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Amateur Studies Research Forum



Dear amateurs,

Many thanks for saying that you are interested in participating in the HARC Amateur Studies Forum. The first meeting will be held 3.00-5.00pm in the Bedford Room, Bedford Square on Thursday 5th May 2016. We are writing to you now to give you a clearer idea of how the event will run. The two-hour session will be divided into 4 sections, each led by one of the members of the HARC ASF steering committee (David Gilbert, Judith Hawley, Helen Nicholson and Libby Worth):

  1. Introduction
  2. Presentations
  3. Discussion
  4. Thinking forwards

Rather than the usual conference format of 20-minute papers, the presentations will comprise a series of short talks. Each participant will speak for strictly under 4 minutes about a particular object, image, sound or text which is significant to his or her understanding of the notion of ‘amateur’.  The focus will be on the ‘object’ which you bring with you and the ideas you attach to it. There will be no time for introductions and preambles about larger projects or personal status.  The presentation will end with a statement, question or provocation of up to 25 words.  The aim is to generate conversation rather than present completed work.


We hope that the juxtaposition of objects on the table will help create connections between our disparate interests in the discussion following the presentations.  After the discussion session, we will pull things together to plan and think forwards about possible next steps. We don’t want to define those steps at this stage, but to see what emerges.

We would be grateful if you were to let us know whether you would still like to attend this event and whether or not you would like to give a short presentation. We are happy for you to attend without presenting.

With very best wishes,

David, Helen, Judith and Libby

Amateur Research Forum ‘Steering Committee'

HARC Amateur Studies Forum 1

5 May 2016 3.00 -5.00 pm - Bedford Room

  1. Introductions
  2. Presentations
  3. Discussion
  4. Thinking forwards
Amateur Studies Forum poster sent


Matthew Cohen (Drama): Folk studies

David Gilbert (Geography): 'The amateur, the lay and the hidden creativities of faith

Jane Hamlett (History): The history of family photography

Judith Hawley (English): Aristocratic amateur dramatics

Natalie Hyacinth (PhD Music and Geography): Music and spirituality in Ealing

Helen Nicholson (Drama): Making time for amateur theatre

James Smith (English):Universal Amateurism: What Do We Do in the Post-Work Utopia?

Libby Worth (Drama): Folk dance: travels and borders

Molly Flynn (Drama):  For love or Money? Amateur and professional collaboration in theatre

Cara Gray: Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space


Benjamin Bland (PhD History): amateur politics

Keith Buckman: Amateur rock

Jenny Swingler: (Drama) MA Contemporary Performance Practices and Co-Artistic Director/Actor in Clout Theatre 


Also interested:

Olivia Swift (R&E/ Anthropology): An anthropological exploration of professionalism.

Tony Evans (Social Work):  Volunteering, amateurism

Justin Champion (History): Cultures of sporting engagement and performance

HARC Amateur Studies Forum 1 notes

HARC Amateur Studies Forum 2

This informal interdisciplinary group intends to foster dialogue about the history, meaning and significance of non-professional cultural activity (and to interrogate those terms). In our first meeting, we shared research on different aspects of amateur practice, including amateur creativity in faith settings, amateur family photography, amateur folk dance and amateur theatre.

Amateur Forum 2

The second meeting of this informal forum will begin to address a surprising absence of theories of amateurism as social and cultural practice. Our topic is: ‘How might amateurism be conceptualised?’

We will be joined by visiting speakers: Hilary Geoghan, University of Reading; Stephen Knott, University of Kingston and Jonathan Gross, KCL and BBC Get Creative. To focus discussion, we invite you to read the following in advance:

Tim Edensor et al, 'Introduction: Rethinking Creativity: Critiquing the Creative Class Thesis’, in Spaces of Vernacular Creativity: Rethinking the Cultural Economy (Routledge, 2010). It is available as an ebook and via Google Books.

You are welcome to post comments before or after the meeting on some shared Google Docs which can be accessed via the ’Thinking Forward’ tab after following the link above.

Date of meeting: Wednesday 9 November 2.00-5.00 pm
Venue: Department of Drama, RHUL, Rehearsal Studio 2

Perspectives from the 'Get Creative' Research Project - Jonathan Gross

How to Conceptualise the Amateur - Stephen Knott

Thinking Forward

I thought our recent inaugural meeting of the ASF was highly successful and energizing. We will be creating a website with notes taken during the meeting and photos of the objects people shared. We will also be emailing to arrange dates for the next two meetings – probably early October and December.

In the meantime I am hoping to keep the conversation going, using a few bits and pieces I put together using sticky tape and Google Docs. There are three documents to which you are invited to contribute:

  1. A taxonomy of the amateur: https://docs.google.com/document/d/149rio3VFBI49hISpPwwxitG-1iSiNy5S-SzXTskfEgY/edit?usp=sharing
  2. A Manifesto: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qg371Kti00l99liVlO-g2Q18vhgSn1D4nzn_woptNpc/edit?usp=sharing
  3. Questions and methodological issues: https://docs.google.com/document/d/149rio3VFBI49hISpPwwxitG-1iSiNy5S-SzXTskfEgY/edit?usp=sharing

With best wishes,




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