As part of our wider activity, Little Earthquake runs East Meets West, a network which aims to reduce barriers and encourage collaboration between and within the East and West Midlands’ independent theatre-making communities.

Back in August we were invited by Attenborough Arts Centre to run a Collaborative Devising Lab as part of their ongoing artist development programme. Over five days Theatre-Makers from both the East and West Midlands formed a new ensemble with our Co-Director Gareth, exploring Little Earthquake’s approaches to devising narrative-led work collaboratively.

Some of the participants have written blog posts about their experience of coming together over five days to play, test ideas and experiment…

Laura Ryder

Becoming a four year old.

One of the main reasons I took part in Lab week was that I had just finished making and touring my first show and was having a cliched artistic moment where I felt drained of ideas. I wanted to give myself the space to rekindle my creativity without the pressure of producing work or having to share an end product. I was in it for the journey not the destination. And what a journey it was. A week of artistic generosity, sharing and playing. We were introduced to Little Earthquake’s principles of devising, now I’m not usually one to find formulas for creativity but these ‘principles’ are just as much about breaking any kind of restrictions you might place on yourself artistically as they are about ways to make work. I found joy in losing any notions of preconceiving and playing in a space where ‘mistakes’ were embraced and celebrated.

A phrase that stuck with me was that becoming a good deviser was learning to become a four year old. Learning to play, learning to lose any notion that there was a right or wrong way, learning that none of it was about you but about everybody else in the room. It was about being silly, losing self-consciousness and mainly about having fun.

Lab week felt like a gift. It is so rare to have the space to just be creative without the pressure of creating work.

After Lab week I walked away not only feeling full of creativity and energised with ways of rehearsing and making work but I also walked away feeling like I’d met and worked with an ensemble of theatre makers who I would love to work with again. So often you meet other creatives at networking events over coffee or beer. You chat about your work and what you do and never feel like you fully share who you are as an artist or learn properly about the other people you talk to. Lab week gave you the space to meet new creatives and play in real creative environment, meet people you genuinely know you would like to collaborate with and gave you a shared language for devising which you can take into a rehearsal space. I left the week excited to take what I learned into my own rehearsals and excited about potential collaborations. I would love to redefine network events into creative workshops like this.

Lab week felt like a gift. It is so rare to have the space to just be creative without the pressure of creating work. To be able to meet new people and learn from so many artists. It felt like being handed an artistic toolbox tailored to you. It made me want to go forward and make work with clarity and commitment, to embrace mistakes, to be open to where ideas could go and most of all to make work which puts audiences first.

Follow Laura on Twitter here: @lauraryder5

Katie Webster

This was such a great and fun week full of games, laughter and a lot of hard work, and I’m so glad I was a part of it all.

I took part in the lab week to help me get over that hurdle of ‘How the hell do I devise my own show?’, which was proving quite a big hurdle for me to overcome. I knew I needed to change my tactic (which used to be listening to Spotify and thinking about what my show could be, and that was about it), so being able to devise for a week with no pressure was a huge plus.

Now, after finishing this week of learning and devising, I still do think devising a show is a huge challenge. However, I now have the tools to do so with a bit less stress, dread and anxiety. So yay! The most useful tool over the whole week was probably the structure of how to devise. First we were told always to play – find the fun. Even just one day in the whole process of playing games, making stupid noises and dancing around will help you to be freer and more creative. Next, to generate. Quantity over quality rang in my ears as Gareth explained this stage, which was an enlightening moment for me. I always put so much pressure on myself to find pure gold in thin air, so to understand the concept of generating as much as you can in order to find the gems made so much sense. Next, to explore interesting aspects of what was generated means solid themes and material can start to emerge, and that is how a show is created. Seems so simple really! I’ll definitely be using this structure in my own practice. It feels light and fun and free, as opposed to dense and full of pressure and boring, as it was BLE (before Little Earthquake).

After finishing this week of learning and devising, I still do think devising a show is a huge challenge. However, I now have the tools to do so with a bit less stress, dread and anxiety

In terms of how this week made me see the Midlands theatre-making community, it made me realise just how much is going on. Every single person in the room had plans – big plans! And how exciting to be able to meet and talk to likeminded people, all there for the same reason. It was inspiring to see how vibrant the Midlands are in the arts and I can’t wait to see what is made. On a similar point, this week was about the Midlands – not Birmingham, not Leicester, not Derby. All of the Midlands. It really made me see the area as a whole and, if anything, introduced me to how easy it is to get to Attenborough Arts Centre!

East did indeed meet West, and we get on very well indeed.

Follow Katie on Twitter here: @katie_webster6
You can also read another blog post from Katie about the Collaborative Devising Lab on her website by clicking here.

Hermione Purvis

You can read Hermione’s blog post on her website by clicking here.