An invitation from Improbable's Associate Director, Matilda Leyser;
Devoted and Disgruntled: What are we going to do about Theatre and the Performing Arts? That’s a genuine question.
And this is a real invitation, to come and work on that question – and any others you are holding – and to explore a myriad of answers, together with us, in Leeds, in March this year, at our annual Open Space event.
We ran our first Devoted and Disgruntled event in 2006- 18 years ago. Since then we have used Open Space to run our company, make our shows, birth some children (true story). But through all the years, we've continued to come back to the beginning - to this core annual event - the one we are inviting you to be a part of in 2024.
And it starts now.
Because the beginning of this event - the very first thing that happens - is that we write an invitation.
Writing an invitation is something of art.
Like any art, it’s a kind of practice.
Which is to say, we are still practicing it - still finding out how to do it.
But also, as with any practice you keep at for a while, you start to form habits.
So, over the years, we have tended to use our annual D&D invite to reflect on the current state of the performing arts, of the country, of the world, and then to use that as a sort of motivator to encourage you to come along and do something meaningful, instead of moaning.
The problem with this formula is that the state of the arts/ country/ world keeps on getting worse, so the invites sound increasingly bleak. Or maybe it’s just that we keep on getting older. Or maybe a bit of both. Either way, when we tried to follow the formula this year, it came out like bitter old actor’s version of the queen’s speech (she did 70 of them - we are far behind!). We felt a little desperate. We tried AI, which, to be honest, did a fair job of turning the bitterness around into something more positive.
But because I cannot think of a single, fricking event better than D&D at connecting us back to our ‘HI’ - our deep, natural, human intelligence and creativity (yes, I believe we have this- that's where theatre comes from) - as opposed to the heart-breaking individual and collective stupidity we witness every day on the news - I want a person, not a software programme, to write the invite: so here I am writing this to you.
The definition of a true invitation is that you can say 'no' to it. It invites you to check in with yourself, and what you want, because it comes from someone who is checking in with themselves:
Right now, I am feeling cold, but also naively glad that it can still get this cold. I just reassured my neurodivergent son that we are safe and am wondering if we truly are. I am thinking of the aerial-theatre-storytelling-impro show I want to start to make this year, and how the heck I am going to do it, amidst everything else I am holding. I am thinking of you, reading this, wondering what you are feeling, what you are bothered by, excited by, devoted to, disgruntled about.
I am inviting you to check in with yourself and see what you need right now, whether that’s time out on your own in the rain and wind, or whether that’s time in a circle, connecting with your community. Or whether you don’t have a sense of community and you’d quite like to find one - that was Phelim, 18 years ago, when he wrote the first invite.
And maybe you were at that first 2006 D&D, or you've been to some others.
Maybe you meant to get along one year but you haven’t yet quite managed it.
Maybe you have never even heard about us, and you thought ‘D&D’ was a fantasy tabletop game (it is – ask my son if you decide to come to our version of ‘D&D’).
All of the above options are exciting to me. And any of them could mean that you are one of the right people to show up in the room this year. I don’t know - you do.
I also don’t know what’s going to happen once we are in the room, because every year is different, but here’s some things that have happened other years, and which might happen again.
Have an inspiring conversation.
Get a whole lot of work done.
Find a partner - work-related or romantic (both have precedents).
Find a job, or a place to live.
Start a company, or a campaign.
Get support for your project.
Have a laugh. Or a cry.
Sit and daydream for the first time in many months.
Drink a lot of free tea and eat some biscuits.
Have the best idea of your career to date.
Find some hope- a sense of renewal.
So come and join us, and find out what this year holds. Come as you are. Come…..
If you were barely born, back in 2006.
If you are old and bitter.
If you are middle aged and feeling middle-ish about everything.
If you are of the global majority.
If you are queer as they come.
If you have a disability.
If you are neurodivergent.
And if you are white, straight, cis-gendered, and neurotypical - you can come too.
Come along with a project, or a question, or a niggle, or a feeling of fury, grief, despair, or mild curiosity.
Come alone, or bring a friend, colleague, partner, your children. Come if you are lost, lonely, or painfully shy.
What I am trying to say is simply this:
Come if you want to be there.
This is an invitation to you, from me, and the rest of Improbable, to come to Devoted and Disgruntled, in Leeds, March 2024, if something in you, reading this, says ‘yes.’
An invitation from Artistic Director of Slung Low, Alan Lane;
I’m finding it increasingly hard to be hopeful. I don’t think I’m the only one.
But I look around my communities- in the arts, in Holbeck- and I see the daily, pressing, urgent need not only for hope but the wonder that artists are sometimes the only people who can provide it. It’s a responsibility providing that wonder, driven by hope.
And whenever this feeling- this hopelessness- has risen up in my chest before I know one thing that has helped is the company and wisdom of our theatre family.
So when D&D got in touch to see if we could host their Leeds leg we jumped at the chance to be involved. Because although we warned that they would need their outdoor coats in the Warehouse in Holbeck in March we could also promise a warm welcome. We could promise that we’d put the kettle on and greet each every person who comes to the Warehouse in Holbeck like they’re our theatre family. Because they will be.
To reflect the different positions of everyone coming to this event we’ve made tickets Pay What You Choose starting from a minimum of £10. Improbable will be subsidising this event as much as we can, but to cover costs we need to make a further £6,250 from ticket sales which works out at an average of £25 per ticket, so If you can afford to, please do consider paying that.
If you are able to, you could also 'Pay It Forward' which means buying another ticket to help others attend.
If you are in receipt of Universal Credit, you are able to access a 'Pay It Forward' ticket. If this applies to you, please contact us via: email@example.com.