What’s love got to do with it?

January 4, 2010

Quite a lot if this Newsweek article is to be believed.

In September 2008 English singer Billy Bragg performed at something called the Big Busk. After posting the chords of the songs he would play on the Internet, he invited all comers to bring their guitars. Some 3,000 did, strumming while a crew behind Bragg hoisted signs showing which chord to play. Now Southbank is hosting a nine-month Leonard Bernstein festival, which will culminate in a gala presentation of Bernstein’s Mass next May 11 by 500 mostly amateur performers.

It seems that the recession is engendering a new spirit of participation in the arts driven by amateurism – and that’s amateurism in its original spirit.

“The word ‘amateur’ comes from the Latin root for love.”

What’s interesting about this is that this kind of activity may challenge traditional notions of audience participation and the various (and sometimes) misguided attempts to connect with audiences and get them more involved in the artistic life of communities. If we could focus a little bit more on the expertise that all parties bring to the table and less about the marginalisation that occurs when we ‘professionalise’ then more magic might just happen….

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