RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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80 Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (1)
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) Katie Boxall (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 02 September 2015, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
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 (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Woolly-hats and Rivet-counters Revisited: articulating a new understanding of enthusiastic world-making
Hilary Geoghegan (University of Reading, UK)
The word ‘amateur’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘lover’. In French ‘amateur’ means ‘lover of’. In a more disparaging sense, the term ‘amateur’ has become synonymous with the idea of someone with little skill in their chosen pursuit. These competing definitions demand greater reflection particularly given the rise in pro-am activity, the longevity of the amateur in cultures of preservation and conservation and the creative ways in which individuals and institutions (including governments) seek to harness the enthusiasm of the so-called ‘amateur’. In this paper I examine the stereotype of the amateur through the lens of enthusiasm, namely an emotional affiliation that influences people’s actions, passions and performances in the world (Geoghegan 2013). Using examples from over a decade of fieldwork with ‘enthusiasts’ (some self-identifying as amateurs) with interests in technology, architecture, wetland birds and citizen science, I question the long-held dualisms of work and play, professional and amateur, and rational and emotional that largely define the amateur. I do so in order to articulate a new (more creative) understanding of ‘amateurism’ that demands renewed attention, by geographers and others (including policymakers), to the often overlooked, ignored and snubbed spaces, practices and experiences of enthusiastic world-making.
The glue that binds: ecologies of the knitting circle
Joanna Mann (University of Bristol, UK)
‘Social glue’ is used to denote instances where social connections are strengthened through shared experiences, with a specific focus on the actions that cement these relationships (Churchill, 2010; Pooley et al., 2005). In this paper I contend that the knitting circle is a particularly ‘sticky’ site; a place where relationships, networks, and competencies between human and nonhuman bodies are nurtured and ultimately coalesce to contribute to something bigger than the sum of their individual parts. Traditionally theorised as a frivolous waste of women’s time, the knitting circle has long been neglected as a site of study, and considered to sit outside of economic and political discourse (Bratich and Brush, 2011; Stoller, 2003). Drawing on ethnographic research and participatory work conducted with a local Stitch ’n Bitch group I will demonstrate how the knitting circle is in fact an important site of value-production which cares for the bonds which hold us together. Of specific interest to this paper is the community project ‘Briswool’ in which participants of the knitting circle worked to knit, crochet and needlefelt a giant model of Bristol. This process of amateur creativity revealed a plethora of practices which nurtured interdependence and connectivity outside of the realms of capitalist value production (Gibson-Graham et al., 2013). With our attention shifted towards such process and practice, the knitting circle becomes less about the individual women who gather to knit and natter, and more about the sticky more-than-human materialities of everyday communities.
The Shifting Grounds of Play and Work: Urban Gardening Practices in London
Jan van Duppen (The Open University, UK)
In this paper I explore the relations between work and play, amateur and professional through an in-depth engagement with urban gardening practices. Fordist understandings of play and work as being separate spheres do not longer represent everyday life. With the ‘new spirit of capitalism’ (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005) play has collapsed into work; and work into play. One cannot longer spatially define spaces of work or play; these boundaries are not clear-cut. Moreover, temporal accounts cannot easily distinguish between times of play and times of work. We have to work with these shifting grounds. I think through these dissolving boundaries between the worlds of professionals and amateurs (Leadbeater and Miller 2004), and the time-spaces of play and work (Huizinga 1938, Stevens 2007, Malaby 2009, Johnston 2013).

In an attempt to explore the time-spaces of amateur creativities, I focus on gardening as an everyday activity in public or communal spaces, and make a comparison between allotment, community, and guerrilla gardening. This comparison is based on a multi-sited ethnography of three different garden groups in London, which involved participant observation, go-alongs and photography. The analysis extends understandings of urban gardening as vernacular everyday creativity (Crouch 2010), a passionate involvement with nature (Degen et al. 2010) and responds to the new category of ‘pro-amateurs’ (Leadbeater and Miller, 2004). Whilst gardening, participants experience moments of intense joy, but also feel certain obligations. I argue that urban gardeners enact time-spaces of amateur creativities that not only blur distinctions between the amateur and professional, but also produce entangled notions of play and work.