My baby grandson is living with us for a few months. He’s culturally emancipated. He participates in his own small cultural and creative life without a policy, strategy or state subsidy in sight. Some picture books, building blocks, his grannie’s songs, his mum’s dancing rhythms and his father’s stories are all embraced with curiosity and energy.

From the day we are born our creative impulses are strong. Amateo, Europe’s network supporting active participation in arts and culture, recognises that those impulses can stay with us throughout our lives, from birth to old age. An active creative and cultural life can bring pleasure and it can have a very positive impact on so many other aspects of our lives as individuals and communities.

Founding Amateo

Ten years ago the Amateo network was formed by some of the national organisations that are there to help support and promote the activity of the voluntary, amateur and participatory arts sector.

Our vision is that all European citizens have access and opportunities to enjoy, participate in and benefit from creative and cultural experiences of their choice, whatever their background and circumstances and wherever they live.

We are a membership organisation that works as an advocate and provides support and opportunities for exchange and collaboration amongst its members, who are national and regional organisations working in the field of amateur, voluntary and participatory arts and culture.

We currently have 38 national and regional umbrellas and associations from 17 EU member states and two programme countries. We are growing in number and in strength thanks to the support of Creative Europe through its network programme. If you represent an organisation interested in becoming involved we’d love to hear from you. The support from Creative Europe has allowed us to develop a number of new activities through the Arts Take Part programme which is delivered in an ambitious trans-national team model involving over 20 people from 14 nations.

Awards, conferences and workshops

We have a new annual Amateo Award for best practice in participatory arts. The first winners of that award was a remarkable theatre project Op Roet from the Netherlands.  You can see more about that project and all five of the short-listed awards here. If you have or know about a project that might be interested in our 2019 award, contact awards@amateo.org. The presentation to be made in Novi Sad, Serbia on 7 June 2019 as part of our annual conference which is on the theme of “Amateurism and Youth in Intercultural Society”.

Gathering, sharing and commissioning research that helps us to understand the impact of participatory arts and cultural activity is a key part of our programme. In October this year we were delighted to be part of the “Sharing Arts and Heritage” conference held in European Capital of Culture, Leeuwarden, where our team presented a seminar on the need for developing a consistent research methodology that can work in different settings. Find out more about that event in this short film.

We are working to create the conditions for our members to learn from and share with each other. In 2018 that included a conference in Ljubljana, hosted by one of our members JKSD as part of their annual Week of Amateur Arts. We were delighted to attract coverage from the national broadcaster in Slovenia. You can see a short television interview with two of our team. Our plans for 2019 will see a series of webinar events in February and a major conference event taking place in Novi Sad, Serbia in early June with dates to be confirmed.  Keep an eye on our website for details or even better sign up for our newsletter and we’ll keep in touch with you info@amateo.org.

As our work has progressed we have been excited to see and learn about the different approaches to participatory work across Europe. Another strand of our work links to CONNECT!, a series of practical workshops for participants and organisers. The next event will take place in Estonia from the 15th – 17th March 2019. The focus is on young people in the performing arts as well as discussion on how small independent cultural organisations can work with national institutions. And we are planning a similar event in Edinburgh, Scotland, focused on older people and creativity. This will last for 3 days starting on the 1st October which is the International Day of Older People. That event will culminate on the 3rd October with the annual Epic Awards ceremony which celebrates participatory work in the UK & Ireland and is run by one of the founding members of Amateo, Voluntary Arts.

So 2019 will be another busy year for Amateo and we would welcome your interest and involvement if you share our passion for the power and pleasure of participating in the arts and cultural activity.

Jim Tough, Arts Take Part Coordinator

www.amateo.orgjim@amateo.orginfo@amateo.org 
Twitter @AmateoEurope | Facebook https://www.facebook.com/amateo.org

Image: Amateur Arts Forum in Flanders (photo by Griet Dewijngaert)

This blog originally appeared on the Creative Europe Desk UK website and in their Culture sub-programme info publication.