Opinion

BLOG: Why is Devoted & Disgruntled Needed More Than Ever?

Writer: Ellie Claughton

Ellie Claughton

Ellie Claughton is Executive Director at Improbable Theatre who are behind Devoted & Disgruntled, an annual event where challenges in theatre and the arts are discussed. Anyone who is passionate about the arts can attend

We are Improbable

We occupy a vital space in the landscape of UK theatre. At the heart of our artistic practice is improvisation. Whether in performance, rehearsal or development, the practice and philosophy of improvisation is at the core of our creative process —even when we’re working on classic plays or operas.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve staged award winning productions like My Neighbour Totoro, epic outdoor spectacles like Sticky (which was seen by over 250,000 people); theatrical classics like The Tempest at Northern Stage and the Oxford Playhouse; intimate puppetry like Animo in studios across the country; adaptations like Theatre of Blood at the National Theatre; operatic triumphs like Satyagraha and Akhnaten at the English National Opera in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York; and female-led impro project Permission Improbable.

So, let’s talk about Devoted & Disgruntled—our little corner of the theatre world where we get real about what’s going on. Since 2006, we’ve been bringing folks together to chat about all things theatre and performing arts. No big shots telling you what to think, no rigid schedules—just good vibes and honest conversation.

Why did we start D&D? Well, it all came from a place of frustration and a desire for proactive engagement within the theatre community. We were tired of sitting around complaining about the state of theatre. We wanted to do something about it. And thus, Devoted & Disgruntled was born. It’s all about giving everyone a voice and a seat at the table. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, your ideas matter here. As our co-Artistic Director, Phelim McDermott, puts it, “The Devoted and Disgruntled events and the community that has developed around them involve people taking responsibility for making better theatre and making theatre better.”

But it’s not just about airing grievances—it’s about taking action. We’re all about rolling up our sleeves and making stuff happen. That’s why we use Open Space Technology. It’s all about empowering folks to collaborate, innovate, and shake things up a bit. So, if you’re tired of the same old same old and ready to shake things up a bit, why not join us at the next Devoted & Disgruntled event? We promise good conversation, great company, and maybe even a few ideas worth sharing.

In today’s world, it’s undeniable that things can often feel bleak. Whether it’s the looming specter of economic uncertainty, the impact of political decisions like Brexit, or the pervasive feeling of disconnection in an increasingly digital age, there are myriad reasons why many people might find themselves feeling frustrated, demotivated, or disheartened. However, amidst these challenges, opportunities for meaningful dialogue and collaboration are essential.

Devoted & Disgruntled stands as a testament to this ethos. Since its inception in 2006, Devoted & Disgruntled has served as a nationwide platform for discourse on theatre and the performing arts. Utilizing Open Space Technology, these gatherings foster an environment where every voice is valued, and no topic is off-limits. The absence of keynote speakers and fixed agendas underscores our commitment to egalitarianism and the belief that meaningful change arises from the collective wisdom of the community.

Indeed, D&D serves as a catalyst for action, providing participants with a platform to address pertinent issues and collaborate on innovative solutions. This proactive approach is underpinned by a sense of empowerment—a recognition that change is not only desirable but also achievable through collective effort. The events are liberating because they create an environment of possibility.

In light of the prevailing challenges facing the theatre and performing arts sectors, the importance of initiatives like Devoted & Disgruntled cannot be overstated. By fostering dialogue, encouraging collaboration, and empowering individuals to effect change, D&D embodies our commitment to a more vibrant, inclusive, and resilient artistic community.

If you share our passion for meaningful discourse and proactive engagement, we invite you to join us at the next Devoted & Disgruntled event. Together, let us embark on a journey of collective discovery, innovation, and transformation within the realm of theatre and beyond.

In essence, Devoted & Disgruntled represents more than just a series of events—it’s a movement for positive change within the theatre community. By providing a platform for open dialogue, collaboration, and action, it serves as a catalyst for transformation and innovation. D&D offers immediate access to the people who might support and help us do it. In a world where the need for creative solutions and collective action has never been greater, initiatives like Devoted & Disgruntled are needed now more than ever.

I want to end this blog with a snippet from one of our invitations from Improbable’s Associate Director, Matilda Leyser:

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.

Devoted & Disgruntled is at The Warehouse in Holbeck, Leeds from Saturday 16th– Monday 18thMarchwww.devotedanddisgruntled.com

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