Live Dates: 1st & 2nd September
This is an invitation to everyone interested in live performance in Exeter over the next 10 years.
About a year ago Phil Hindson of Arts Council England Southwest called a meeting to talk about what the future of theatre in Exeter could be. You might have been there or you might have heard about it. By all accounts it was well attended.
What I heard from many people over that day and read afterwards in the notes that were taken were the delicate sounds of optimism. I observed a community coming together for the first time in a while, an energy for new beginnings, and heard several voices calling for such an event to happen again. But I also observed some division, some pain and a lack of clear pathways to cohesion or healing.
Having been in post at Kaleider for some months now I’ve noticed some recurring themes: There’s an extraordinary energy for positive change in Exeter’s performance scene, there’s a desire to work together to make a difference, and a new stickiness – graduates are increasingly seeing Exeter as an exciting place to stay and work. But it is well documented that Exeter’s performance scene has had a rocky ride over the past decade and I’ve also noticed the symptoms of this history surface now and then.
Since that meeting some things in Exeter have moved on and there are areas of greater stability, but there are still some significant uncertainties, and investment in production, programming, participation, artists and connectivity is relatively low and, in times of budget cuts everywhere, extremely vulnerable.
A discussion about a 1500 seat theatre on the bus station site seems to be taking place mostly on twitter and in blogs and the press. I’m regularly invited to join in but 140 characters doesn't quite provide the scope for the conversation I'd like to have about it.
Lyn Gardner wrote in her Guardian blog in April this year "The future of theatre? Look towards Exeter". Really? If Exeter is the future of theatre what does that future look like? What do we need to do to make it so? And will it require an increase in investment for presentation, production, participation and artists in Exeter and SW? If so how will that happen? Will it mean a 1500 seat theatre?
Kaleider’s constant enquiry is “What can we do together that we couldn’t do apart”. At the end of last year’s meeting Phelim told us that he was touring the country for Festival 2012 holding space for a national conversation about performance entitled “Devoted and Disgruntled, What are we going to do about theatre?” So I wrote to some key players in the performance scene in Devon and Exeter to ask if they could help us bring D&D Roadshow to Exeter, so that our stories and visions for the future could be part of that national conversation.
The response from Exeter Northcott, Theatre Alibi, Exeter Phoenix, Wide Awake Devon, and University of Exeter was generous and immediate. Their collaboration not only makes this event possible it provides the perfect context of togetherness for the conversations to flow from.
So, if you’re involved in live performance, want to be, regularly attend or wish there were more opportunities to attend performance, are just starting out or have been around the block and back, if you’re a teacher, a student, a parent, amateur or professional, if you want a thriving performance scene in Exeter then I would like to invite you to join me at Exeter Northcott on Saturday and Sunday 1st and 2nd September to begin to answer the question: “Devoted and Disgruntled: What are we going to do about theatre?”
We’ve chosen to hold the event on a weekend in order to make it as open to as many people as possible, including those working in education and in other jobs where employers can’t release employees during the working week. If this means you need to bring your children (or your parents or partners) then please do, it’ll make the event better to have a breadth of age and context.
We’ve also chosen to hold it over two days. It may seem like a long time but our experience is that the quality of outcome is much higher from events of this sort held over two days. People often ask if they have to commit to two days. The answer is simple: no, it’ll just be a better experience if you can.
The meeting will be held in Open Space. Open Space is a structure used all over the world to bring diverse groups of people together to talk about what is vital to them in a constructive, generous and productive manner. You can read more about how Open Space works in Phelim’s invitation and on devotedanddisgruntled.com where you can also book your place.
The event is free. Tea and Coffee will be on offer throughout the weekend and an affordable lunch will be available from the café each day.
If you’ve read this far then we need you there. Please come, and let’s see if we can work together to make live performance better in Exeter.
Devoted & Disgruntled is part of the London 2012 Festival, a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK, from 21 June to the 9 September 2012. For more information check www.london2012.com/festival
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