The Gathering: How might we create an arts-led learning community, for children and adults, in person and online?

This is an invitation to come to an Open Space. It’s an Open Space for adults and children, and to make sure this is taken seriously, this invite comes in three parts. The first is from Matilda (aged 48), the second is from Riddley (aged 10), and the third is from Tenar (aged 5, nearly 6). Matilda’s is by far the longest so if you don’t like lots of words, just skip hers out and go straight to Riddley’s and Tenar’s, which are just as eloquent and more to the point.

Matilda’s Invitation:

I am feeling excited. And terrified. And determined.

Just over a week ago I wrote a post for our Improbable Gathering journal about my children’s struggles with school. I wrote of how the issue that my son and daughter have with the traditional structures of education feels intimately connected to our wish to create an Improbable home, to hold and pass on the company’s values and practices, which are themselves at odds with so many of our culture’s default structures.

The response I received to that post has been overwhelming - so many moving stories of people struggling with the current educational system, or of others striking out and trying to forge a different path, or from people keen to connect and offer their skills, experiences and resources. When I wrote the post, I thought I was drawing a parallel between my children’s situation and our Improbable quest, which is why I added this at the end, only as a ‘P.S.’:

“P.s.…and if you want to help me, and my children, make an arts-led school, where the curriculum is delivered through the staging of plays, I’d love to hear from you too.”

I didn’t think it was the main agenda, or I didn’t feel brave enough to make it so. I added it in brackets, as it were, at the end- an afterthought, after the official agenda about which I was meant to be writing - the grown up one, The Gathering. But the responses I have received have turned this around and made me realise that the idea of such a learning community, at our newly found location of Bore Place, in Kent, mightn’t be a ‘P.S.’ at the end at all - it could be at the start, at the heart of the thing. And not only that- I had thought the dream of founding an arts-led school was pie in the sky, a wild fantasy, but, reading through the many inspirational clues and stories people have sent, I now feel it isn’t a crazy idea, up in air, but an urgent need, down on the ground - an opportunity, right here, right now, and the crazy thing would be to ignore this, which is why I am excited, and why I am terrified, and why I am writing this invitation to you now.

The arts are currently under attack in the UK on every level, squeezed out of the school curriculum, under threat from lack of funds in universities and other institutions. We have envisaged our Improbable home being like an ark - an ark for the arts - a vessel that can hold all that we want to preserve in these turbulent times. But an ark with a difference - an ark that holds difference, an open invitation to anyone who wishes to come on board. Let’s put the rainbow, the pie in the sky, at the outset of the story, not the end, not a P.S. but a promise and commitment up front.

So, I am starting with what I know, thanks to Improbable, to be the next step - an arc on the earth, a circle of people, into which you are invited: an open space. Probably not how Noah built his ark (I think God gave him plans) but how we are going to build ours - its physical structure but also the learning community at its centre. Come if you want to help us start building - literally or figuratively. Come if you have an experience or perspective that you want to offer. Come if you want to make something similar happen near you. Come if you work in education. Come if you have been in education. Come if you are an artist. Come if you are a child, and you hate school as much as my son does, or if you love it and you want to share why.

Come to our ark of difference.

Come to our Gathering.

Riddley’s Invitation:

I am very interested in a lot of the arts - drawing, acting and storytelling - but the way I am taught is not the style that suits me (when I was told to draw a cuttlefish, I wanted to draw a Jedi mole!). I also feel like the way they teach us things is a bit dull. I certainly think there are more creative ways of learning things than saying "Sam had two apples and he bought two more - how many did he have?” - that sort of thing I find a bit boring. Ever since my mum put forth the idea of doing something new, I have been very excited. I hope this Open Space will get us to the next step to find a way of teaching me stuff like maths in ways other than people buying apples.

Tenar’s Invitation:

I am an outdoors girl. I want an archery class. A horse-riding class. And an art class. I want to make sculptures. I will want to be a pop star. And I would also like to learn rowing. And I would like to learn reading and writing too, but in a more exciting way than they normally teach it. Come and help me make a school that teaches these things. Thank you for that. (My brother is not so much like me, as you might expect but he is sometimes very nice.) That’s all I want to say. I hope you can help us with this thing which is very important to me.

Jump to:


What is Open Space? How does it work?

This event will be facilitated using a process called Open Space Technology, or Open Space. We will fully explain everything you need to know at the beginning of Day One, including a briefing on all of the tech that we'll be using. However, if you've not been to an Open Space event before and want to know what you're signing up for, we've prepared a short video that explains the basics:

You can watch the below video for a BSL and captioned introduction to Open Space Technology:

You can also read a bit more about the principles of Open Space here on the D&D website

Pay-What-You-Choose tickets

We believe that anyone should be able to take part in our Open Space conversations, regardless of finances — Open Space thrives when there's a wide range of voices in the room. Each Pay-What-You-Choose ticket gives you and any children attending with you access to both days of The Gathering (although you can come and go as you choose!) as well as to an online platform to share notes and ideas after the event.

We hope that between everyone who comes, we can cover the costs of the event together. Whether you're paying for it out of your own pocket, or using your organisation's training budget, you choose what you think is a reasonable price.

You will know best what is affordable for you at the moment - this might be £0, £100, or anything in between. If it helps you to make your decision, we've put together the following list as an indication of what different contributions will support:

  • £10 is the average price per ticket we need to break even.
  • £20 fully covers your place and someone else's place too.
  • £50 helps us to keep our event accessible and goes towards a wide range of access support for the event.*

*Recommended if your place is funded by your company or organisation.

Note: VAT at 20% applies to all bookings, but this is inclusive in the price you have chosen to pay. In other words, we will automatically deduct 20% of VAT on our end and you won't be additionally charged. However, the VAT amount will not be reflected in your booking confirmation email due to limitations in the box office system. Please get in touch with [email protected] if you would like a VAT receipt for your Pay-What-You-Choose booking.




You are free to come and go as you please throughout the event. However, if you've never been to an Open Space event before, we would strongly recommend joining for the beginning of Day One.

Day 1 (Saturday 25 June)

1pm - 2pm:Opening Circle (including explanation of tech and Open Space process)
2pm - 5:30pm: Breakout sessions
5:30pm - 6pm: Evening News

Day 2 (Sunday 26 June)

10am - 11am: Morning Announcements
11am - 1pm: Breakout sessions
1pm - 2pm: Lunch break
2pm - 4pm: Breakout sessions
4pm - 5pm: Closing Circle


Can I call a session on anything I want to?
Yes, nothing is off the table. You can call a session (or several sessions) on any topic you'd like. You don't need to be an expert - as long as you're passionate about it, we're here to help make space and time for it. If you call a session, we would also encourage you to create a report of your session - these reports can be in writing, but they can also be pictures, a recording or even a dance! It's up to you.

Is it just a lot of talking and navel-gazing?
Open Space is about talking and exchanging ideas, but it also leads to a huge number of concrete actions every year. All sorts of artistic projects, initiatives, networks and companies have been born in our Open Space events e.g. Fun Palaces and Bechdel Theatre. (Although if navel-gazing is your thing, we won't stop you.)

Do I have to stay for the entire weekend?
Nope. You can choose to come and go as you please, and you can take breaks whenever you want to. This means you can also drop in for a day or half-a-day if you have other things to do. However, if you've never been to an Open Space event before, we would strongly recommend joining for the beginning of Day 1.

How much should I be paying?
To help you decide, we've outlined some facts about our event costs and included some suggestions on our booking page.

I can’t attend the event - can I follow what is happening online?
Follow @DandDUK, @improbable1 and #TheGathering on Twitter. Reports from sessions will also be available to read and comment on at as well as a PDF download after the event.



We try our hardest to make sure Open Space is accessible for all participants including (but not limited to) d/Deaf, disabled, blind, partially-sighted, and neurodivergent people. We will be providing a range of access tools, including BSL interpreters and live captioning.

If you have any further questions, or aren't sure what access needs you have, please get in touch with [email protected] or call +44 0207 240 4556. (If you are using a textphone (or a textphone app), please dial prefix 18001 then our number).

Booking for this event has now closed.