What does amateur mean? How to widen participation in theatre?

Joe Spurgeon, 30 June 2012

These people had something to say. Some said a lot, some listened a lot. There were sugar-free polos. Amy made some great notes. We amalgamated her question and mine (see above). Arguably, they were meaty enough to be tackled separately.

Seth, Amy, Joe, Gill, Hannah, Jojo, Andy, Bob, Emma, Alison, and a lot of other people came and went but I didn't catch their names.

Here are some of the questions (and a few statements) we wrestled with (I didn't take notes because I wanted to listen, so this is a solely personal interpretation and is almost certainly exaggerated, vague and occasionally inaccurate because of my dim powers of recall)...

- Do we NEED to widen participation in the theatre?
- What does participation mean anyway?
- What degree of tension might exist between out of work professional theatre-makers and those working for free (who may or may not be amateur)?
- There is an unwritten contract of non-financial “payment” between practitioners/tutors and (for example) young companies. This doesn't seem to be the case - as much - with non-pro adults, who exist in something of a vacuum.
- What does amateur, non-professional and community theatre mean anyway?
- Is it important to make a distinction?
- People don't make claims to be amateur plumbing.
- There are lots of opportunities for young people.
- Less for “old” people.
- Because they don't tick the same funding boxes.
- We can achieve amazing things by cross-pollinating non-professionals with professionals, old and young. There are many examples - Michael Sheen's
The Passion in Port Talbot being one.
- If one of art's purposes is to reflect life to those that live it and (puke) “hold up a mirror to society”; then art would benefit from the involvement and contributions of as wide a selection of people as possible: black, blue, trained, amateur, tall, fat, short, whatever.

There were lots more that left an impression that I have failed to record.

The conversation was simultaneously uplifting, encouraging, frustrating, puzzling, enlightening and eloquent.

Dumb cliched platitude alert: there are some really bright, interesting and articulate

people who work in, and enjoy, theatre and arts in the South West.

We really should hang out more.


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