An invitation from Phelim McDermott, Co-Artistic Director of Improbable:

Lately as the world shifts around us, I have been thinking about home. What is it? Where is it? One thing I do know is it’s not just where you live. Here are some possible answers: 

Home is:
  • A place of shelter.
  • A place of refuge. 
  • A place to be fed.  
  • A place to restore and be restored.
  • A place to reconnect with family, friends and self.
  • A place where it is OK to just be yourself.
  • A place where it is OK to do nothing.
  • A place to sleep. 
  • A place to dream.
What does HOME mean to you if you work in the world of theatre? For some it might mean an actual theatre building. At the moment in the UK theatre scene we have many new Artistic Directors starting their tenures, taking on their role as the heads and gatekeepers of our theatre buildings. How those places will act as a home for artists, makers, and audiences is an important issue. 

There are others who work in theatre who aren't resident in theatre buildings, and for them the sense of home and belonging can be much more elusive. I’ve been working in theatre and performance for over 30 years now. During that time I have often had yearnings to have a building. As an artist the idea of having a base of my own for myself and our company has been a strong impulse. Of course some of that desire has been about wanting stability and influence. But I have realised that the deeper part of this longing is actually a yearning for a sense of belonging. I believe that Home is not just a place. I think it's a process that supports that sense of belonging. 

As someone who works in many different theatre and performance spaces, our annual open space event D&D is the closest that I have experienced to having a sense of home in the theatre community I work in. It's a place you can be yourself. It’s a place where you have the freedom to ask about the things that really concern you. It’s a place where you can rest, connect, dream and  restore your strength to re-engage with the challenges we are all constantly facing in the arts. 

So If you are someone who runs a theatre space, we need you to come to D&D to learn how to nurture a culture of belonging which we all need. If you don’t have a theatre space of your own, then come and bring your frustrations and your dreams. You might even find a home. 

One of the great things about D&D this year is that we are building on our partnership with Royal & Derngate in Northampton. Having worked together in 2017 to make this annual event the most accessible it's ever been, we're looking forward to meeting in their welcoming, accessible, space for the first time. Following last year's promise, we are offering more bursaries for young people. Do get in touch with us about them on [email protected] / 0207 240 4556.

You can find out more information about our three day event here, and tickets can be purchased here, through Royal & Derngate. 

An invitation from James Dacre, Artistic Director of Royal & Derngate:

Royal & Derngate gained so much from partnering on Devoted & Disgruntled 13 last year, Improbable's largest and most accessible open space gathering to date. So we’re thrilled to be collaborating with the team once again to build upon this experience by bringing Devoted & Disgruntled 14 to Royal & Derngate, in the heart of the Midlands. 

I’ve never known a time where our industry - or the cultural life of Northampton - has more to gain from the kind of open discussions, debates, and displays of solidarity and collective problem solving that Devoted & Disgruntled can provoke, helping all who attend to start to envision the kind of future we want for our industry, our communities and ourselves. A future that doesn’t just focus upon the cultural life of Britain's biggest cities but upon making art everywhere, for everyone. 

Devoted & Disgruntled 14 will be the first national arts gathering of this kind in Northampton. It will offer a unique space to share experiences, frustrations, ambitions and ideas about how theatre is made nationwide. I know that this important gathering will be an invaluable resource both to our community of local artists and audiences and to artists and audiences everywhere.

Book tickets via the Royal & Derngate Box Office here

or on 01604   624811

Golden Tickets
We want to make D&D available to everyone. Can you buy a Golden Ticket for £10 and help someone else to attend?  Each Golden Ticket that is donated by you will be used to offer free and subsidised tickets to other attendees. Golden Tickets can be added to your order via the Royal & Derngate Box Office.

An invitation from Annette Brook, Playwright:

For years friends said you must go to D&D and yet I didn’t go because I didn’t get the point. I would ask them: but what is it? Is it a conference, a symposium, a networking event? I was curious (I’m a playwright so nosey might be a better word) so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve now been twice and I realise why my friends were struggling to explain D&D to me.

D&D is an open space. Figuratively and literally. There’s room for everyone and you can suggest any topic for discussion. It’s wonderful to be in a place where you can talk, you can listen, and you are listened to. I’ve made new friends at D&D – though I must stress it isn’t a clique or a networking event. There will be those who know people – sure the arts is a small sphere – but your voice is as much needed and encouraged as everyone else’s

I’ve very much enjoyed raising topics myself and participating in other people’s discussions. Subjects and questions have included: ‘Working Class’, ‘Mixed Race Stories’ and the need for a good filing system.

If you go where your gut tells you Open Space allows you to find people of a similar mindset... sometimes you’ll find people who’ll challenge you too. A bit like live Twitter in all honesty.  That might put some people off but remember you can call up any session from ‘Come and Have a Nap’ to ‘What are we going to do about funding’. It’s your experience so if you don’t feel like discussing anything more than ‘Posh crisps’ one afternoon go ahead. If you want to connect with others who share a passion for Dungeons &Dragons go ahead. If you want to talk about Brexit...Oh there’s always one...

Seriously, come. We need you. Yes you, especially you.

An Invitation from Chloe Mashiter, a creative freelancer in theatre and gaming, and co-creator of 'Adventurers Wanted'

This year I’ll be going to the annual D&D weekend for the sixth time (having gone almost every year since 2013, when I first heard of it), and I cannot wait for another weekend that expands the community I work with, emboldens me in my plans for the coming year, and renews my faith in this industry.

The effect of D&D has rippled throughout the work I’ve made - it’s where I’ve met actors I’d later direct, where I’ve been given the information and confidence to stage relaxed performances, where I’ve made the connections that have led to collaborations with BSL interpreters, and so much more.

One of the huge things that D&D gave me when I first went (and still gives me, year on year) is a sense of where I fit in in what can feel like an expansive, nebulous and often lonely industry. To call a session - to essentially say to a huge room full of people ‘I care about this, who else does?’ - is such a brilliantly immediate way to find allies and collaborators. To hear everyone else’s sessions reveals what it is that you’re doing that’s unique and unusual. To wander in and out of sessions exposes your tastes - where your priorities lie, and what you should be dedicating your time to.

Working in the arts - especially as a freelancer - can sometimes feel very isolated and lonely. But starting the year with a weekend of friendly, open people who are all keen to share their knowledge and creativity with each other - that is the most incredible remedy. D&D also enables you to make the most of your time with that community - a space in which even the most tentative of us can be bold enough to step forward and ask for help and advice.

So I hope you’ll come - come to share your creativity and knowledge, to find allies and collaborators, to find that *one* person who might know how to make that project happen, to start a conversation that turns into an idea that becomes a show. D&D is one of the events in the year that makes me feel endlessly optimistic about theatre and the performing arts, and the more people there, the more ripples it can cause.

An Invitation from Sarah Grange:

The great thing about D&D 14 is it’s in Northampton.

If you’ve never been to Northampton, you probably think some things about Northampton, like you think maybe that’s a strange place for D&D 14 because it’s not London, or Bristol, or Birmingham, or Manchester, or Leeds, or those other places where Things Happen.

What I think is, deciding that Northampton isn’t a place where Things Happen or where someone like you would go is kind of what’s got us into all kinds of divisive mess in recent years. We’ve all decided some rigid things about who we are, what other people or places matter, who in the country gets to have culture, or value, or opinions we like. And we’ve stopped listening to the things we don’t want to hear, or seeing the spaces and places we don’t care to see.

So if you’re a Londony Artist, a Big City Theatre-maker, a Metropolitan Creative Giant - I challenge you to go somewhere you wouldn’t normally think of going, and find out what new conversations you have when you get there. Make some different connections. Change your mind about some stuff. Get on a really easy train (it’s not far at all from Birmingham or London, or a bunch of other places, I promise), and get out of the bubble. It’ll be worth it. You might even make Things Happen.

See you there.

An Invitation from Pauline Mayers, an independent theatre maker and choreographer based in the North:

When I first attended D&D I had a headful of questions and at the time no one to talk to to receive the answers. I wanted to know what is theatre all about? Why do artists make the work they make and who with? Who are the gatekeepers? How do I get involved? Who could I work with?

These questions and more besides were the things that concerned me. And entering the space at D&D was initially pretty daunting. A room filled with people, sat in a circle, looking on at one man with a mic and a bell. What could possibly happen from here?

Over the next three days, my questions were answered. Ideas formed, new working relationships were built, projects over time were realised. The thing about D&D is, it is what you want it to be. If you simply want to sit and listen then you can do that. If you’re frustrated and want to be heard, you can do that too. Making new connections, problem-solving, learning a new skill, or just having a cup of tea, it’s all possible because it’s YOUR D&D.

Since then, I’ve made coming to D&D a highlight in my year. Given what has happened in the UK over the last year both politically and societally, I feel it’s even more important to attend. The country feel like it’s more divided now more than ever and my gut tells me that theatre and the arts in general could be the way enable difficult conversations to happen and begin to heal the divisions. So this year, my attendance at D&D is my way of testing the waters, understanding what is happening in the arts, and now, more than any other time it’s a reminder that I’m not alone in what I’m feeling. There is great power and freedom in understanding this, and for me, I become even more creative knowing it.

So, what burning questions do you have? What’s concerning you? What challenges are you facing? Or do you simply want to connect with others? What ever it is, D&D is the place to work it out. In a safe space, where you’re made to feel welcome, where you can take up and hold space, as others support your aims, your dreams and yes, share in your frustrations.

An Invitation from Daniel York Loh, actor and writer:

Does theatre all too often leave you feeling frustrated and disenchanted? Excluded and rejected rather than included? Erased rather than represented and present?

I’ve felt all these things in relation to the art form I set my heart on and attempted to live my dreams and exorcise my demons in.

It’s no exaggeration for me to say that attending Devoted & Disgruntled Open Space sessions changed my life and my practice in a profound way. But I’d go even further: D & D sessions fundamentally altered the entire realm of possibilities for British East Asian theatre artists.

Prior to 2012 British East Asians were more or less an invisible sub-species on UK stages. Then a whole controversy erupted over the RSC’s casting of the Chinese classic The Orphan of Zhao. Mass social media protest ensued and artists of East Asian descent found themselves at the centre of an entire conversation about race in British theatre which was heated, painful and which I’d argue have kickstarted a mini-revolution in theatre.

British East Asians, via Equity, SOLT/TMA, Arts Council England and the Casting Directors Guild were able to engage creatively and constructively with the RSC and other industry gatekeepers at the Opening The Door Open Space session facilitated by Improbable at the Young Vic in early 2013. Those conversations have continued and blossomed with British East Asians now more confident, bold, assertive and present than any other time in British theatre history.

Open Space D & D is a place where discussions can be had, issues addressed, networks formed and creative partnerships forged. If you’ve never been I would urge you to go. That thing you’ve always thought should be discussed can be. If you initiate it. Be part of the conversation. Be a fire starter.

An Invitation from Matilda Leyser, Artistic Director of Mothers Who Make, and Associate Director of Improbable:

If you are wondering whether or not to go...

Confession time. I have been with Improbable for over ten years now and I don’t think I have ever admitted this to anyone in the company: the first year I bought a ticket to D&D I didn’t go.

It was 2007. It sounded interesting – a big gathering of anyone and everyone interested in the performing arts, at which you could set the agenda yourself - so I booked a ticket. But then when it got to the Saturday morning I was tired after new year, I was nervous about going, it was a cold, damp January day, the event was in South London and I could not bring myself to leave my North London council flat. I hovered in the doorway, in my waterproof bicycle gear, stepped back inside, and closed it. The quiet, lonely space seemed too safe to give up. I don’t think I left the flat all weekend, or saw or talked to anyone.

I am one of those people that got into theatre in part because I find it more comfortable being on stage than being in the world, easier to be at a workshop than at a party. So the idea of a great gathering sounds exhausting and slightly scary.

A year later in Jan 2008 I actually had a job with Improbable – we were mid-way through a devising process - so this time I felt obliged to make sure I was there, to get on the waterproofs, make it onto the bike and out the flat. I have never looked back.

Eleven years on, I have not missed a year since ‘08. I have never met anyone who has ever regretted going. My all time favourite quote about D&D is from Chris Goode, “Resistance is futile, Presence is fertile. Go.”  

Why? Why is it still worth leaving the quiet of a weekend in, to go to a big room full of people I know and more people that I don’t?

Paradoxically, because of the way that Open Space works (like life, but with explicit permission to follow yourself, which in general in life we are good at forgetting to do) the things I was looking for, alone in my flat back in ‘07, are the things that I have found time and again at D&D: a chance to check in with myself on a deep level; a chance to renew my energy for the year ahead; a chance to get some truly important work done. Whereas alone in the flat I dream of doing all of those things but usually don’t manage any of them. I stay in and remain unchanged – how nice and how depressing.

When I am at D&D I feel as if I am at home, having an amazing weekend in. I feel as if I am in my pyjamas – one of those days when I never get properly dressed because I am both too relaxed and too engaged to bother with other clothes.

So if you get up on the morning of January 26th, as I did in 2007, and wonder whether you have the energy or inclination to get on a bike, a train, in a car, out the door, to D&D in Northampton, and you decide that you don’t – that really you want a weekend in with yourself, then do this: open the door and come in your nightclothes. I’ll be there, my children will be there and my daughter will almost certainly be in her pyjamas too as she rarely wears anything else. You’ll be welcomed, surprised and inspired. You won’t regret it and you won’t have to get undressed and ready for bed that night – you can just fall asleep as you are, filled up for the year with dreams.

P.s. I’ll bring slippers and bed socks in case your feet get cold.

An Invitation from Arne Pohlmeier, Co-Artistic Director of Two Gents Productions:

D&D is
- the perfect way to kick-start your creative, theatrical juices for the new year ahead
- an opportunity to meet and mingle with a host of people that share a passion for theatre
- a welcome, fresh and fun way to spend a weekend
- a place to bring your question, creative spark, concern or opportunity, to share it and find some answers or pointers or new ideas
- a social experiment of how to live and communicate in a non-hierarchical, equitable and giving community.

Last year I went and just felt so good to be there. But I also managed to build a partnership with a local festival in Brixton (which led to a commission for my theatre company!) and to find a mentor to help us develop Two Gents as a company.

This year I am going in order to re-energize myself after some hard graft in 2018, to get to know more about what theatre can do in the regions and to meet you - yes you, so come along and book your ticket!

Royal And Derngate Northampton logo

In partnership with Royal & Derngate, Northampton. Supported by the John Thaw Foundation.

Donate to D&D D&D is run on a non-profit basis. Help us to keep the space open for all, including Deaf, Disabled and disadvantaged participants. Find out more

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