Devoted in Birmingham (and gruntled)

bham rep

I have been away from blog-world for a month whilst focusing on a short commissioned e-book which will, I hope, come out in August. The first script is with my sternest critic and editorial expert, Kath, and then it will go off for more additions from my co-writer. It is on Creativity in Business, and I’m hoping it will give a few shots of creative juice to those who spend too long sitting behind a computer. We shall see. But now I can get back to the world of theatre, coaching, and creative producing.

This weekend was the annual gathering of theatremakers and creative practitioners called Devoted and Disgruntled. We are devoted to the arts, but maybe disgruntled about something – and here is a perfect place to share fears and aspirations with fellow travellers.   This was the 11th gathering, and if you have never been then mark off a weekend in January 2017 for DandD12. It can be life changing, and is always life affirming.

This year we were hosted by Birmingham Rep, and around 200 of us gathering to use the principles of open space technology™ to discuss everything from rates of pay, drag kings and queens, bilingual deaf hearing theatre, equity, portraying violence on stage, making dolls for peace, using puppets for therapy, developing new writing, and clothing optional theatre. These are just 9 of the 100_ topics which were explored. You can read reports on many of the discussions by going to Improbable Theatre’s dedicated site

I called two sessions myself this weekend and was delighted with the depth and breadth of conversation that can come when a group of self-selecting people choose to consider a topic. In my case the topics were bilingual BSL and English language theatre, and clothing optional theatre for performers and audience.   Both got people talking, allowed for a great deal of learning from those present, and will lead to some actions and follow-ups.

It was a pleasure to have encouraged 3-4 new people to take the time to be there for a weekend. It can be daunting to enter an open space gathering with 200 people who all seem to know each other (although they don’t). Each person followed their own paths, attended sessions, and called sessions. You don’t have to be an expert – just someone bring their enquiring mind and maybe a bit of passion to a topic. The power is in being prepared to be surprised at the direction of the discussions.

Each year I count my blessings that I work with so many extraordinary people. I am sometimes daunted by how little I know, and how much they know. But in those cases I smile, and listen, breathe and remain calm. And occasionally I use the power of my own two feet, and walk away into a quiet space to reflect on where I am in my creative journey.

Whoever is there are the right people. There’s no point wishing that x or y or z had been there. They weren’t. But that doesn’t stop me shouting out to all those who work professionally in the creative arts – especially theatre – to get the dates in your diary for next year. And in the meantime you can read some of the hundreds of reports from previous sessions, mostly tagged to help you select by your interest.   I especially encourage my grown-up colleagues who may be a bit jaded to make the effort to be there – it is a great energy boost for the year. And I encourage anyone entering the business to be there – because there are 200 useful, passionate, inspiring people in the same space, wanting to meet you.

Now I’d better do some “Actions” on things I said I’d do whilst exploring the conference ideas.

Happy New Year. I’m ready to start now


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