Report by Jane Williams, 7 June 2015

Present: Jenna Omeltschenko, Jean Nicholson, Astrid Steffensen, Fiona Williamsm, Zoe Palmer

Impact/benefits to organisations of making participatory work

• Makes more distinctive art, more relevant art, contribution to the artistic end-result

• Mutual learning, strips away us and them, breaks down barriers (eg Streetwise Opera, we talked about Dialogue des Carmelites at ROH and the big risks taken to involve non-professionals in that production)

• Can challenge organisations about how they view their own work. Very often the people on the inside who have had particular training have a particular aesthetic

• Seeing someone like you on stage, widening the audience who can access what you do

• Galvanising for corporate culture, everyone from the organisation is involved at a granular level, real buy-in can bring new energy to the organisation

• Opportunity for professional performers to remember a bit about how they got involved and enthused in the first place, re-look at own situations

• Brings back the awe and fun about what you do

How helpful (or fixed) are definitions of artistic excellence / amateur / professional / participatory?

• Birmingham Opera Company experience: among the cohort occupying the space between most deserving and needy and the professional performer are a number of people with considerable performing skills. Our view of what's professional standard has changed in the last decades.Eg London Symphony chorus, people pay to be involved; WNO chorus used to be amateurs.

• Re The Monster in the Maze (Dove, LSO, Rattle) - see for LSO’s 5 July conference on ‘Sharing the Stage

– the central role of participatory opera’

Jonathan Dove’s own development has come out of participatory work, eg Spitalfields different cultures. How does JD feel about fact that this work is presented as ‘participatory’, is it simply a composition?


• Fear within organisations about bringing these different constituencies professional/amateur together, it means ceding authority and level of influence

• Programmers need to be informed and challenged about the importance and impact of this type of work. It’s harder work for technical and staff teams, takes more people more time and more money to produce


• Took a long time for Birmingham Opera Company to be viewed/reviewed as an opera performance and not as an education project

• Participatory work is about the social compact between highly supported organisations and their social responsibilities. Often doesn't have an impact on what happens onstage

• Wish separate education departments didn’t have to exist


Birmingham Opera Company, education, composition, Education, amateurs, participatory, participation, London Symphony Chorus, Opera, WNO, Participation,, LSO, Streetwise Opera, performers, Programmers, programmers, professionals, artistic excellence, opera