Cultural Playing Field

Everyone’s a Winner – the Amateo Annual Conference 2012, Cecil Sharp House, London by Robin Simpson
June 22, 2012, 1:34 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , ,

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I was at Cecil Sharp House in London for the Amateo conference, ‘Everyone’s a Winner’. It was a wonderful conference – great venue, excellent food, good attendance from across Europe, interesting speakers, fantastic performances and good weather!

Inclusive and diverse communities discussion, led by Shape

Inclusive and diverse communities discussion, led by Shape

On Sunday we started with the AGM of Amateo, the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities, and the news that Amateo President Tom de Rooij would have to step down from the Amateo Board as he is to lose his job following the merger of his organisation, Kunstfactor – the Netherlands association for the amateur arts. Together with the retirement from the Board of Amateo Vice President Kaat Peeters, who is about to start a new job in Belgium, this was an unexpected blow to Amateo. We were very fortunate that Voluntary Arts Trustee Aled Rhys-Jones was prepared to step into the breach and will now lead Amateo forward as its new President.

Lunch at the Amateo Conference

Lunch at the Amateo Conference

On Sunday evening the focus of the conference was the response of the amateur arts to the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and we were treated to amazing performances by Morris Offspring and Kinetica Bloco. Morris Offspring is a young group led by the choreographer Laurel Swift (who took part in the original consultative weekend we held with the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2009 which developed the ideas for the Open Stages project). Laurel has been reinterpreting traditional English Morris dancing for the stage and it was great to see Morris Offspring at Cecil Sharp House, the home of English folk music. Kinetica Bloco is a stunning carnival band from South London, led my music teacher Mat Fox who took his approach from Brazil’s AfroReggae (who I visited in Rio de Janeiro in March 2010). Around 50 young people from Brixton and Peckham poured through the doors of Cecil Sharp House to entertain us with a deafening performance that was Brazilian with a strong London flavour and could probably have been heard in Rio!

The theme of the conference on Monday was research into the amateur arts. We brought together academics from the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands for a thought-provoking (and occasionally heated!) discussion and made some real progress on a way forward for Amateo to develop Europe-wide research. We finished the day with a compelling performance by Signdance Collective who blur the boundaries between sign language, mime and dance.

The final day of the conference focussed on disabled people and the amateur arts with a fascinating series of presentations led by Tony Heaton from Shape and Tabitha Allum from StageText.

Group discussions about research into the amateur arts

Group discussions about research into the amateur arts

I don’t think it would be an over-statement to say that the Amateo Conference was a huge success. Many thanks and congratulations to Aled, Helen Thomas, Anne Witton and Gillian Harrison and especially to our conference organiser, Daniel Carpenter. I look forward to the 2013 conference in the Czech Republic.

I put together a quick compilation of images from the Amateo conference to give an impression of the event. Take a look at:

Robin Simpson.

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