Report on The Gathering- Improbable’s Home- Do You Want To Join In?
Convened by Matilda Leyser
Report by Ben Harrison

Improbable Quest to find a home after 30 years of making work all over the world. During this time the company was practise not place-based.

The Gathering is the Third Act (of Possibly Five Acts)

The home is Bore Place, 500 acres of a working dairy farm managed by Commonworks Trust. There’s an Adult Education Centre. It hosted the Performing Arts Labs (PAL) programme for many years and the Clore Leadership Programme.

Improbable taking on two or three footprints of buildings which are in disrepair / have fallen down. They have already facilitated 3 Open Spaces at Bore Place to interrogate the idea of what the Gathering is.

There will be (and has been already) an annual Improbable Summer School. Rachel is the Strategic Lead on the Gathering.

Idea of an ark for the arts, a home for the theatrically homeless.

Three buildings: a big tripartite warehouse, an old oasthouse where they used to dry out hops, and a pole barn. The Oasthouse will be the first building to be renovated.

At the centre of the project is a rehearsal space that hosts scale. That could, for example, rehearse with a large puppet as big as the large Totoro.

Different to a standard rehearsal space because you can invite people to dinner. It’s rural so different energy and vibe to urban rehearsal space. Work responds to the location. The project is conceived of as the Homecoming of the Hero’s Journey. The paradox is that to extend Improbable’s reach they have to stay in one place. A hub for their network. Putting roots down to branch out further.

A place both of inspiration and a place of memories. A regenerative place. Listening to the location- what does it want to become next? What wants to happen next?

How to make sure the guests don’t get too cosy? Need to go along with some core Improbable principles which will unfold as the Gathering develops and grows.

It’s an Active Archive.

Idea to invite PAL (Performing Arts Labs) alumni back for a dinner.

Idea of Retreat as distinct from Advance. A kind of flattened learning coil going back to go forward.

Idea of Eldership- can we go forward? Asking permission of Elders. Ghosts in the walls.
Mixing the past into context with the future

If someone wants to use the rehearsal space, what’s the conversation?
Do you share the values? Or, can big companies hiring space subsidise the rest of the work.

Do you share our ethics? An invitation to join our core principles.

Need to stay light and mobile.

There’s a threshold, like walking into the middle of the circle to pick up the microphone. Something will be asked of you if you come. Principles of improvisation, open space, collaboration.

The people who end up using it could well be the ones who are involved in the actual creation of it.

Come and slow down. Rest. Invitation to create work that comes out of the place.

We are the host. Dinner is on us.

Other models- Live Art Development Agency- Lois Keidan’s Long Table

Creative Gathering- a table for 18, with about 35 people in total. 3 artists do something with the 18 people for about 20 mins. Not a meal but an hour of work around a table.

People’s Palace of Possibility another model.

The importance of not only sharing food but making it together to break down barriers and experience each other in an at times non-verbal and experiential way. Kneading dough together.

Experience of passing an eiderdown feather around a circle with eyes closed, so light that the only way you can sense it is the transferred heat of other hands.

Metaphor for The Gathering of needing to create the sourdough starter first to see what it is in its essence.

Early meals at Bore Place have been on pot luck principle.

Discussion of how to make Gathering portable for the future- but need to discover what it is first!

Already The Gathering has invited international artists.

It’s a space for people. But that includes children. And if it includes children then it needs to include Elders.

A community of practice that could include and influence local schools’ practice.

Need to resist over-growth and NESTA-isation that caused the end of Performing Arts Labs where attempt was made to export model to schools and other partners- defeated by scaling up.

Importance of restorative ways of working in all aspects of that word.

ACE have become risk managers. How to present this model to them that doesn’t present like a risk.

Mothers Who Make is a key part of The Gathering and it’s not about childcare, it’s about providing care in the room.

There will be temporary structures on site to allow some creative work to begin.

Working with a local underwoodsman to create fences and arches.

The Keith Johnstone archive will be based at the Gathering.

It will be a research space as well as a group creation/ rehearsal space. Bursaries will be given to researchers and writers.

Other models: Robert Lepage’s Fire Station, the Circus Centres in France (though feedback that there was considerable pressure in those centres to make product- a factory rather than a creation/research centre.

Strong model of Sophie Besse, clown creation centre. She was trained in France and bringing that model to UK.

Key principle of: ‘What have we learned?’ rather than ‘What do we show.’