• Wheelchair access throughout

• Lots of clear wallspace we can stick things to - this is often the hardest criteria

to meet!

Added bonuses are:

• Daylight

• Wifi

• No expensive catering contracts that tie us to the venue's pricey,

corporate/wedding style caterers

Suggestions of other places to visit were Cardiff (Millennium Centre), Manchester

(Lowry) and Glasgow (Tramway).

We didn't answer our question about next year at this session, but I did run a

Twitter poll, and we also sent out a post-event survey to attendees. I don't have the

survey results yet, but the Twitter poll results were:

9% voted to keep the event in London

9% voted to move it to Birmingham

52% voted to have it visit a new city every year

30% voted to have it alternate between London and other cities.

A few people responded with other suggestions, for example 2 years in other cities

and London every third year.

We'll be taking all these suggestions into account when we decide what to do next.

Do drop us a line, comment here, Tweet us etc with your thoughts and ideas!


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