Open Space Technology is a simple but remarkable system that supports a gathering of people to discuss issues that are important to them. Phelim McDermott introduced this system to the UK theatre community in 2006 at an event called Devoted and Disgruntled: What are we going to do about theatre? Which has since turned into an annual meeting, a January diary staple.
Open Space is democratic and invigorating and so Fierce celebrated the news that the Art Council’s Alison Gagen had instigated a West Midlands edition: The Challenge of Change – How can we create a better future for theatre, here, in the West Midlands? http://thechallengeofchange.toyoutome.net/ which took place in November 2009.
An essential part of the Open Space process is the venting – getting gnarly grievances off your chest and into the open. This is the therapeutic bit, but it isn’t the bit that changes anything. The real beauty of the Open Space system is that it insists that the gathered group take full responsibility for itself – finding solutions for even the most gnarly of woes.
At the event in November (expertly facilitated by Seth Honner of Theatre Bristol) the Friday afternoon was entirely given over to ‘action planning’. Several juicy outcomes have already emerged from this… Fierce’s favourites are:
The twenty ten theatre pledge – a downloadable, pocket sized pledge card that asks for a series of small acts of commitment to theatre (‘theatre’ in all its gloriously multiple manifestations) that will make your year more unpredictable and exciting and earn you a ticket to a bloody good party thrown by Stan’s Café at the end of 2010.
On Call – another brilliant ruse that places three experienced producers (based in the West Midlands region) in a café or pub to share their expertise with anyone who cares to turn up. Come with a specific question, come to put a face to a name, come for a chat with one or all of the producers at any session (sessions are two hours long and operate on a just-drop-in basis). If nobody turns up, the three producers On Call will just talk amongst themselves, which will no bad thing at all. Genius. Laura and Helga have already committed to slots (at Hudsons on 9/3/10 from 11am – 1pm and Urban Coffee Company 2/3/10 from 11am – 1pm respectively) where they will be imparting pearls of wisdom, and (of course) laughing and drinking tea.