Hello. Welcome once more to Venue’s eyrie-like enclave above the foyer of Bristol Old Vic, aka Blogging Corner. It’s Sunday morning, Samhain/Halloween; we’ve got a table, a lamp, a telephone (unattached), a sign saying ‘Home Sweet Home’ and a copy of both ‘The Modern Grocer’ and the ‘Larousse Gastronomique’ dictionary in hardback. One small oversight. What we don’t appear to have is a computer. Never mind. This being Bristol Jam and all, we’ll do what everyone else is doing and improvise – with notebook and biro. Here, then, on Open Space day, is Venue’s patent long-hand blog transcribed for the steam-powered internet…
For those who’ve not experienced one before, Open Space is essentially an event whose contents are determined by the people who show up – artists, theatre-goers, whoever. There might be discussions, there might be improvisation, there will almost certainly be something wholly unexpected. With the good folk of Improbable in facilitating mode, it’s run according to impeccably untraumatic principles: whoever comes are the right people; whatever happens is the only thing that could have; whenever it starts is the right time; when it’s over, it’s over; the law of two feet.
That last one, by the way, means it’s OK to move around: if something’s not stirring your guacamole, it’s more polite to move on than stick it out for the sake of it. Which is probably the hardest idea for us stuffy English types to get our heads around. The overarching question for this event is ‘what can we create and watch in Bristol Old Vic today?’
After all this (and something called the time/space matrix) is explained during the opening gambit in the Paintshop, today’s 30-odd Open Spacers have fanned out across the building to take part in (or move between) half-a-dozen 90min sessions. Not far from Blogging Corner, for example, there’s a quietly earnest and quite theoretical discussion going on about performance and performance space; in the Studio, Venue arrives to find that the ‘time machine’ workshop has broken for coffee after an initial venture in ancient Rome; on the Main House stage, there’s a group ‘doing things’ with a poem by Elizabeth Bishop; and in the Basement there’s something to do with ‘animal contractors’ which even those taking part appear to find difficult to explain.
Since we’re only human, there’s considerable interest in the group who’ve decided to dedicate their first session to cooking the rest of us lunch. Aprons are distributed; there’s a shopping trip to Asda; BOV staff you’d usually associate with programming festivals and counting beans are frenetically peeling carrots. Lunch gets delayed a few times. In the Paintshop, the first reports have come back in to the ‘newsroom’: in the vast backstage space, there’s been a variant on Improbable’s Lifegame format, a ‘This is your Life’ turned now into a picture/map that seems to be the story of an East End IT god coming late to theatre after an acid-fuelled purple haze – though I might have got that last bit wrong. There’s an air of quiet industry throughout the building. Outside, on King Street, a couple push their baby buggy along the pavement. “Ah, look, that’s the Old Vic,” says one of them, slightly surprised, in a broad Bristolian accent.