For seven years Improbable Theatre have been using this meeting tool/philosophy to hold a gathering of creative artists who wish to tackle the key question “What are we going to do about theatre and the performing arts?”. Not what are they going to do – what are we going to do. And who is we. Well, simply, The Right People.
The gathering is open to everyone, and last weekend there were 300+ people gathered in York Hall Bethnal Green to tackle the question. We started with no agenda items, and a blank sheet of paper. After 2.5 days we had addressed around 120 issues chosen by the attendees. We walked away with a bound set of reportage of around 90 of those meetings. We were inspired, frustrated, moved, excited, tired, tearful, delighted, sorted, unsorted, befriended, loud, silent, chanting, singing, drawing and even beginning the process of making small sacred dolls imbued with our heart and love which, when 700 are created will represent the love that we can offer to the 7billion people on our planet.
Whoever Comes are the Right People is another guiding principal. There’s no point in wishing x or y or z was in the room entering the discussion. But we can now, a few days after the event, think of the people we’d like to have in the room with us next year – and that most definitely includes you. One of the wonderful things about Devoted and Disgruntled (D&D7), for that is what the gathering is called, is that the 300 people gather in a single circle at the start of the day without badges, without being introduced, and should you choose to be there anonymously because you wish to speak from your heart and not represent the views of your own organisation, or because you want time to listen without judgement from others – then that is your right and privilege.
It is hard to explain. It is impossible to summarise what happens. It is immensely carefully held by Phelim McDermott and his Improbable colleagues. And it is extraordinarily simple.
Did we solve the problems of the universe – well we solved a few things people needed solving, we tackled a few thorny subjects that needed airing, we had a few quick wins, and we have work to do. When its Over, Its Over and for some items on the agenda, its over and sorted. For others the space will open again at another time. For still more work will be done by us to make our world of the theatre and the performing arts a better place.
Personally I have to say this is an annual fix… a way to kick-start a creative year. It is a bit daunting the first hour or so, but don’t be put off. We really want you there with us next year. You are just the person we need to tackle one (or more) of the subjects that need debating. And maybe I’m just the person you need to help you with something you need. Let’s meet at York Hall early 2013 and see… over a cup of tea and an egg or bacon butty.