RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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106 Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (2)
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Historical Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Katie Boxall (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Cara Gray (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Chair(s) Cara Gray (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 02 September 2015, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Peter Chalk - Rooms 1.2 & 1.3
Session abstract This RGS session invites conversation on the geographies of amateur creativity through a focus on the processes, spaces, and experiences of their ‘doings’ (Hawkins, 2011, 2014). Geography has witnessed a growing prevalence of literature on creativity, including art world professionals and creative economies (Currid, 2007; Daniels, 1993) whilst unpacking ‘other’ creativities from local experimentalisms (Gibson-Graham, 2008) to intricacies of vernacular and everyday creativities (Edendsor et al, 2009; Yarwood, 2010). Our session encourages discussion into a different register, being the amateur and amateur creativity; feeding into to cross-disciplinary discussions on social productions of “pro-amateurs” (Leadbeater and Miller. 2004). The intentions of this session are to query stereotypes of amateurism, offer amateur creativity as practicing communities of creative habit and explore experiential worlds of organic creative participation. We are interested in foregrounding cultures of enthusiasm (Geoghegan, 2009) and voicing the pursuit of leisure (Stebbins, 2002), to display the processes of amateur creativities (Brace and Putra-Jones, 2010) and spaces of amateur making (Bain, 2004, Sjöholm, 2012).

We are concerned with the place of historical writings and research about the amateur and what it might mean to become professional. This session proposes to extend DeLyer’s (2014) discussion on a ‘participatory historical geography’ through the creative capacity of the amateur figure and how historic communities of creative enthusiasts could fuel such discussion. Situating the amateur and amateur creativity within the wider enthusiast community, Geoghegan has offered enthusiast communities to be “central to ensuring the continued value and vibrancy of historical geography in the twenty-first century” (2014. 1). As part of the session, we seek to unpack underrepresented stories of amateur creative practice to vocalize the “unofficial endeavours and voices of those often neglected in the history of exploration” (Brickell and Garrett. 2013. 7), whilst thinking about geographers as themselves, amateur creative practitioners (Hawkins, 2014).
Linked Sessions Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
The Haunted Spaces of Amateur Theatre: Immateriality, Materiality and Performative Memories
Helen Nicholson (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Theatres are famously haunted spaces, and performance is notoriously ephemeral. Gathering the histories and cultural memories of amateur theatre uncovers intimate stories of friendship, desire, joy and grief, crafted and curated in the fabric of theatre buildings, in the back-stages of village halls, and in the memorabilia saved at home. Histories of amateur dramatic companies are thinly disguised love-letters to lost sweethearts, and the material objects of theatre – the props, costumes, programmes and posters - carry symbolic weight, not only documenting the performance event but also the emotional geographies of amateur theatre-makers.

This paper arises from the AHRC funded project, Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space. It will reflect on amateur theatre as haunted and enchanted spaces, drawing on the work of Marvin Carlson and Jane Bennett to analyse how the material traces of amateur theatre take on a performative quality as amateur theatre-makers engage in the act of telling and retelling stories with attentive researchers. It will also analyse the researcher’s role, asking how the intimacy of the archive assumes a theatrical presence as the embodied knowledge of performance is passed on. The performative objects of amateur theatre carry their own temporality, in which the two poles of tangible and intangible heritage, the archive and the repertoire become unfixed in the act of remembering.
Making suburban faith: creativity and material culture in faith communities in West London
Claire Dwyer (University College London, UK)
Nazneen Ahmed (University College London, UK)
Laura Cuch (University College London, UK)
David Gilbert (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Natalie Hyacinth (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
This paper explores the role of suburban faith communities in the creative practices of religious place making in the suburbs. Drawing on a comparative project which focuses on eight different faith communities the paper traces the role of vernacular creativity in the sacred and communal decoration of places of worship. While some places of worship are purpose built and architecturally impressive others are more make-shift, adapted or temporary premises. Congregational creativity is both organised, routine and theologically approved but also often spontaneous, improvised and even disorderly or anarchic. Drawing on a range of examples of religious material culture which include embroidered church kneelers, flower garlands, religious paintings and statues the paper traces the ways in which creative practices are both spaces through which faith communities are realised and sites of contestation and negotiation.
Shifting Position: Pro-Am Movement
Nerida Godfrey (University of New South Wales, Australia)
Reflecting on the micro-geographies of contemporary dance, this paper will consider modes and places of ‘professional’ spatial caring (Thrift 2006:141,145) that are frequently and at times solely maintained by persons Leadbeater and Miller (2004) would consider to be ‘Pro-Ams’. Within these micro-geographies Pro-Ams and amateurs can, in some instances, be the pinnacle ‘professionals’ (albeit lacking income derived from activity). Furthermore, the engagement of amateurs within professional places and institutions may enable the practice of ‘professionals’ (such as professional training, the ‘professionals’ alongside the ‘amateurs’ are unpaid or paying). Thus, the encountering of different modes of spatial caring, the possibility of amateur and professional status or the Pro-Am as not just a cline that is delineated by the amount of income generated in a practice, but as identities that shift and flux via engagement with processes in place(s). The relationships and networks between ‘professionals’ and ‘amateurs’ are seen to be much more complex than ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ interactions and career trajectory.
This paper will draw from the ethnographic encounters of a geographer-Pro-Am-dancer with sites of contemporary dance, reflections of positionality and identity in flux due to ‘doings’, haptic sensing and encountering. This paper draws on examples from the contemporary dance and broader arts industry that suggests that earning money is not always a factor that delineates one as a ‘professional’. Instead I propose that it may indeed be ‘the amateurs, the lovers’ that are integral to maintenance of forms and histories of contemporary dance within certain localities.