Click here to read / download the Devoted & Disgruntled 2021 reports (.pdf)


On Saturday 6 to Monday 8 February 2021, Improbable hosted the first online annual Devoted & Disgruntled.

  • Around 500 people attended across the 2.5 days
  • 21% of participants identified as artists/makers; 13% as writers; 14% as directors; 19% as producers and administrators and 9% as performers. Other vocations represented include designer, production manager, student, movement director, artistic director, composer, teacher, dramaturg and academic.
  • The majority of participants were between the ages of 26 and 55
  • About 73% of participants identified as White British, while 11% identified as being from Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
  • Around 22% of participants described themselves as being senior management or leadership; 64% as mid-career; and 14% as students, in education or returning to the industry after a break.

The agenda was set by the participants as a group at the start of the conversations. There was a huge number of sessions from which there were seven main themes that we noticed:

  1. Reimagining the Future
  2. Sector Resilience
  3. Creating Work
  4. Support for Artists & Skills Development
  5. Equality, Inclusion & Diversity: Challenge & Rebuild
  6. Connecting & Networking
  7. Grief, Frustration & Healing

This document contains the reports from this event – the reports have not been edited or curated in any way and are presented as they were on Sunday 14 February 2021. We hope that these ideas, provocations, themes and questions may be picked up by participants at (or organisers of) future events.

An artist called Blanche Ellis created a series of graphics that represent the overall atmosphere of the event. Blanche was not in every session, she mainly butterflied around to get a general understanding of the discussions that were taking place. She then presented them as graphics with one for each day and a fourth that attempts to visually represent a version of the whole event. This of course is only one perspective and  a snapshot of some of the extraordinary things that happened over the weekend. You can find these graphics along with a image description here:

For more information about Improbable and Devoted & Disgruntled, visit: and


Reimagining the Future

  • How can we use our theatre skills and work to help rebuild people's lives in the years to come?
  • Universal Basic Income only works if it is for everyone. How does the performing arts sector stop imagining it is special, start talking about exploitation of labour and collaborate with other precarious workers/vulnerable citizens to drive long lasting systemic change?
  • Doing an International D&D
  • What have we learnt from a Pandemic?
  • Coping now or evolving forever? How is all this changing what you do and how you approach it? Are these changes for life or just for Covid?
  • Sustainability - 71% of our industry are freelancers/Independent Artists. Where is our Power?
  • I don't know anyone (Radical collaborations for a radical age)
  • Let’s get fucking radical. We can’t just repurpose. We have to remake, reimagine and redesign
  • Gathering examples, experiences, processes and structural models of non-hierarchical / anti-kyriarchal organisations/companies
  • Universal Basic Assets: Fundamental Resources for Artists
  • How can we exploit this disruption to create better ongoing connectivity and collaboration between ourselves as creatives
  • Withdrawing the artist's presence. Creating and an absence. (sic)
  • Can we think about what we (as a group of theatre makers) can contribute to society outside of making theatre
  • What is the tragedy of the future and how can we get back to it?
  • Making Mythology and Magic: Changing Consciousness to Change the World for Good
  • What role does the performance community have for local communities during and after covid
  • No More Artistic Directors - Moving away from hierarchical structures in arts buildings/Organisations/ Theatre Companies / Independants
  • What would you like theatres to be doing to better support freelancers during these challenging times?...

Sector Resilience

  • CULTURAL VALUE vs ECONOMIC VALUE: How do we reconcile/reimagine financial survival/gain with social/cultural responsibility within (and without?!) creative arts practice?
  • An Improbable Building: What? Where? How?
  • An alternative touring network / sharing resources
  • Session title: Death of the Edinburgh Fringe
  • How do we find sources of funding for theatre making and new writing other than the Arts Council
  • How to bridge the business community to the arts community
  • What on earth are we going to do about Touring???
  • How do we rebuild an open, trusting and welcoming relationship with our audience / the audience?

Creating Work

  • Your LIfe is a Work of Art
  • Menopause Cabaret: Help me curate a diverse, juicy lineup for the world's only Menopause Festival (May 1st 2021)
  • In what ways can we make our practises more environmentally friendly? As theatre/art makers, crew or simply performers? A session for sharing advice/to give examples and to move forward
  • The importance of sharing physical space
  • Eco-Theatre – State of the Art
  • Documentary Theatre Making and the Ethics of Story telling
  • Following Up: Strategies for Continuing Our Work
  • Silver Sisters in Open Space: How to open space for 15k women on facebook?
  • What is “digital” performance and how do we create “liveness” in it?
  • COMBINED SESSION : Sitting in circles - being in physical space together (Tiff Wear) and How we get back to touching, trusting and sharing weight whilst acknowledging the need for consent and care, recognising that some are more able to get back into these spaces more quickly than others. (Emily Nicholl)
  • Audio drama seems to have been one of the beneficiaries of the pandemic. Why aren’t you writing more audio drama?
  • What would you like to see in a show about Death, Dying and Grief
  • Puppetry Online
  • Theatre is a live experience. Is online performance another art form, perhaps? How do keep alive theatre as an art form NOT mediated by screens in a digital society? What are the socio-political implications of working /living physically detached from one another?
  • The utopian opera(ish) festival: a wish list. Also, what is lemon jousting?
  • VR theatre
  • How can we use sensory experiences, shared in time but not space, to create connection?
  • How can we sing together online?
  • What work do we need to be making now?
  • Cognitive Behavioural Theatre
  • Tell your co-creation stories - from the past, and in a hopeful future.
  • Do we now have to address/include Covid in the contemporary plays we're writing/theatre we're creating?

Support for Artists & Skills Development

  • I've got the funding to produce an R&D, but I'm not sure how to do it in a covid safe way? Please help!
  • Zoom Skillshare
  • Covid Secure(ish) making - tips and advice
  • One Industry - 201 Zoom Groups: stream-lining Information to ALL of the industry - who's got the knowledge and how can we ALL have it?
  • How do we access digital performance platforms? I am stumped, Help please!

Equality, Inclusion & Diversity: Challenge & Rebuild

  • Are we too polite, compliant, tired, comfortable, intransigent for meaningful change?
  • Creative Access – Sharing Best Practice
  • Making space for disabled stories & storytelling: a different kind of access
  • How do we improve the marketing of "diverse" plays ? How can we get theatre marketing departments to market "diverse" plays seriously instead of writing them off as a tick-boxing loss? How can we market our own plays to the communities outside mainstream theatre audiences that we want to reach?'
  • Reconciliation: What is the ongoing impact of Britain’s colonial past on us today and where does theatre fit into the process of reconciliation?
  • Reconciliation and the colonial past: What next?
  • Lived experience, allyship and deconstructing embodied systems of power
  • "Women's theatre companies received 0.64% of Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation funding between 2015-18." The Guardian - How do we make female/womenx artists just as bankable/valuable as male/menx in the eyes of the world?
  • Nightingale Courts, Festival UK 2022 - Fury & Rage Report
  • How do we build a new future that’s anti-racist and radically inclusive in the performing arts?
  • Autism and Lord of the Rings combined with I'm coming-out as neurodivergent: what are YOUR superpowers?
  • When are we going to stop letting the kyriarchy (straight, white, rich, cissexual men) tell us what "diversity" is?
  • “Is the coronavirus crisis taking women back to the 1950s?”: Womxn - what support and empowerment systems should we put in place NOW to stop the gender inequality increasing post-pandemic? **everyone welcome**
  • Fat bodies in the Performing arts
  • Why has Twitter got so vicious (racism, transphobia, homophobia)?
  • Should all work be for everyone? Drawing a distinction between universal accessibility and diverse audiences.
  • Can we talk about White Fragility? (i.e. the book, the concept, how it manifests and how we can interrupt it)
  • How can we make exciting theatre for older people?
  • What is the plan for neurodiversity?

Connecting & Networking

  • Coffee and cake with the Queers
  • Southampton (and SW/SE) Artists, producers, companies, creatives
  • Scottish Theatre Gathering - who's here from Scotland

Grief, Frustration & Healing

  • BEAUTY! How do we let beauty into the world?
  • An Intersectional Alliance of Exhausted Artist-Activists
  • What has inspired you lately? Where have you found joy? Creating a list to share with others
  • Team wellbeing & artistic ambition: what resources & learning do we need to look after both on our projects
  • Making stuff with Vegetables: bring a potato, wonky veg, maybe a cocktail stick. Mindful fun making and maybe some discussion about creating with veg
  • Cleaning the inside of the car: an invitation to do a job you have been putting off doing - let's take this hour to do them all together - come, announce your task to the group, go and do it, then check back in
  • Is there a floating world of (anything goes) overpraise and kindness that serves neither writers or the arts? A provocation
  • Show us your pets – where the only expectation is that you look at pets or show a pet
  • The rhythm & flow of intentionally Living in Open Space
  • Bring your Dreams and listen to your Heartbeat
  • Could we make open, creative spaces and circles to hold some of the mass grief which is brewing?
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Getting over it: how do we deal with the grief & trauma of lost projects, lost jobs and lost earnings?
  • What are we genuinely hopeful for?
  • How do we learn to feel again after Covid 19?

Click here to read / download the Devoted & Disgruntled 2021 reports (.pdf)