Devoted and Disgruntled of Leeds
It is with huge gratitude I congratulate Improbable on the creation of Devoted and Disgruntled. These Open Space conferences could very well form the catalyst for the future of contemporary British theatre and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the road show when it arrived at The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds in October.
For those of you who are unaware of their work, Improbable have been running these conferences for the past seven years and they adopt an alternative form of conferencing, known as Open Space. At such an event anyone attending is welcome to put forward a conversation. One does so by writing a catchy title on a piece of paper and sticking it to a wall.
A time and space is then allotted to the conversation and whoever turns up to talk are the right people. There is only one rule - the rule of two feet. If you are not gaining anything from the conversation, or it is not engaging, you are to leave and join another, this is done without criticism or stigma. Attendees are free to float from conversation to conversation listening, absorbing and contributing.
I have lived in Leeds and made theatre here for the past ten years; I work primarily as puppeteer but also teach theatre and performance. I love the city but have often felt unsupported or isolated within my work. I believe this is a symptom of paving a career in the creative arts. The constant battle for funding while remaining loyal to your creative freedom can seem daunting and lonely at times. It was therefore truly wonderful to sit in a room with over 150 theatre professionals, all there because we are passionate about theatre and we care about its future. By being present, in the space, we were saying ‘we are in it together’.
I contributed to conversation about creating an artist-run creative hub and performance venue in Leeds and participated in an exchange on radical processes in theatre making with nationally renowned directors. I also led a discussion on the future of puppetry within theatre to excited and inspired student attendees and met programmers from local venues and developed relationships with them.
These conversations were triggers and from them changes occur. Neil Murray cited D&D Scotland as instrumental at the beginning of their journey setting up the National Theatre of Scotland and I truly believe D&D Leeds will consolidate the theatrical community and have ripple effects across the work being produced. Things will only change if we make it happen and events like this provide the stimulus and inspiration to do so.
Rebekah Caputo – Odd Doll Theatre of Puppetry